MyPlate Tips for Packing a Filling, Nutrient Rich Lunch
The latest tool to be released from the USDA is a great guide for parents and caregivers everywhere when it comes to packing a healthy lunch. Whether you are planning a meal for work, school, or play, MyPlate offers simple visual guidance to help you pack a balanced and nutritious meal on the go. You may realize the health benefits of packing fruits and vegetables, but what else should you include?
Read on for five quick tips on packing a simple, yet satisfying meal!
- Start with fruits and veggies. If you were to imagine your lunch container was a plate, MyPlate encourages you to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables alone. With this in mind, be sure to include at least 1 cup of fruit or vegetable in your lunch. Why not pack a small baggie of grapes along with a container of sliced cucumbers with dip?
- Add energizing protein. Pack an energy punch with satisfying lean protein choices such as turkey, skinless chicken breast, tofu, or beans. All will go great inside of a hearty wrap, salad, or as a standalone main course! Nuts and seeds are also a great source of protein (one of my favorites) and you cannot go wrong with a peanut butter sandwich or trail mix mixed into a serving of non-fat Greek yogurt. However if you do opt for this fattier protein source, aim to limit your portion size to 2 tablespoons of nut butter or ¼ cup of whole nuts/seeds.
- Make half of your grains whole!If you are not yet ready to make the switch over to 100% whole grains, start by making sandwiches using 1 slice of multigrain or white bread and the other slice with a true whole grain bread. Another idea to help you in your transition would be to mix whole grain brown rice with white or wild rice and you quickly have a fun ‘confetti-like’ combination.
- Don’t forget the dairy – plant or animal. Whether you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or enjoy animal-based dairy, this food group is a great source of calcium and protein and should certainly be included as a part of a well-balanced meal. Personally, I enjoy a non-fat Greek yogurt top off my packed lunch; my fiancé often brings light string cheese with him when he is running out the door. Whatever you choose and whatever the source, dairy products add a new level of satiety to your meal – perhaps that is why studies continue to find links between weight loss and dairy?
- Choose a healthy beverage. Many lunches begin so beautifully balanced with wholesome choices yet are topped off with a sugar-packed drink, placing the entire meal off-kilter. Even juice boxes may contain as much sugar and calories as a candy bar, so if you can, aim for water (sparkling or plain), milk, or a lower-calorie juice drink. While I opt for water or tea myself, individually wrapped 100% 4 fluid ounce containers of juice or milk are widely available, or you can easily portion out your own beverage of choice into a small reusable container. Make your own sparkling juice by blending a 50/50 juice/sparkling water blend to cut calories while maintaining a thirst-quenching flavor.
I certainly hope this helps to get your lunch planning off on the right note! I would love to learn more about your own healthy planning tips. What do you do to ensure the foods you pack are right for you or your child when you are dining outside of the home?