Preparing a healthy breakfast or dinner is simple for most people who are home during those mealtimes, but eating a healthy lunch is often easier said than done. Whether it’s resisting a trip to a nearby restaurant or home-baked goodies brought in by colleagues at the office, it’s often hard to refuse rich foods.
In this post, we’ll explore the various challenges we face as we try to plan our mid-day meal; why it’s so important—both for kids and adults—to enjoy a nutritious lunch; and how we can pack the right items to ensure optimal health.
Challenges with Eating a Healthy Lunch
We’ve all done it. Packed a healthy salad for lunch, and as noon rolls around someone suggests an off-site group lunch at a nearby restaurant. We want to be a team player, so we go. Instead of ordering something off the ‘healthy’ part of the menu, we get one of the less nutritious options only to experience remorse for our lapse in judgment.
Or perhaps the workplace culture isn’t the problem, but planning the healthy lunch itself is too difficult. What will stay fresh and still taste good a few hours later? What if there’s no access to a refrigerator to keep items cold or a microwave to heat up a dish meant to be enjoyed hot? There are many legitimate obstacles that can get in the way of healthy mid-day eating.
Importance of Eating a Healthy Lunch
So, why does it matter what we eat at lunchtime anyway? Based on how healthy eating improves overall brain function, a case can be made for the importance of eating healthy at lunch for both children and adults.
Because kids spend such a large amount of their time in school, what they consume there is crucial to their overall well-being. Research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that students with healthy eating habits perform better on tests and ultimately achieve higher grades.
For adults, the importance of a healthy lunch is just as vital. Whether at work during the day or at home taking care of a household, eating a healthy meal mid-day can provide a number of benefits and help prevent future health complications. From an elevated mood to a reduction in anxiety and stress, consuming nutritious food is always a good idea.
Tips for packing a healthy lunch
So, how can you prepare meals that taste good, fill you up and prevent you from giving in to external temptations that would surface in the workplace or at school? Here are a few helpful tips:
- Make a plan. The first step toward success involves declaring your intentions. Make a list of what you want to prepare for lunch each day of the week, and gather all of the ingredients to make preparation simple.
- Find the balance. As you’re developing your meal plan, be sure to include lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and an item that contains whole grains each day. That way you’ll get a sufficient amount of calories to feel full and also a good balance of nutrients.
- Offer variety. When packing lunches for both kids and adults, variety in the menu is crucial. Eating the same thing every day can be monotonous and may encourage lapses for less nutritious alternate meals. Try to provide a mix of different options from day to day, even if it means simply switching out the bread on sandwiches.
- Avoid processed short cuts. Some packaged foods that may imply nutritional value and provide a faster preparation (or eliminate prep altogether) can be loaded with corn syrups, sugars and preservatives. When possible try to stick to unprocessed options to avoid these unhealthy extras.
- Use the right packaging. If you have items that need to stay cold and you don’t have access to a refrigerator at lunchtime, be sure to use an insulated container or a regular bag with an ice pack so the food doesn’t spoil.
- Plan for snacks. If you also incorporate snacks like nuts or whole grain crackers into your day, you’re much less likely to ‘cheat’ with an alternate lunch to the one you packed
Take control of your nutrition with an individual appointment, or participate in an informative class at the Diabetes & Nutrition Center. From blood glucose monitoring to nutrition and meal planning, the team there can offer comprehensive solutions to ensure your body is getting the right prescription for good health. For more general inquiries, complete the form on this page.