We all could use a little more time before work or school in the morning, but you shouldn't have to sacrifice a healthy, tasty meal.
Registered dietitian and chef Michelle Dudash says, with a little planning, packing nutritious lunches for work and school can help you and your family successfully maintain a healthy weight.
Especially with children, it’s important to remember that you need to emphasize foods that promote health and energy rather than “diet” foods. Michelle offers up some simple tips to get you started.
Plan Around MyPlate
Don’t be discouraged if planning your grocery list around a menu sounds daunting. Instead focus on keeping a stock of necessary supplies on hand, including items from each food group on the new USDA MyPlate . Fresh fruits and vegetables for munching pair well with any meal - grapes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and whole pieces of fruit like bananas, apples and pears. Lay the foundation for a healthy sandwich by stocking 100% whole grain breads, pita and tortillas. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit round out a satisfying trail mix.
Rethink Your Drinks
Be sure your lunch includes a nutrient-rich beverage. 8 ounces of lowfat or fat free milk fulfills one of the three daily recommended servings of dairy in the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. And this fall, flavored milk is projected to have 38% less added sugar than five years ago and just 31 more calories than white milk in schools. Most of the flavored milks have fewer than 150 calories per serving. Dudash, who works closely with MilkPEP, reminds us that flavored milk still contains the 9 essential nutrients found in plain milk that kids need. In addition Michelle points out that milk provides three of the four nutrients Americans generally need more of - potassium, calcium and vitamin D.
Toss roast beef into salads and grilled chicken into a satisfying wrap rounded out with spinach, hummus and chopped tomatoes. Transform pasta and rice into a chilled salad with chopped cucumbers, shredded carrot, cheese and light vinaigrette. Skewer cherry tomatoes between turkey meatballs.
Batch Cook on Sunday
On your day off, prepare a simple dish that is large enough to supply lunch for a few days. A combination of garbanzo beans, whole wheat pasta or quinoa, edamame, bell pepper and cucumber tossed in light vinaigrette packs in protein and fiber to satisfy your hunger and fulfill three food groups in one bowl.
Everyone loves to dip. Match hummus with celery sticks, almond butter with baby carrots, and natural chocolate hazelnut butter with whole wheat pretzels. Try light ranch dressing with cucumber coins and whole grain pita chips with salsa.
Michelle says this is just a small sampling of ways you can add variety and nutrient-rich foods to your homemade lunches.
She says by using your imagination -- planning around the seasons, looking to your favorite restaurant menus for inspiration -- you can add your own healthy twist to your family's midday meals!
For more of Michelle’s food tips, visit her blog at www.michelledudash.com .
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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