Pack a healthy lunch to feel better and save

Written by: Pamela Redwine, Nutrition and Food Safety Area Agent Submitted by: Juli Hughes, County Director MSU Extension Service – Choctaw County

Do fast food meals make it hard to stick to a healthy eating plan? Don’t worry – eating right is in the bag when you pack your own lunch. Bringing food from home can help you eat better, feel better and save money, too. Instead of standing in line at the cafeteria at lunchtime, you’ll have time for a power walk.

What’s a good lunch? Lunch should provide a quarter to a third of your daily nutrients, depending on how often you eat. A soda and bag of chips won’t do that! What will? Make sure you are getting a variety of foods from throughout the five food groups – at least two servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and foods rich in protein and calcium.

Planning makes it easy.

Post a list. A good use of all those refrigerator magnets is to hold a list of your favorite lunch items – tuna salad, vegetable soup, bran muffins, etc. Add to it whenever you get an idea. It will keep your lunches from getting boring.

Make lunch as dinner. Pasta for supper? Put some in a lunch container then add the leftover vegetables and some salad dressing for an instant pasta salad – ready to go in the morning! Tacos tonight? All the trimmings will liven up tomorrow’s sandwich. Extra tossed salad? Pack it for lunch and bring a single-serving can of tuna for an elegant salad.

Use your freezer. If you have access to a microwave at work, freeze single portions of leftovers to take for lunch.

Have a fallback pattern. Know what to pack when you don’t know what to pack! Have a basic lunch plan of a piece of fruit, a zippered bag of pre-cut vegetables, a sandwich on whole-grain bread and a small nonfat yogurt. Keep these staples in your kitchen so it will be easy to grab and go.

Just Desserts – When you’re counting calories, dessert counts. So make it count nutritionally, too. If you have to have a little something to round out your meal, be sure there are healthy pluses – a baked pear or apple with raisins, a few dried apricots with almonds. These might just keep you from raiding the vending machine in the afternoon.

Keep it fresh – Soggy sandwiches and salads aren’t appealing, so pack wet ingredients separately. Lettuce and tomato slices can be put in a small plastic bag and added to sandwiches at the last minute, salad dressing and other condiment can be put in small containers.

Play it Safe – The basic food safety rule says to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you can’t use a refrigerator, keep you lunch cold by packing it in an insulated cooler or lunch bag with a frozen ice pack . It will stay fresh up to six hours. A frozen juice box will also keep you food chilled, and be slushy enough to drink with lunch. If foods need to stay hot, pack them piping hot into a good thermos.

Article Source: Adapted from www.foodandhealth.communications Best-Ever Bean Burritos

Cooking Spray 4 cups pre sliced onion and bell pepper mix 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt added black beans, rinsed and drained ¾ cup refrigerated fresh salsa 4 (10-inch) low-carb whole wheat tortillas 1 cup (4 ounces) Pre-shredded reduced fat cheese Mexican blend cheese 1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and peppers; coat vegetables with cooking spray, and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 2. Add beans and salsa; cook 4 minutes or until liquid evaporates and peppers are tender, stirring frequently. 3. While bean mixture cooks, heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon bean mixture evenly down center of each tortilla; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Fold top and bottom of each tortilla toward center; roll up burrito-style Yield: 4 servings (serving size 1 burrito) Per Serving: Calories 404 Fat 10.8g Protein 20.5g Carb 55.1g Fiber 27.6 Chol 18mg Iron 2.2 mg Sod 901mg Calcium 485mg

Recipe Source: Weight Watchers five ingredients fifteen minute recipes