7 Steps to a Perfect Packed Lunch

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

Summer vacation is winding down, fall is approaching and the kids are going back to school.

It’s time to examine the art of packing the perfect lunch.

While it is easy to rely on the school cafeteria for the kids and fast food meals for you, this method will quickly result in unwanted pounds.

The only way to ensure that you and your kids are eating a nutritionally balanced, health promoting lunch is to pack it yourself.

According to Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes in their book, Lunch Lessons, “When it comes to nutrition, children are not just miniature adults. Because they’re growing, they have different dietary needs.” (Their daily serving recommendations are in boxes below.)

Use the following 7 steps as your guide for packing healthy lunches that cover the spectrum of nutrients that your growing kids needs.

Don’t have kids? Keep reading. You’ll need these steps when packing your own nutrient-dense, fitness lunches.

Step 1: Hydration

Every function of the human body requires water, so it’s a no-brainer that water should be included in your packed lunch. Eight glasses a day is a minimum.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of giving kids juice or soda pop, and once your kids are accustomed to drinking these sugary treats expect a battle when you switch to water. This is one fight that is worth winning.

Remind yourself that the sugary drinks are filled with empty calories, which quickly lead to weight gain. Sugar also robs the body of vital nutrients and minerals.

Step 2: Protein

  • 2 – 3 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 2 – 3oz meat, 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1/3 cup nuts or one egg

Protein is an essential part of lunch, both for you and your kids. Kids need protein to support their growing body, and you need plenty of protein in order to grow and maintain lean muscle tissue.

Here’s a list of healthy protein sources: fish, beans, tofu, nuts, eggs, chicken, turkey, lean pork and lamb.

Limit the amount of high-saturated-fat protein that your kids eat to no more than 3 servings per week. These include cheese, hot dogs, salami, bacon and sausage.

Step 3: Whole Grains

  • Kids 6-9 yrs: 4 – 7 servings daily
  • Kids 10-14 yrs: 5 – 8 servings daily
  • Teens: 6 – 9 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup pasta, 1 cup of whole grains

Whole grains are one of the major building blocks of a healthy meal. The key word here is “whole” meaning not refined.

White bread, bagels, pasta and rice have been stripped of the nutrients and minerals. As a result these items convert quickly into sugar, leaving your child drained after an initial quick burst of energy. Always avoid refined white grain products.

Here’s a list of healthy whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, whole-wheat or sprouted grain bread, barley, whole grain cereal and whole wheat pasta.

Step 4: Veggies

  • 4 – 9 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1 cup raw of 1/2 cup cooked vegetables

When it comes to veggies, variety is key. Choose a array of colors like orange, red, purple, green, blue, white and yellow to make sure that your kids are getting all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

Don’t save vegetables for dinnertime. Pack each lunch with lots of colorful vegetables.

Try these veggie-packing ideas: Put a small container of hummus with cut veggies for dipping. Fill your sandwiches with baby arugula, roasted peppers and slices of tomato. Pack a container of veggie and whole wheat pasta instead of a sandwich. Invest in a small thermos and fill it with vegetable soup.

Step 5: Fruit

  • 3 – 5 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1/2 cup cut fruit, whole fruit size of tennis ball, half a banana, 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice

Fresh fruit is filled with vitamins, nutrients and minerals. As with your veggies, choose a variety of colors to ensure that your kids are getting a range of nutrients.

Stay away from fruits that are canned and coated in syrup, and also from fruit snacks and chews that contain added sugars. If fresh fruit is not readily available then go for plain dried fruit, with no added sugar.

Unlike veggies, it is possible to eat too much fruit. Though the natural sugars within fruit are much healthier than refined sugar, too much of it will have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels and the extra calories will be stored as fat. Stick with 3 – 5 servings per day.

Step 6: Calcium

  • 2 – 6 servings daily
  • Serving size based on the amount of calcium in the food. Examples of 1 serving: 1 cup cooked beans, 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup dried figs, 1/2 cup dark leafy green vegetables, 1/2 cup tofu, 1 cup low-fat milk, 1 cup low-fat yogurt

Your kids need calcium in order to build strong, healthy bones. It is important to incorporate calcium into each meal.

Calcium isn’t just found in dairy products. There are many plant sources that contain calcium that is more readily absorbed by the body than the calcium found in dairy.

Try these sources of calcium: nuts, dark leafy greens, salmon, broccoli, tofu, soy milk, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt.

Step 7: Healthy Fat

  • 3 – 4 servings daily
  • Serving size based on the amount of healthy fat in the food. Examples of 1 serving: 1 teaspoon of olive, safflower, sesame, flax or canola oil, 1/2 cup nuts, 1 tablespoon peanut, almond or cashew butter, 1 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils.

You may think of all dietary fat as being bad, but fat from plant sources are very important to the growth and development of a child’s body.

Limit animal fats, which are filled with saturated fat and cholesterol, and eliminate trans-fatty acids contained in foods that are labeled as hydrogenated.

There you have it, 7 steps to the perfect packed lunch. See the recipe below to get you started on your first perfect packed lunch.

Remember that eating right is only half of the equation. Exercise is just as important when it comes to fitness and weight loss.

Are you ready to get started on a personalized fitness program? Call or email today to set up a consultation.

Make the Most of Summer Foods

Before the sun goes down on the hot days of summer, be sure to soak up all the warm-weather foods you can.

During the summer, you have a lot of things to do. You’ve got to stay well hydrated, soak up some sun to get all that precious vitamin D, build a few sandcastles, and catch some waves. However, if you don’t take advantage of the many great foods that grow in abundance during the warmer months, you’re missing out.

What should you know about summer foods, and how can you incorporate them into your diet with greater ease? You’re about to find out.

What to Know

Before you’ll go off and buy all sorts of summer foods, you may need some convincing. So why should you take advantage of the foods that are so prevalent during the warmest days of summer? Try out these reasons to see how they taste.

They’re Colorful: Nothing says summer like bright, fun colors! With that in mind, this is the time to add some spunk and beauty to your diet without having to add food coloring.

They’re Healthy: In addition to being full of wonderful color, the fruits and vegetables that grow in such great abundance during the summer are also incredibly healthy. In fact, if you want to boost your diet’s health rating, look for a wide variety of colors, and as mentioned above, there are never more colorful foods available than in the summer!

They’re Cheaper: Sure, you can get oranges and tomatoes during any time of the year. However, those same foods are much cheaper when they’re in season, as there is a much greater abundance of the foods to be sold. And in case you haven’t noticed, they’re also much tastier when in season.

How to Incorporate

More than likely, you’re incorporating summer foods into your diet without needing any assistance. But you can always add a few more fresh summer fruits and veggies into your favorite meals. From breakfast to lunch to dinner and beyond, you can add some fresh summer foods easily.

In the morning, grab your favorite fruit and toss it on top of your cereal. Good choices are blueberries, strawberries, and bananas. Then eat a fresh tomato and cucumber sandwich for lunch, with a slice of cantaloupe on the side. When dinner rolls around, grill some chicken and toss it in a salad made with fresh lettuce, carrots, tangerine slices, and more. Put it on the table next to a fresh glass of homemade lemonade and enjoy!

The Color Wheel of Health

Trying to figure out which fruits and vegetables you should add to your diet? Use this color chart to have a better handle on what you should eat for improved health in specific areas.

Orange foods, as well as yellow foods, are jam-packed with lycopene, vitamin C, flavonoids, beta-carotene, and potassium. These are helpful in countless ways, including lowering your cholesterol levels.

Blue and purple foods contain vitamin C, fiber, and flavonoids, and these foods improve your immunity and retinal health, while helping your body make the most of other vitamins and minerals you consume.

Red foods are filled with lycopene and more nutrients that help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels, prevent prostate cancer, and potentially improve arthritis symptoms.

Green foods have fiber, folate, calcium, and beta-carotene, helping you chop down your bad cholesterol and blood pressure, improve your digestive health, give your immune system a boost, and fend off various cancers.

White foods, though often considered the bottom of the food chain, can have a substantial effect on your good health. With a variety of nutrients, white fruits and vegetables reduce your risk for a variety of cancers and increase your immunity to illnesses and diseases.

Share This Article