It’s that time again! September means back to school and, for many, back to a busy and possibly stressful routine of school, appointments, practices, sporting events, meetings and much, much more. At this time of year, it’s common to let a few things slide while you’re running from place to place. You might be tempted to run out for fast food instead of making a lunch or skip lunch all together. However, eating a healthy and nutritious meal in the middle of each and every day is important and has a number of benefits. This is true for both you and your children. Here’s what you need to know:
- BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY LUNCH: A healthy lunch contains key nutrients. Since you’ll likely be getting around one-third of your daily calories from lunch, it makes sense to include as many nutrients as possible. Plus, eating a healthy lunch has been proven to improve your productivity, give you more energy and make it easier to concentrate for the rest of the work or school day. A healthy lunch can also help you maintain a healthy body weight, since more nutritious options keep you full longer and help you avoid looking for a quick fix (like chips, chocolate bars or other snacks) to give you a boost.
- CREATING A HEALTHY LUNCH: When it comes to choosing a healthy lunch, remember to include fruits and vegetables. The same general guidelines for healthy eating apply to a healthy lunch. At least half of your meal should be fruits and vegetables. The other quarter should be protein and the final quarter should be whole grains. Avoid refined carbs (such as foods made with white flour and sugar) and stick to whole grain pastas and breads. You’ll also want to include some healthy fats, such as avocado, olives, nuts and seeds. The healthiest lunches are usually the ones you make at home, however, we know that there are times when this isn’t possible. If you’re bringing a packaged lunch (such as a microwaveable meal) avoid those that contain a lot of calories as well as high levels of sodium and sugar. Whenever possible, supplement these lunches with some fresh fruit or vegetables, such as baby carrots or celery on the side. Stay away from takeout meals whenever possible. In most cases, you don’t know what they contain. If you’re lucky, you might see calorie information marked, but you won’t usually know the amount of sugar, salt and fat that have been added unless you really, really look for it. Even if you’re making lunch at home, remember to read nutrition labels on all ingredients and stay away from items that have a lot of added sugar and salt as well as items that contain trans fats.
- HOW PLANNING HELPS: When it comes to making sure you eat a healthy lunch every day, planning is important. This is especially true at this very busy time of the year. Most people don’t have time to put together a healthy lunch in the morning before work. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare your lunch the night before, when you have some extra time. However, planning goes even further than that. Planning starts at the grocery store. If you buy healthy foods and shop with the intent of making healthy lunches, you’ll be much more likely to actually eat something healthy. It helps to plan your meals for the week, so you don’t end up without the food you need and with seemingly little choice but to run out and get fast food lunch. Planning your meals also makes it much easier to shop. Plus, if you’re planning ahead, you can decide to make a little extra for dinner which you can then take for lunch the next day; which is certainly a time-saver.
- GETTING THE KIDS INVOLVED: Eating healthy lunches is just as important for every member of the family. In order to encourage the kids to eat healthy meals, get them involved in preparing their lunches with you the night before. Depending on their age, they can help cut, slice and put together their own meals. You can offer them a choice between two healthy options (such as whether they’d like an apple or a banana with their lunch) so that they’re always getting something they want to eat. This will make it more likely that they’ll actually eat what’s been packed for them!
Eating a healthy lunch is key for both kids and adults alike. If you need help with developing a healthy meal plan, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Remember, at Physiomed…Healthier Starts Here.