Boxed Lunch Blues

Back to school doesn't mean lousy lunches

By Ménard, Dt.P nutritionniste

Does the lack of time and imagination force you to make poor decisions when preparing your lunch or your children’s lunches? Here's the secret to a healthy and nutritious lunch: planning. Without it, we rush and take the easy route of prepared products that are often loaded with salt, sugar and fat.

Lunch is essential since it provides energy and promotes concentration throughout the afternoon. A balanced lunch should include at least one food from each of the four food groups in Canada's Food Guide:

One serving of vibrant fruit and vegetables:

  • Crudités (carrots sticks, celery, peppers, broccoli, snow peas, etc)
  • Vegetable salad
  • Soup
  • Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, grapes, etc)
  • Preserved fruits in a compote or salad
  • Dried fruits
  • Fruit and vegetable juices

One serving of grains high in fibre

  • Bread, English muffins, pita, bagels, tortilla
  • Rice, pasta, barley, couscous, quinoa
  • Homemade muffins

One serving of dairy

  • Milk or enriched soya beverage
  • Yogurt by the spoon or the straw
  • Cheese
  • Milk-based soup
  • Milk-based dessert

One serving of meat or meat substitute

  • Meat, poultry, fish, seafood
  • Legumes (chick peas, lentils, red and white beans, etc)
  • Tofu
  • Nuts or nut butter
  • Egg

The secret...

Going to the grocery store. To avoid the unexpected when preparing lunches, write down everything you must have on the list so that the fridge, freezer and pantry are well stocked.

  • It’s best to prepare lunches the day before—at least the main course—to avoid being tempted by quick and easy solutions when pressed for time in the morning.
  • Prepare a larger than usual portion at suppertime and use the extra as lunches through the week or freeze them for lunches in the future. With the aid of a thermos or microwave-safe container, balanced meals made the day before will taste even better the next day.

Important: keep it cool...

  • To keep foods cold between four and six hours, place an ice pack in an insulated lunch box.
  • A hot meal in a thermos will stay hot for up to five hours, even if it’s covered by ice packs. However, the thermos must be heated for 15 minutes with boiling water, cover and keep tightly closed.

Bon appétit!

Nutrition Expert
Stéphanie Ménard has been a member of the Professional Order of Quebec Dietitians since 1990. She has worked in such fields as education, health care, sports and extended care.

Fall 2013, Vol 5 N°4

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