When you're making lunch for the kids, the spouse or yourself to take to school or work, remember that you can find pack plenty of variety and nutrition in that brown bag or fancy insulated lunch container. Think outside the peanut butter jar and treat yourself and your family to midday meals worth savoring.
Sandwiches and wraps are an easy centerpiece for any cold lunch. They can be prepared in advance and enjoyed without heating up. Protein-rich fillings like tuna, cheese and quality lunch meats are great starting choices. For the more adventuresome family members, like the teens and grownups, build them around fish or tofu. Use whole-grain bread, add crispy romaine or tender Boston lettuce and complete with mayonnaise, mustard or creamy dressing. When making chicken or tuna salad for sandwiches, add seasoning mix or dip mix, or use your favorite creamy dressing in place of some or all of the mayo.
Vegetables fill you up and help your body create energy, so don't hesitate to pack snacks like baby carrots, bell pepper spears, cukes and broccoli with a creamy dip. Prepare a salad ahead of time with leafy greens, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. Add shredded cooked chicken or diced ham and a creamy dressing. When you take in vitamin C -- like you find in vegetables -- your body absorbs more iron from meats. Pairing the two is a way to eat healthy and keep your motor running all afternoon. Make smaller salad portions for younger children. Remember that fat -- like you get from dressing -- is needed to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins -- like A, D, E and K -- from vegetables.
Fresh fruit is a sweet addition to your cold lunch. Slice pineapple, melon or cantaloupe to mix up a fruit salad, or pack a reusable container with grapes, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. Bananas are a classic self-packaged fruit, but only pack them when the weather's not too hot, or if your lunch-goer has a well-insulated lunch container. If you think the banana might become much, pack an apple or orange instead.
Instead of indulging at the vending machine or loading up on high-fat snacks like cookies, make something at home that you can pack. This helps you control what goes into your own body, making healthy desserts easier. For example, bake a batch of healthy oatmeal cookies at the beginning of the week and pack a few every day. Healthy variations on desserts like cookies, puddings, mousses and brownies are relatively easy to prepare in batches, so line up your snacks for the week ahead of time.
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