You don't have to feel guilty if you don't have the time to pack elaborate lunch boxes for your children.
But this is no excuse to let them settle for those greasy pies at the tuck shop.
At lunchtime, it's easy to fall into a food rut, which leads to boredom and craving unhealthy snacks that are easy to obtain from the school's tuck shop. These snacks are often unhealthy, greasy and packed with sugar and saturated fats.
To jazz up this midday meal for your kids (or yourself), take some brown-bagging tips from a registered dietitian.
Keep things interesting through variation, said Samantha Coogan, an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A healthy lunch can be delicious and affordable, she said. Here are some of her suggestions:
1. Keep it fresh
Try to add a new fruit or vegetable each week for your child to try.
2. Rethink your shopping
Think beyond the supermarket. You might save money by buying fresh fruit and vegetables at fresh food markets. You can even make it a weekend outing and let your children help with the shopping. Explore your nearest neighbourhood market for interesting fresh produce.
3. Pack enough
Pack more than lunch. College students often get hungry during long classes. It's smart to pack both your lunch and enough snacks to get you through the day.
4. Be wary of 'organic' products
Watch those organic labels. You might assume that "organic" produce is 100% organic, but advertisers can get away with using that label on products that are less than half organic. Be careful you're not paying more without getting a fully organic product to show for it.
5. Gluten-free does not equal healthier
Don't assume gluten-free is better for you. Gluten-free products aren't necessarily healthy. They're made for people whose bodies have a hard time processing gluten proteins in wheat.
6. Avoid a sugar slump
Watch the sugar to avoid an afternoon slump. To stay alert and productive during the second half of your day, avoid extra sugar. Whether brown-bagging it or ordering out, minimise the soda, biscuits and other sweets. "The greater the processed sugar intake, the harder the afternoon crash," said Coogan. Fruit paired with a protein or fat like peanut butter will keep you going without the need for a caffeine boost.
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