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September 6, 2012

Back to School Lunchbox Makeover

September means everyone is back to school and work! It is also the perfect time to update your lunchbox with healthy choices for you and your family.

There are numerous benefits to packing your lunch; you’ll save money, time and excess calories from processed foods. Lunch is an important way to refuel your energy for the remainder of the day, so let the makeover begin!

First, let’s talk about beverages. Beverages hydrate and aid in absorption of vitamins and minerals. However, all beverages are not created equal. Choose water or low-fat milk over soda, juices and sweet teas which can be packed with a ton of sugar and extra calories. If you don’t like water, try seltzer or sparkling water for that tickle of carbonation. You can also add fresh fruit like berries, lemons or limes to plain water for an added treat.

When it comes to the main dish, loading up on veggies is key. Add fresh spinach, peppers, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers to spice up traditional sandwiches. If sandwiches aren’t your cup of tea, create a large salad with fresh vegetables and toppings like sliced almonds, shredded chicken, walnuts or chickpeas for added protein. Salads aren’t just for veggies; get creative by adding strawberries, oranges or apple slices.

We know every great lunch has to have a great snack, so make yours healthy and delicious. Healthy snacking is a great way to give yourself a boost of energy between meals and research has found it to be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. Try sliced apples or bananas with peanut butter, trail mix, granola bars, or bean dip and vegetables.

What’s in the lunchbox isn’t the only important element of a healthy lunch. Keep your lunch from spoiling by packing it in an insulated bag and storing it in the refrigerator. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, pack a small ice pack to keep your food safe and fresh. Lastly, don’t forget to clean your lunchbox regularly with hot soap and water to keep the germs at bay.

Ready to makeover your lunch? Start with this Apple and Spiced Pumpkin Dip – Yum!

Janell Walker, RD, LDN, Nutrition Services Manager

Janell is a registered dietitian and has been with Food & Friends for 3 years. She is a graduate of University of Maryland, College Park and a native of the DC metropolitan area. Janell enjoys cooking, dancing and educating people about the importance of food and nutrition. Learn more about Food & Friends' nutrition services.