Bagged lunches can be a good option for students who prefer to eat food from home or for people on the go. When packing a lunch, choosing healthy foods doesn't have to be inconvenient or time consuming.
Diane Thorne, public health nutritionist for First District Health Unit, explained that a healthy lunch should contain at least three different food groups, and ideally all five food groups.
"For a source of grain, people could pack a type of bread or a roll, and for protein they can pack lean meat, peanut butter or eggs. Vegetables and fruits are always good and convenient things to pack," Thorne said.
Diane Thorne, public health nutritionist for First District Health Unit, shows a healthy beverage option, a carton of skim milk, and an example of a serving size of snacks in a healthy lunch.
"To get your dairy products in, pack yogurt, cheese or milk," she added.
When choosing a snack such as a pudding or a granola bar, Thorne explained, people should pay attention to the labels.
"Check to see if sugar is one of the first three ingredients on the list. If sugar is listed in the first two of the three ingredients, you should look for something else," Thorne said.
Sugar comes in many forms and can be listed in different ways on labels. Some common words for sugar on an ingredients list include: barley malt, brown sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, powdered sugar or raw sugar.
Choosing a variety of foods can help keep lunches interesting. Sandwiches are usually a staple, but they can be made in different ways each day for variety. Making sandwiches that have a variety of fruits and vegetables on them can add taste and make the sandwich more filling.
"Don't be afraid to try different kinds of rolls, bagels, pitas or tortillas instead of always using bread. And when you're making a sandwich with meat, to keep it more filling, don't forget to add the vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. If you're making a peanut butter sandwich you can add different fruits to it," Thorne said.
Also, to keep a sandwich from getting soggy, people can store sandwich filling in a separate container and then add it to the bread when it's time for lunch.
Thorne added that for beverage choices, skim milk or water remain better choices than sugary drinks like sweetened juices, sports drinks, soft drinks or flavored mineral waters.
In addition to a well made sandwich and a healthy beverage, healthy lunches could contain a variety of options. Unbuttered popcorn, boiled eggs, dried fruit such as raisins or dates, nuts, oat cereal, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can round out a lunch.
For people on the go, packing the lunch the night before and storing it in the refrigerator keeps packing lunches more hassle-free. To keep foods cool, people could use an insulated lunch box or a wrapped frozen water bottle.
Some foods can also be frozen. Thorne explained that cooked egg whites can be frozen if they are finely chopped; hard or semi-hard cheeses can be frozen without losing too much flavor; and peanut butter sandwiches can be frozen if the sandwich doesn't also contain jelly that will soak into the bread and make it soggy.
For portion control, Thorne explained, buying small size plastic containers or small snack bags can help people measure out how much of an item they will eat.