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5 Tips to Building a Healthful Lunch

What's on your lunch menu? Do you buy lunch or make it at home?
5 Tips to Building a Healthful Lunch

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For kids, meals at school are a bargain, but sometimes kids may want a change of pace with a homemade lunch. For adults, purchased lunches at a nearby restaurant can add up to a hefty price tag. According to one study, the average purchased lunch costs about $8. During a five-day work week, that adds up to $40 per week - or more than $2,000 per year!

The lunch you prepare at home is always healthier than a purchased meal. Be sure to select a variety of healthful foods with these tips:

  1. Pack some protein. Include lean protein in your lunch to help you stay feeling full longer. How about a sandwich made with grilled chicken or meat loaf from last night's dinner? Protein helps build and repair your body. Less expensive protein options include canned fish, beans and eggs.
  2. Vary your veggies. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, which provide vitamins and minerals. Purchase vegetables in season for the best value and nutrient profile. In-season fresh vegetables are often at their best quality and price, but fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables all count toward the recommended amount.
  3. Welcome whole grains. Try a variety of whole-grain food such as bulgur, oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and wild rice. Be sure to look for the words "whole-grain" as one of the first ingredients on the nutrition label.
  4. Fill up on fruits. Fruits are a low-calorie way to satisfy your sweet tooth whole also getting fiber. Fruits are packed with soluble fiber, which helps keep cholesterol low, and insoluble fiber, which helps keep you regular. As with vegetables, pick a variety of colors and types of fruits to get the best health benefits. 
  5. Don't forget dairy. Dairy products are well known for their boost of bone-protecting calcium. However, dairy also may help with blood sugar and blood pressure control. If you cannot tolerate milk, try vitamin D-fortified soymilk, yogurt or another calcium-rich option.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in Food Wise September 2015 newsletter (PDF)

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