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Ways to pack a healthy lunchbox


Last updated 9/9/2016 at Noon

Fruit salad is one dish that can be packed in a Mason jar for lunch. ASIFE/Think Stock photo

With schools back in session, some parents may be looking for tips on filling their children's lunch boxes, but students aren't the only ones who take lunch with them when they leave home in the morning.

I have been making my own lunch since I started first grade (that's what happens when you are the sixth of 10 kids and Mom gets tired of making lunches). My lunches weren't very healthy back then (sandwich, chips and cookies), and pre-packaged lunch items later on weren't much better for me.

Needless to say, as I got older, my lunches got healthier. Like many working adults, I pack my own lunch to save time and money. I have learned along the way to try new food combinations and to make the dishes myself as my stomach feels a lot better when I stay away from sodium and other preservatives.

I pack my lunch the night before to save time getting ready in the morning and have two different lunch boxes to accommodate different sized food containers. While plastic ones are lighter to carry, I have found glass containers to be easier to wash or put in the dishwasher. There is some concern now about chemicals from some kinds of plastics leaching into food with microwave use which makes using glass even more appealing.

Some foods come in their own containers, like yogurt, which I have for a snack every other day. I recycle the containers but keep a few of them to put whole fruit in like apples, peaches, or pears to protect them in my lunch box. For people who like fruit salad and cute containers, mason jars of different sizes are now being used for fresh food, not just for canning.

Salads in a jar are also a popular way to eat healthy. Chopped salads are common and tend to stay fresh longer than traditional salad. The packaged ones from the store are very convenient for splitting into two servings for a filling lunch. Salads are also easy to eat when wrapped in a tortilla.

The versatile wrap can also contain leftovers from dinner to be warmed up, or sandwich ingredients (sliced meats, cheeses, lettuce and other veggies). Putting the salad dressing between leaves of lettuce helps keep the rest of the wrap from getting soggy. Or, instead of dressing, hummus can be used on a wrap or a sandwich for added taste.

I like having hummus and crackers or refried beans with cheese to eat with tortilla chips a long with cut up veggies like carrots, jicama, celery and radishes. One combination I came up with back when I was teaching preschool is coleslaw with tuna in it. I use bagged slaw and bottled poppy seed dressing, mixing in canned tuna for an easy meal.

Another innovation my sister and I came up with was rolled burritos. We spread refried beans on the tortilla, add cheese and chopped onion then roll it up. They heat up faster than a burrito and are easier to handle when eating. Quesadillas are also good and can be eaten hot or cold, with or without avocado on top.

Wraps are a good way to enjoy avocados and cut back on carbohydrates. juanmonino/Think Stock photo

Of course avocados go great in wraps, and on salads and sandwiches. When I have some good avocados, I bring half of one with me to work along with two slices of bread which I toast before covering with sliced avocado, which tastes good without adding anything to it.

My dad had a touchy stomach (which he blamed on his time in the Navy) so we didn't eat spicy foods at home when I was growing up and I still don't eat them. Dad didn't eat hummus or refried beans, but he liked a unique sandwich of peanut butter and lettuce on bread which I like to have every once in a while.

Some people like peanut butter and bananas together – it's a matter of taste and everyone has their own favorite lunch to take with them. Planning ahead and taking a list to the grocery store will help but making a fun, healthy and interesting lunch is limited only by one's imagination and the food in their kitchen.


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