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Healthy Lunches Are in the Bag

Getting the most out of your mid‍-‍day meal.

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Although much of your attention may go toward your child’s lunch, it’s as important for you to eat a well-balanced meal as it is for them. Just like their energy may hit a lull if they’re not eating the best choices, so will yours.

Keep yourself energized and ready to conquer the second half of your day with these tips:


Plan Ahead & Pack

Find yourself buying lunch every day? With the cost of food eaten away from home continuing to rise in tandem with general food costs[1], it’s food‍-‍wise to join the packed lunch club.

Put as much effort into your lunch as you do your child’s. Pack leftovers from last night’s dinner or simply have what they’re having. If you’re packing your little one a ham and cheese sandwich with carrot sticks, grapes, milk and pretzels, double the order and take one with you.


Honor What Fuels You

Keep pep in your step and plan your lunch with balance and variety in mind. MyPlate.gov[2] is an excellent guide on how to build a lunch (or any meal for that matter!). Start with color from fruits and vegetables, add sources of lean protein, fiber from whole grains and calcium with dairy products.


Mix and match between these basic ingredient must‍-‍haves to prevent falling into a lunchtime rut!



  • Apple
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Watermelon chunks
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi
  • Grapes
  • Orange segments
  • Cherries



  • Side salad
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Broccoli slaw
  • Sautéed cooking greens like kale or Swiss chard
  • Oven‍-‍baked red potatoes
  • Steamed spinach
  • Canned corn, green beans, carrots or beets
  • Frozen vegetables without added sauces such as peas, zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower


Lean Proteins

  • Tuna salad
  • Grilled fish fillet such as salmon or tilapia
  • Cooked turkey or chicken breast
  • Baked beans
  • Hummus
  • Bean or lentil salad
  • Soy burger
  • Lower sodium lunch meats such as ham, chicken or turkey
  • Hard‍-‍boiled eggs
  • 3‍-‍ounce sirloin steak or pork loin


Whole Grains

  • Whole wheat bread, pita or wrap
  • Whole wheat or whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat berries
  • Bulgur
  • Whole rye bread
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • 100% whole grain corn chips
  • Air‍-‍popped popcorn


Dairy Products

  • Lowfat or fat‍-‍free milk
  • Reduced fat cheeses such as cheddar and part‍-‍skim mozzarella
  • Lowfat, low sugar yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Calcium‍-‍fortified soymilk
  • Lowfat, low sugar pudding
  • Milk‍-‍based desserts such as lowfat, low sugar ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Yogurt smoothie
  • Kefir


Remember, the key ingredients to a nourishing lunch that will keep your little ones fueled throughout the school day will work for you during your workday too. Building your meals with the basic blocks of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy products is an easy way to keep your mid‍-‍day meals fresh, tasty and nutritious all year long.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Consumer Price Index‍—‍June 2022. Accessed 8‍/‍10‍/‍2022. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/cpi_07132022.htm.
[2] Visit https://www.myplate.gov/ to learn more!

Published 8/28/2022