The theme for National Nutrition Month, taking place in March 2023, asks us to think about how we are fueling our future with the food choices we make today. The focus is on sustainable nutrition options to support every lifecycle phase while supporting environmental health.
One example of a place where we might consider improving the quality of our nutritional fuel is at our lunchtime meal.
We’ve all seen those handy lunch kits that contain some kind of processed meat, some kind of cheese food, and some crackers, or nuts… They may look like the perfectly balanced snack for kids and adults on the go… But buried under all that convenience is a future price we pay when we consider that ultra-processed foods deprive our bodies, and our kids’ bodies, of needed nutrients, while the plastic containers remain in the landfill well beyond our life span.
And then again, there are days when we have not planned ahead… when the lunch hour hits, our hunger pangs get the best of us, and we run out and grab fast food or have a food delivery service drop lunch at our door. While this may seem convenient, this option is often not sustainable for our wallets, our health, and the environment, given the increased fossil fuels used to make that meal possible.
With a little planning, lunch options can be quick, easy, and fun to prepare!
Step 1: Find a cool container, consider these options:
- Reusable bento-type boxes with defined sections so you can keep different kinds of foods separate (consider BPA-free plastics or metal containers).
- Boxes or containers without dividers (use muffin cups to separate foods).
- Thermos: if you enjoy hot food, a small thermos can hold up to 2 cups of food and can keep it warm for over 4 hours.
- Small sauce containers perfect for storing salad dressing or dip.
- Refillable water bottles or refillable, insulated hot beverage mugs.
Step 2: Fill your container using the plate model to get a balance of nutrients at your lunchtime meal.
- Meats: Leftover grilled chicken or steak cut into bite-sized pieces, Precooked low sodium chicken sausage slices, a scoop of tuna fish.
- Hardboiled egg.
- Dips: Hummus, bean dip, Low sugar peanut butter, Greek yogurt.
- Soups or stews are a great option for a thermos lunch.
- Carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, colorful sweet peppers.
- Apple slices, half a banana, orange slices, grapes, berries, melon squares, kiwi slices, and a small cup of sugar-free applesauce.
- 5 Whole grain crackers, a slice of whole grain pita bread, a handful of pumpkin seeds, or cauliflower chips.
- A few dark chocolate chips, mini pretzels, half a granola bar, or a graham cracker.
Step 3: Enjoy your meal and bring the container home to use tomorrow!
*Photo by Antoni Shkraba.