Healthier Plate

Healthy Lunch Tips and Tricks

Aug 29, 2018

By Molly Wangsgaard, RDN

The hot summer is almost behind us. Whew! Kids are going back to school. Yay! Building a healthy routine is a must. Absolutely! Getting on a routine to plan and prepare healthy lunches is a great place to start. Not only do many of us need to pack lunch for our kids but taking lunch to work helps avoid one of three inevitable consequences: fast food runs, vending machine grabs or skipping lunch altogether.  Here are some tips and tricks for making lunchtime a healthy reality.

  1.      Plan. You’ve heard it before: “fail to plan and you plan to fail.” Take time on the weekend to plan your lunches for the week, grocery shop and prep some items in advance (e.g., roast veggies, grill bison burgers).
  2.      Simplify. Make life easy. Have a theme for the week. This could be a raw veggie week where you eat baby carrots and cucumber slices for a side each day. Maybe it’s a chicken week where you eat chicken breasts in different ways – alone, in a wrap or on a salad. Switch it up the following week.
  3.      Build. I tell my kids, “one food does not make a meal.” Boost the nutrition, satisfaction and the fullness factor by building balanced meals. Make sure there is a good source of protein, some fat and a lot of color (vegetables or fruit).

Think outside the sandwich, and try these easy, healthy and delicious lunch ideas.

Chicken Slaw Salad

  •        2 cups cooked, chopped skinless chicken breast
  •        16 oz. package broccoli slaw
  •        8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  •        1 cup mandarin orange slices, canned in juice, drained, chopped
  •        ½ cup scallions, chopped
  •        ¾ cup low-fat sesame ginger dressing
  •        1 to 1 ½ avocados

In a large bowl, combine first six ingredients, stir to mix well. Portion into portable containers for upcoming lunches. Top with ¼ avocado before eating. Makes 4-6 servings.

Savory Cottage Cheese Bowl

  •        ¾ cup 2% cottage cheese
  •        ¾ tsp paprika
  •        1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  •        6 spicy, multigrain chips (e.g., Late July Mild Green Mojo tortilla chips)
  •        1 ½ cups raw veggies of choice

Portion cottage cheese, paprika and tomato into a portable bowl; stir together. Portion the six chips and raw veggies into individual sandwich-sized bags or containers. Before eating, place chips in the cottage cheese mixture, chop with a spoon and mix together. Enjoy the spicy bowl with veggies on the side. Makes 1 serving. Tip: Prepare a few on Sunday and have 2-3 lunches ready for the week.

Turkey Taco Salad

  •        3 oz. 99% lean ground turkey
  •        ½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
  •        ¼ cup pico de gallo
  •        2 Tbsp 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  •        ¼ avocado (or Wholly Guacamole snack pack)
  •        ¼ cup salsa
  •        2 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped

Brown turkey in a skillet and allow time to cool. Combine turkey, beans and pico in a portable bowl and top with cheese. Pack lettuce in a larger, separate container. Keep avocado and salsa separate until lunchtime. Before eating, place the turkey mixture on lettuce and top with avocado and salsa. Makes 1 serving. Tip: Quadruple the recipe; and enjoy four lunches, or freeze half (two servings) for another week.

Tuna Apple Mix

  •        6 oz. light tuna, canned in water, drained
  •        2 Tbsp stalk celery, finely diced
  •        1 Tbsp sweet relish
  •        1 small apple, chopped
  •        ¼ tsp garlic powder
  •        2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  •        2 large lettuce leaves (Boston bibb and butter lettuce work best)

Combine first five ingredients in a bowl, stir together and chill. Spoon tuna apple mixture in the lettuce wraps before eating. Makes 2 servings. Tip: Mix it up – delight in the mixture on salad greens, with a few crackers or in a whole-grain wrap such as Flatout Foldit 5 Grain Flax.

Greek Yogurt Bowl

  •        1 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  •        ¾ cup fresh berries (your choice)
  •        ¼ cup grain-free granola*

Place yogurt and berries in a portable bowl. Measure granola into a small container or snack bag. Before eating top with granola and mix well. Makes 1 serving. Tip: Prepare a few in advance to have 2-3 times that week. It makes a great breakfast too!

*Grain-free granola is typically made from nuts, seeds, coconut and a little honey. Buy on pre-made to save time.


About the Author

Molly Wangsgaard is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with PsyMed, Inc. She helps Nicholson Clinic patients achieve their weight loss and wellness goals through education, preparation and behavior change strategies. Molly is passionate about nutrition, fitness, health and wellness and loves helping individuals experience a greater quality of life.