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Brown bagging it the healthy way

When enjoying a healthy lifestyle, one of the biggest challenges is making meals on the go.  Brown bagging is even more difficult when children are involved, but it is still possible to create delicious, nutritious brown bag lunches that the whole family will love.

The most important part of creating healthy, delicious brown bag lunches is choosing the foods that will go into those brown bags.  It is important to choose foods that are easy to put together, and to include foods that everyone in the family likes.  Including everyone’s favorite foods is a great way to make sure the lunches will be eaten instead of traded for Twinkies.

When creating healthy brown bag lunches for yourself and your family, try to choose at least three choices from the following list.

  • At least one fruit or vegetable, either fresh, canned or frozen. Some good choices include apples, bananas and oranges.  Fruit salad also makes a great choice for brown bag lunches.
  • A whole grain product like bread, a tortilla shell, a bagel, pasta, rice or muffins.
  • Milk or dairy products like low fat or nonfat yogurt, skim milk, cheese or a yogurt drink or shake.
  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, peanut butter, legumes or hummus
  • A healthy vegetable or fruit salad

It is a great idea to involve the whole family in the preparation of these brown bag creations.  Why not have a family session where everyone creates their own healthy brown bag lunches using the ingredients you provide?  Lay out all the healthy foods, selected from the above list, and let everyone choose their favorites.  Involving the kids in meal planning at an early age is a great way to help them learn to make healthy food choices throughout their lives.

Packing those brown bag lunches can be exciting and fun for the whole family.  For instance, why not let every member of the family choose his or her own special lunch box or bag?  Other good ideas and tips for brown bag lunches include setting aside one shelf in the fridge for lunch fixings and finished lunches, and setting aside a drawer in the cupboard for all the packaging required, such as plastic bags, plastic cutlery, napkins, and straws.

Of course, keeping the variety in homemade lunches is very important, both for the adults and the kids.

There are some great suggestions for keeping everyone from getting bored, including:

  • Use a variety of different breads in your sandwiches. Use a combination of wheat bread, rye bread and pumpernickel, in addition to interesting bread alternatives such as tortilla wraps, bread sticks and whole wheat crackers.
  • Pack bite size vegetables, such as baby carrots, broccoli florets and pepper slices, along with a low fat dipping sauce.
  • Add bit size fruit like grapes, blueberries, orange wedges and strawberries.
  • Use only 100% fruit juice in brown bag lunches. Avoid fruit drinks and blends, which often contain less than 10% real fruit.
  • Pick up a variety of single serving cereal and let everyone choose their favorites.
  • Buy a good selection of flavors of nonfat or low fat yogurt every week, and let everyone choose their favorite flavor every day.
  • Pack a variety of dried fruit in your family’s brown bag lunches.

Of course the kids are not the only ones who can enjoy healthy brown bag lunches.  Mom and dad can also join in the fun.  After all, brown bag lunches are a lower cost, and healthier alternative to lunches out.

Some of the most popular choices for brown bag lunches, both for children and their parents, include leftovers from the night before (pasta, rice and potato dishes are great choices), cheese and crackers, leftover veggie pizza, or a quick sandwich rollup using a soft tortilla shell or pita bread.

One great way to enjoy a variety of healthy new foods is to form a lunch partnership with four or five other coworkers.  Everyone takes turns bringing lunch for everyone.  This can be a great way to enjoy healthy new foods and gather some great new recipes.

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