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In the US, lunch is a midday meal most people eat. Kids are served lunch in school or may pack it from home. Working adults may get a break to eat. Whether you are at home or away, eating lunch as part of your daily meal pattern helps you stay energized and will keep your appetite in check for the rest of the day, preventing overeating at dinner and nighttime cravings. Here’s what you need to know about preparing lunch!

The Basics:

The most nutritious, convenient and economical lunches are those prepared at home, whether they are eaten at home or packed to go. Let’s look at what makes a balanced lunch. Balanced lunches include foods from at least three of the food groups. I highly recommend protein being at least one of them, and to me a lunch is not balanced without a vegetable. Need ideas? See below!

Should you pack something to drink?

The best option is a refillable water bottle. You can fill it with ice water, water infused with fruit slices or chilled unsweetened tea. Other options include mineral or sparkling water, milk, or a hot beverage in a thermos. Avoid juices, juice boxes, soda, other beverages with sugar.

Should I pack a treat?

In my experience, when I pack myself a treat I will eat it, but when I don’t, I don’t miss it. Even if I have a little craving, I get busy at work and quickly forget about it.

Children get excited when they find something special in their lunchbox. If I pack a treat for my kids, I make sure the portion is very small so it won’t spoil their appetite. The downside of including a treat in lunch for children is that they have very limited time to eat in school and it’s important for them to focus on nutritious foods to fuel their minds and bodies for the rest of the day. Consider an alternative “treat”—a sticker, a temporary tattoo, a sweet note or a joke.

My Top Strategies for packing lunch:

  • PLAN AHEAD! Sign up to receive my free weekly lunch planner!
  • Give kids a choice (Grapes or watermelon? Turkey sandwich or pasta?).
  • Pack 2-3 lunches at a time.
  • Have kids pack their own lunch! To see a cool how-to video from Eating Well, click here.


What are YOUR lunch-packing ideas and strategies? Please share in the comments below. I always love to hear from you!

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