The back to school season is the perfect opportunity to make a new (school) year resolution to eating healthier away from home, whether that's in the lunchroom for kids or at the office for you. Packing up your lunch is worth the commitment: one USDA report found that each meal consumed away from home tacks on an additional 134 calories to your daily intake.
But brown bagging it doesn't have to be a time-consuming labor. By repurposing leftovers, cooking for the week and making the same lunch for kids and adults, you can provide a healthy midday meal and save time in the kitchen. Here are some suggestions for healthy lunch ideas that the whole family will enjoy, from the people who know best.
We know you have other ideas to share! Leave your favorite family-friendly lunch recipe in the comments.
A Bento Box
Fill a bento box with the following, says Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/" target="_hplink">HuffPost Wellness Editor</a>: -Egg salad on romaine lettuce -Gluten-free crackers -Easy-to-eat veggies, like carrot sticks, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, jicama and celery -Trail mix -Fresh fruit <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/craige/539811492/" target="_hplink">craigemorsels</a></em>
Quinoa Salad With White Beans And Sautéed Spinach
Whip up a hearty quinoa salad, says Heather Bauer, R.D., C.D.N., <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-bauer-rd-cdn/" target="_hplink">HuffPost Blogger</a> and founder of <a href="http://www.bestowed.com/pages/about-us" target="_hplink">Bestowed</a>, a nutrition and lifestyle subscription service. "Dress lightly with vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Add fresh parsley and mint to flavor without adding calories. It can be eaten warm or cold, so it's ideal for kid's lunchboxes, picnic lunches or brown bagging to work." <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/39975765@N05/5919039636/" target="_hplink">mallydally</a></em>
Healthy Chicken Salad
Traditional chicken salad can be heavy on the mayo, so Bauer suggests a lighter take. "White chunk chicken mixed with fat-free, plain Greek yogurt, chopped cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, salt and pepper and lemon herb seasoning to taste. For kids, serve on whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat tortillas for a fun wrap. Pair with fiber crisps for adults!" She also suggests trying this recipe with tuna (look for light tuna canned in water) or <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14932302" target="_hplink">canned wild salmon</a>. "An added bonus when serving yourself or your kids!" she says.
DIY Portable Parfaits
Kids and adults are allowed to play with their food for this midday meal. "In a Ziploc or Tupperware container, spoon out [some] Greek yogurt, then sprinkle berries and sliced bananas. Spread an additional layer of yogurt, followed by another topping of fruit. Place some <a href="http://www.brancrispbread.com/Sprinkles.aspx" target="_hplink">GG Sprinkles</a> or <a href="http://www.kindsnacks.com/kind-store/healthy-grains#!/healthy-grains" target="_hplink">KIND Healthy Grains granola</a> (great for those that want the crunch and love that it's gluten free) into a Ziploc bag. When ready to eat, add granola or sprinkles to parfait and mix well. As long as the crunchy ingredient is added upon eating, these can be made the night before for easy a.m. packing," says Bauer.
Having pasta and vegetables for dinner? Throw the leftovers together for a pasta salad the next day. "Add some red wine vinegar, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, leftover vegetables like broccoli, and some carrots, grape tomatoes sliced in half and salt and pepper to taste," says Samantha Heller M.S., R.D.
"Take last night's veggie-tofu stir fry and stuff a whole-wheat pita for lunch," says Heller. Just make sure you're not <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/14/healthy-asian-takeout-delivery-calories-healthy_n_1412566.html#s852595&title=StirFry_Wont_Derail" target="_hplink">too generous with the oil</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ganmed64/6363782105/" target="_hplink">GanMed64</a></em>
Last night's salad makes an easy lunchtime wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla with a slice of low-fat cheese, says Heller. "[Keep the] dressing on the side so it doesn't get soggy," she says. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wordridden/1080528765/" target="_hplink">WordRidden</a></em>
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