It’s back to school, back to work, back to the hectic routine of the fall season. This means the lunchboxes are out and need to be packed in order to ensure you have food to eat at lunchtime. For some, this is not such an easy task. Planning ahead takes time, as does taking the food preferences of each family member into consideration. It’s easy to toss into the lunchbox a prepackaged snack food or frozen meal, or worse yet, not pack the lunchbox at all. This means you are either “winging it” or buying food in the school or work cafeteria with less than healthy options.

Here are 8 tips to help you boost the nutritional power of your lunchbox so you and your children are fueled properly to power through your day.

1) Sandwiches are a convenient lunch food but the bread you use can make or break the nutritional quality of it. Swap out white bread for whole wheat bread. This will give you a serving of whole grains and add fiber to your meal. If you don’t like whole wheat bread, transition to it slowly by making your sandwich with one slice whole wheat and one slice white and slowly move towards both slices whole wheat.

2) If your child loves PB&J, replace the high sugar jelly for sliced fruit, like strawberries or bananas (adults love this too). You can even mash up berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries to make a natural fruit spread for the sandwich.

3) Include veggies with your lunch such as a baggie of baby carrots, bell peppers or celery. Take a small container with hummus or salsa and use as a dip for the veggies.

4) Always put a cold water bottle in the lunchbox. Besides being the best beverage around, especially if it replaces the juice and punch your children would normally drink, it can act as an “ice pack” to keep the sandwich cool. Use an insulated lunch box which will keep the food and water cold. It’s also a good idea to buy a refillable water bottle that you can carry with you all day and fill up as the day goes on.

5) Make healthy swaps when you create your sandwich. Swap out mayo for mustard, cheese for avocado slices (if you do love cheese, always opt for lower fat options), regular deli meats for low sodium or natural turkey or chicken and dressing for hummus. Top your sandwich with vegetables like lettuce, tomato, roasted peppers, onions or bean sprouts for added nutrients.

6) If you enjoy a salad with your lunch, don’t limit yourself with what you can add to it. Be creative by adding fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Toasting pumpkin or sunflower seeds adds a nutritious crunch to your bed of greens. Beans are also great to incorporate into any salad; they are rich in dietary fiber and protein. If using canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them before adding to your salad to reduce your sodium intake.

7) Get your child involved in the lunch packing process. This is a great way to increase the likelihood that he/she will eat what you pack, and it exposes him or her to a variety of healthy foods. When children feel that they are part of the decision making process, they are more willing to try new foods. For instance, give your child a choice between apple slices with peanut butter or grapes and string cheese. By doing this, you are letting them choose yet you are still in control of their choice being a healthy one.

8) A healthy lunch doesn’t stop at the foods you eat. At the end of the day, always clean out the lunch box thoroughly. Kids can be messy (and adults too!) when they eat and a dirty lunch box is a likely place bacteria can grow.

Hopefully these tips will make it easier for you to pack a nutritious lunch for you and your children. Always keep variety and moderation in mind when food shopping for your lunch foods. Keep a checklist so that you make sure to incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy into every lunch you pack. Doing so will yield nutritional benefits beyond your imagination.

Author's Bio: 

Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters break free of the pain of dieting and get the healthy body they love. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy non-diet mindset, nutrition education and caring support. She utilizes the principles of intuitive eating, which is eating based on your internal signals of hunger and satiety versus situations or emotions. The result is they lose weight, keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life of guilt-free eating.

Bonnie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, and Certified Diabetes Educator. In addition, she is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She offers programs for the chronic dieter to achieve long lasting weight loss, for people with diabetes to attain blood sugar control and prevent diabetes complications, and for those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome to identify their food triggers so they can enjoy a symptom free life. Bonnie also treats a variety of other medical conditions, and provides nutrition presentations and lunch and learn seminars to the community and local organizations.

Bonnie is the author of 2 cookbooks and is now working on her third cookbook. She is also the author of an e-book called “5 Steps to a Body You Love without Dieting” which you can download free at http://www.DietFreeZone.com

For more information on Bonnie’s programs, books, lectures and presentations, visit http://www.brghealth.com