Benefits in the bag: Packing lunch can be healthful

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

So what’s happening in March? There’s March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and … National Nutrition Month.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants you to enjoy the food you eat and where you eat it, developing mindful habits that include flavorful and nutritious foods. Wow, that’s a mouthful — pun intended.

How does this have anything to do with business or your place of work? Just think about where you spend most of your day. How often do you eat breakfast and lunch at your desk? Snacks too? It’s likely the bulk of your daily calories are consumed during your workday. What do those calories look like? How many of them come from sweetened coffee? What about calories from fast-food restaurants and  vending machines in the breakroom? 

It’s time to up your game. Plan ahead and pack your lunch.

The brown bag has developed many negative connotations over the years. When someone says “I’m brown bagging it today,” the first thing that comes to mind is a limp sandwich in a crumpled paper bag.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The packed lunch has improved as much as the containers you put it in. Still not convinced this will work for you? Here are some things to consider:

Packing your lunch saves money. The groceries I regularly buy cost less than a trip through the drive-through. Whether it’s a monthly lunch with my friends or dinner out with my family, I’d rather spend my money on one really nice meal than several mediocre ones.

Prepping the night before makes for a hassle-free morning — and leftovers become your friend. Make extra salad when you’re making dinner. Pack your lunch along with your children’s so you can load and go in the morning.

The food you pack is generally healthier. When you pack your lunch, you’re more mindful of your selections. Without the pressure of ordering in a line, you have more time to plan your meal. You also have control of your portion size and are less likely to overeat.

Fast food can be healthy. Think apples, bananas, Clementine oranges, baby carrots and yogurt. Wrap some sliced lunch meat around string cheese for added protein.  These foods are not only easy to pack, but also fast to eat.

Packing your lunch saves time. Don’t waste your lunch break waiting in line at the drive-through when you can have lunch ready to go wherever you are. That extra time can be used to go outside and get some fresh air or talk with a friend.

Eating your lunch at work gives you time to connect with your colleagues on a more personal level. Lunch in the breakroom gives you the opportunity to learn more about the people you work with by having conversations about activities outside of work. Encourage staff to eat together by holding a monthly potluck. Talking about food is always an ice breaker. Come up with different themes each month — like a salad bar where everyone brings different toppings. Move the gathering outside when the weather’s nice. Try grilling if your facilities permit.

You don’t need a lot of time or resources to pack a lunch that will not only save you money, but also up your nutritional game. For more ideas about healthy packed lunches, visit the Healthy Mesa County Pinterest board at www.pinterest.com/healthymesacoun/healthy-lunches-on-the-go/. For tasty salads, visit www.pinterest.com/healthymesacoun/healthy-salads/.