Lunchtime? Practice Perfect Packing

How can you make sure you're eating a healthy lunch? Bring it yourself. Read on for our tips, and favorite portable recipes.
Lunch bags

It's human nature to eat what's handy instead of making the extra effort to eat right. Use this tendency to your advantage by bringing healthy, low-calorie foods wherever you go. Follow our tips, and you'll be a legend in your own lunchtime.

Shop savvy
Stock up on containers of various shapes and sizes to accommodate different food types and servings (make sure they are microwave safe). We like Obentec's bento-style Laptop Lunch system (from as well as Fit & Fresh's modular systems (available at many grocery and home goods stores), but cheaper alternatives by Ziploc and GladWare also do a great job. (The screwtop lids on the Ziploc Twist 'n Loc containers are great for those who just want to stuff something in your bag without worrying about spills.)

While you're in the housewares department, get yourself a soft collapsible cooler or tote. They now come in many sizes and styles and feature useful extras such as hot and cold pockets and drink compartments. Choose one that meets your needs and also suits your style. You'll be more apt to use it if you like how it looks.

At the grocery store, buy prepackaged items such as individual servings of tuna fish and crackers, yogurt with granola — even baby carrots are sold in single-serving baggies. Bananas and oranges are the ultimate "prepackaged" fruits.

Cook smart
Make a batch of soup on Sunday, divvy it up into portion-controlled containers for workday lunches, and pop them into the freezer. (Remember to leave room at the top of the container for expansion.) Research has shown that if you start a meal with a broth-based soup, you're more likely to eat fewer calories, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D. Other good make-ahead dishes that keep well: rice and legume salads, and healthy dips, such as hummus. Grill extra boneless chicken breasts to use in sandwiches and on top of salads.

Portion patrol
In this age of "supersizing," prepacking your meals in containers will help you eat reasonable servings. "Get to know true serving sizes, and plan meals with that in mind," says Jean Anliker, director of the Nutrition Education Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A good guide to follow: One ounce of food is about the size of the average thumb, 2-3 ounces is about the size of a palm, and a cup is about the size of a fist.

Measure up
When packing your tote, run down a nutritional checklist. Tally how many PointsPlus® values you'll be using during the day so you'll know what's left for dinner or an extra snack. Count up servings of fruits and vegetables and make sure you've included adequate amounts of protein, calcium-rich foods and complex carbohydrates. The right balance of foods will help curb cravings and keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.

Not just lunch
Too busy for breakfast? Instead of grabbing a jumbo muffin on the way to work, try individually wrapped cereal and granola bars, yogurt and fruit. Be sure to pack snacks to get you through a long day. Working late? Plan ahead for that meal, too.

Don't forget to pack beverages. Flavored seltzer waters, vitamin waters, and diet sodas come in their own cans and bottles. Or bring your own concoction such as iced herbal teas and fruit smoothies in a reusable beverage bottle designed for that purpose.

Here are some of our favorite lunch recipes.
Tuna sandwich
Cobb Salad
Turkey and Cheddar Wrap
Tropical Chicken Salad (leave the dressing separate – toss in the container at work)
Santa Fe Salad (complete with mix-and-match ideas)
Egg Salad Sandwich
White Bean and Ground Turkey Slow Cooker Chili (freezes well – freeze in individual portions)
Broccoli and Shrimp Chowder (just 3 PointsPlus values!)

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