Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Conquer School Lunches This Year

We are almost mid-way through August, which means school is right around the corner. For many athletes or parents of athletes, planning for lunch at school is a dreaded part of the back-to-school routine. While many complain of poor choices offered in the cafeteria, an equally common complaint is lack of time to pack a sack lunch. Yet, "brown bagging it" doesn't have to take up a huge amount of time or energy. Here are some tips, tricks, and sample lunches to fuel the athlete in you or in your family....

When planning for sack lunches, remember the key components that should be included in each lunch. Make your list before you head to the store.
-Carbohydrates: Preferably whole grain/whole wheat (gluten-free whole grains vs. processed if this is applicable)
-Protein: Preferably low-fat (this includes dairy or soy)
-Fat: A little bit of fat keeps young bellies full and helps with muscle recovery
-Fruit: Fresh is easiest, but canned is okay too
-Vegetables: Think fresh "ready-to-munch" veggies such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes

Do your shopping on the weekend; buy for the ENTIRE week. Using the guidelines discussed, here is a list you might use:

Whole wheat bread, tortillas, or pitas
Brown rice or quinoa
Whole grain tortilla chips
Whole grain crackers such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or Kashi TLCs
Low sugar jelly/jam or honey
Dried fruit (no sugar added if possible)

Low sodium lunch meats
Canned/packets of tuna
Canned beans
Part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
Low-fat regular or Greek yogurt: Single serve containers or bulk
Low-fat cottage cheese
2% milk block cheese
Individual containers of cow's or soy milk

Peanut or other nut butter: bulk and single serve, such as Justin's Nut Butter
Whole nuts

Any fresh fruit (look for sales) - fruit like peaches, bananas, oranges and apples might be easier to pack than pineapple, mango or melon that requires cleaning and cutting
Any canned fruit in its own juice (not heavy syrup); many fruit cups are in their own juice

Any fresh veggies (look for sales) - baby carrots and cherry tomatoes come ready to eat vs. broccoli, cauliflower or cucumber, which require cleaning and cutting

Pack/provide splurge foods only 1x/week (but not on competition days). These are not effective for fueling or recovery, but certainly can be part of a reasonable intake. Such foods include items like chips, cookies/brownies, fruit roll-ups/fruit snacks or soda.

Prep as much as possible on the weekend to save time during the week. For example: Make sandwiches (minus sauces/dressings that can make them soggy - PBJ holds well with the nut butter on both pieces of bread), cut up vegetables or fruit and put in sandwich bags, make individual salads in tupperware containers, create your own single serve yogurt or cottage cheese by placing 3/4 cup into a small tupperware container from the bulk container. Hard boil eggs and make rice/quinoa.

Lunch #1
Lunch meat or tuna sandwich with cheese, tomato, romaine lettuce, & mustard or olive-oil-based mayo if desired
Baby carrots
Low-fat yogurt

Lunch #2
PBJ or PB & Honey on whole wheat bread (or sub any nut butter here)
Cherry tomatoes
String cheese or soy milk

Lunch #3
Low-fat cottage cheese with canned fruit, walnuts, & cinnamon
Crackers & cheese
Fresh broccoli & cauliflower with light ranch dressing or hummus

Lunch #4
Brown rice or quinoa with beans, salsa, and cheese (rolled into a tortilla with lettuce and tomato if desired)
Tortilla chips
Orange or clementine

Lunch #5
Spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery, tomatoes, oil-based dressing
Place salad in a whole wheat pita to enjoy
Fresh apricot
Milk (cow's or soy)

Lunch #6
Tortilla with hummus, lots of veggies and feta cheese
Fresh berries
Quinoa with dried fruit and nuts

Remember that lunch doesn't have to be only lunch foods. Both breakfast and dinner foods can also be enjoyed at lunch...just follow the guidelines discussed above. Leftovers from dinner often make a tasty, quick lunch the next day!

Be Extraordinary,


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