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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!
lunch bag burritos

Packing a Healthy Lunch

When I was growing up, my family would pack many lunches. My mom would occasionally take her lunch to work, my dad, who is a farmer, would pack a lunch and sometimes even a dinner for those long days working in the fields, and my brother and I would pack our school lunches in our latest superhero lunchbox (unless of course, it was chicken patty on bun or pizza day in the school cafeteria).  If this sounds like your family, you may be wondering what nutritious foods you can pack that will actually get eaten and not traded for cookies and snack cakes.

When shopping for foods to pack in lunch bags, look for plenty of fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables often get lost in our diets, but they should take up half our plate. If you are not able keep a good amount of fresh produce on hand, supplement with canned or frozen. When packing you or your child's lunch, don't forget to always pack at least one fruit or vegetable. Also, include healthy grains, especially whole grains. Buy whole wheat bread, tortillas, or English muffins to make a sandwich, and fill it with a lean protein, such as turkey, ham, roast beef, or chicken. Top with veggies such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, or peppers. Add low-fat cheese, yogurt, or a carton of milk to include dairy, and you've just included all 5 food groups!

As I have grown older, I still find myself packing a lunch every day for work. It's not only cheaper, but it's also healthier than eating out every day. But if you're like me, you get tired of eating peanut butter and jelly every day. Try this recipe below for something a little different that you and the kids will both enjoy.  It may take just a little more preparation, but don't forget about my earlier post, Make a Weekly Meal Plan.  Having a plan is the start to eating healthy!

Lunch Bag Burritos (makes 4 burritos) (Printable PDF)

1 cup nonfat refried beans

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

4 oz can chopped green chili peppers, drained

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 lettuce leaves

4 8-inch flour tortillas

¼ cup salsa

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together beans, chilies, garlic powder and cumin.
  2. Arrange lettuce over tortillas. Spoon about ½ cup bean mixture near one edge of each tortilla.
  3. Top each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of salsa.
  4. Roll tortilla around filling. Place in a covered container or airtight plastic bag and pack in an insulated lunchbox with a chilled freezer gel pack. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving: 269 Calories, 4 grams total fat, 12 grams protein, 50 grams total carbohydrate, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 565 milligrams sodium

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Now I'm hungry!
by Erik Smith on Wednesday 9/7/2011

It sure is nice having a daughter who is a and I were growing tired of the same old lunches. We're learning so much from you.
by Mom H on Sunday 9/11/2011