The American Cancer Society’s Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity recommends getting to and staying at a healthy weight, staying active throughout life, and following a healthy eating pattern. These efforts can greatly reduce a person's lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer. These same behaviors are also linked with a lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Throughout the United States, a new school year has either started or soon will start. You might be packing lunches as your kids head back to in-person classes. Or, due to local or state decisions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be planning and making lunch at your kitchen counter between online their class times. Either way, the new school year is the perfect time to work toward a healthy eating pattern by trying some healthier options in for their lunchtime meal – and yours, too.
Smarten up your sandwiches:
Keep the quick convenience of a sandwich and boost nutrition with a few easy changes.
- Choose whole-grain or pita bread.
- Choose low-fat versions of cheeses.
- Top with mustard, relish, ketchup, or low-fat mayonnaise.
- Add flavor and vitamins with roasted sweet peppers, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, and olives.
- Make a healthier PB&J using peanut or almond butter on whole-grain bread with banana slices or raisins.
Brighten up your salads:
Keep nutritious, fresh ingredients stocked to easily build a flavorful, healthy salad.
- Choose a variety of fresh, colorful vegetables at their peak flavor, like dark green kale, red bell peppers, orange carrots, and red onions.
- Experiment with parsley, garlic, oregano, basil, chives, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs; sprinkle them on your salad or add them to a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil.
- Add variety to your salad with high-fiber, lower-calorie items like beans, raw vegetables, and fresh and dried fruit.
- Skip fatty toppings like bacon, nuts, seeds, and dressing. If you do indulge, use only a little.
Rethink drinks and snacks:
Healthy snacks and drinks don't have to be boring. Look for these delicious options to help keep you and your kids satisfied.
- Pack water, 100% juice, or plain low-fat or skim milk to drink. Flavored milks and juice drinks add sugar and calories.
- Choose snacks that contain proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. For example, whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter or hummus.
- Up your servings of vegetables and fruits with whole fruit or fruit slices, pepper strips, celery and carrot sticks, unsweetened apple sauce, or edamame (soy beans in the pod).
- Try individual serving-size packages of low-fat, low-sugar yogurt (look for no more than 20 grams of sugar per 6 ounces; about 12 grams of that is naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products).
- Satisfy those salty, crunchy cravings with a single-serving portion of tortilla chips and salsa, or trail mix made with cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, and raisins.
Think outside the (lunch) box:
Change up the lunch routine with these ideas and more.
- Heat leftovers and pack in a thermos. Ideas include chili, spaghetti, stir-fry, soup, chicken, etc.
- Fill a small container with high-fiber, low-sugar cereal. (Look for cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving). The kids can eat it with milk from school.
- Smear whole-wheat tortillas with low-fat refried beans or black beans and rice.
- Serve a pumpkin muffin or slice of zucchini bread with rolled-up slices of lean turkey and low-fat cheese cubes.