Lunch Packing Tips for Parents and Students

Lunch—a favorite subject for school kids and often a pleasant where-should-we-go dilemma for adults.

Whether you're a parent filling your child's lunchbox, or a university student on a budget, UNLV instructor Samantha Coogan, MS, RDN, LD, has tips for keeping that midday meal nutritious, delicious, and affordable.

• Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. Keep things interesting. Parents can add a new fruit or vegetable to lunch each week for your child/ren to try.

• Deal or No Deal. Keep your budget intact by buying fresh produce at dollar stores or discount grocers.

• Don't Pack Light. University students should pack enough food for lunch and snacks throughout the day, which will get them through those long lab classes.

• Beware: Less Bang for More Buck. Be weary about buying all "organic" produce. True organic must have 100% of ingredients from organic sources. Since advertisers can boast "organic" with less than 50% organic ingredients, you may end up paying more for less.

• Gluten-Free ≠ Greatness. Gluten-free foods aren't more healthful than other foods. These foodstuffs are intended for those with a medical condition that makes processing gluten difficult.

Coogan also suggests how to avoid that post-lunch nap-attack: "To stay alert and productive during second half of your day, avoid extra sugar," she says. "Whether brown-bagging it or ordering out, minimize the soda, cookies, and other sweets. The greater the processed sugar intake, the harder the afternoon crash. Chocolate may taste better than an apple, but fruit paired with a protein or fat (ie, peanut butter) will keep you going without the need for a caffeine boost."

— Source: University of Nevada, Las Vegas