Not all homemade lunches are created equal. Though preparing a lunch at home to take to work or school can be an affordable alternative to eating out, some consumers may unknowingly be packing their or their children's brown sacks with high-priced, empty calories. Maximizing the healthiness and heartiness of these homemade lunches will allow you not only to save money, but also to provide the right nutrients for your body that will keep you healthy and better energized to finish your day on a strong note.
Getting the most out of your homemade lunch in terms of healthiness is a matter of understanding basic principles of nutrition and making dietary decisions based on those principles.
Focus on fruits and vegetables
A lunch that consists mainly of fruits and vegetables, for example, will be healthier than a lunch heavy with fatty meats. These fruits and veggies will cost you less calories but still provide you with enough complex carbohydrates to energize your body throughout the rest of the day. Take a trip to your local market to find high quality fruits and vegetables at an affordable price.
Up your fiber intake
Instead of white bread, consider opting for wheat bread as it has a higher fiber content. More fiber makes for a heartier meal, which helps you feel full longer and avoid those late afternoon cravings that can lead to unhealthy snacking. This will help you maintain a desirable calorie intake and save money—as you won't be splurging on that 3 p.m. muffin. You can compare available breads at your local market to find a low-priced loaf that is high in fiber.
Think of meat and dairy products as accents
Adding a small amount of cheese, milk or other dairy products to your lunch can help you or your children get the protein necessary to sustain yourself through the afternoon. The same goes for meats, though you'll want to go for chicken or turkey as these options contain fewer calories and less fat. But remember, you want to think of these as complements to your meal—if you include too large of portions, you may find yourself feeling heavy and sluggish afterward.
Once you have the nutrition down, strive to vary the contents of your lunches to avoid boredom and ensure that your weekly intake includes all necessary nutrients. Try adding new flavors and ingredients, such as carne asade, a new chicken marinade, exotic fruits or a new vegetable. Stop by Villa's Market to find affordable produce, meats and bread as well as other ingredients to keep your lunch hearty, healthy and affordable.