Meals on Wheels September Blog: Building a Healthy Lunch
In 2010, after completing a rigorous application and site review process by Meals On Wheels America, we were awarded “Exemplary Status” Magnet Accreditation for our outstanding senior nutrition program.
September is back to school, and this time of year leaves many parents asking “What can I put in my child’s lunch box?” Not a parent with a school age child? We all need to eat lunch! Parents, workers, and retirees alike need a healthy lunch.
An internet search of healthy lunches will give you hundreds of recipes and ideas. But, building a healthy lunch is more about the basics. The right combination of food will keep you full and energized, and pack a nutritional punch.
A healthy lunch should include at least 4 of the following 5 food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. Protein (from foods such as meat, beans, legumes, dairy, and nuts) helps to keep you full. Fiber (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts) slows digestion, which helps to keep your energy levels up and your stomach from growling at 3pm. This protein and fiber combination keeps your blood sugar off the “rollercoaster” of rapidly rising and falling, which causes a quick peak followed by a quick dip in your energy level. Instead, a healthy and well-balanced lunch keeps your blood sugar more stable. This gradual increase and decrease in your blood sugar keeps your energy level up, and allows your body to function at optimum capacity.
Along with the right combination of foods, portion size is also important with regards to your satiety, energy, and nutrient intake. Here’s a sample lunch breakdown:
Whole grains: 1-2 servings
Fruit: ½ cup
Vegetables: ½-1 cup
Dairy: 1 cup
Protein (meat/beans/legumes): 1-3 ounces
Oils/Fat: 1-2 teaspoons (and may already be contained in one of the above food groups)
Keep in mind that the above portion sizes are suggestions. Your physician or dietitian can tell you your specific needs, which are based on your age, weight, height, gender, activity level, and health status.
How does Meals on Wheels stack up to these recommendations? Both the hot and cold meal contain at least 1 serving each of fruit, vegetables, dairy or calcium equivalent, grains, and 3 ounces of protein. Meals are rich in fiber, and most grains served are whole grains.
Whether you want to try some fancy healthy lunch recipes you find online, inquire about Meals on Wheels for yourself or a loved one, or just put together the basics, you have the healthy lunch building blocks for those ages 1 to 101!