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Maggie Jover: Toting lunch keeps money in your pocket

Many working people eat out for lunch several times a week. If you’re going out three times a week with an average meal cost of $6, that’s almost $1,000 a year for lunch.

And often these meals are not healthy! Here are some tips for a packing a healthy lunch.

Unless your food will be kept in a refrigerator at work, make sure you have a cold pack in the lunch bag to keep foods cool and safe. Protein, dressings and dairy products, especially, must be kept cold to keep them from spoiling.

Make smart food choices each day and give your body the balanced nutrition it needs by eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods:

n Protein: Use a variety of lean meats, such as sliced turkey or chicken breast. Other good sources of protein are soy and nut butter, low-fat cheese, hummus and hard-cooked eggs.

n Grains: Use whole-wheat or whole-grain bread for sandwiches. If you are tired of sandwiches, try whole-wheat pocket or pita bread, tortilla wraps or rice cakes, or pack a grain salad, such as couscous.

n Dressing: Try mustard, light mayonnaise or low-fat salad dressing as a spread.

n Fruit: Use any fresh fruit in season, applesauce or fruit cocktail cups (packed in fruit juice, not sugar syrup). Keep lunch interesting by choosing different types of fruits — try star fruit, kiwi or papaya.

n Vegetables: Pack an assortment of carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, green and red pepper strips, celery or broccoli or cauliflower florets along with a light dressing.

n Dairy products: Jazz up low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit or low-fat granola.

n Snacks: Include fresh fruits, pretzels or string cheese instead of higher-calorie snacks.

Not only will packing your lunch save you money, it’ll help you eat more healthfully, too!

For more information about healthy eating, call the Denton County Extension Office at 940-349-2882.

MAGGIE JOVER is the family and consumer sciences county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2882.