mini meatloaf tinsIt’s back to school season! As the weather starts to cool down in the Maryland/Washington, DC area and summer comes to an end, the change in seasons gives us the opportunity to regroup and look at the upcoming fall season to make positive changes in self-care. As we gear up for cooler weather, and a more structured new school year, (or even recommitting to a better nutrition season) is a great way to set goals and prioritize your nutrition and health goals. Whether or not you have kids in your house to pack lunches for or if you want to bring more exciting lunches to work, this is a good time to get organized. I remember getting a new lunchbox every year when I was a kid; I think it is important for all of us, young and old to purchase a new lunchbox each fall to have something to look forward to! When was the last time you bought yourself a new lunchbox?

You may be thinking that life gets much more hectic for you in the fall. Now is a good time to think ahead so you can find ways to make life a little less stressful for you and your family. What could you do to make mealtimes or at least lunchtime preparation more calm and enjoyable? I have some tips for you!

If possible, start off the week with a full refrigerator to make packing lunches easier.

1. Pack or plan your lunches the night before going back to school

Planning healthy lunches the night before work or school gives you time to prepare healthy meals and be more mindful. Most of us feel better when we eat food we are truly in the mood for instead of grabbing what you have laying around the house or at work.

2. Eat more beans this school year!

A protein rich side dish (like beans) encourage mealtime satisfaction, less calories, lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). They are also really easy to prepare! Just open a can, rinse the beans with a strainer to lower sodium, and add to your food as a great source of protein!  Bean dishes can include a small container of black beans, dried garbanzo beans, a three-bean salad, tofu, or even leftover beans from the night before. I love leftover baked beans!

healthy recipe

Photo credit Klara Knezevic

3. Make sure to pack fruits and vegetables when you go back to school

Packing on the fruits and veggies leads to more fiber and nutrients that build your immunity and increase your cardiovascular strength. Filling half your lunchbox with fruits and vegetables will also lead to eating fewer calories. Need inspiration on your salad, take a look at our salad boosting ideas.

You might have to make more frequent trips to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, but it is worth it.


back to school shopping cart

4. Eat fish twice a week

Fish is a lean source of protein that can provides essential fatty acids that can protect against heart disease. Tuna fish makes a quick, easy sandwich or salad topper. Leftover shrimp from dinner makes an easy serving of fish. Living in Maryland, makes leftover crab cakes a great lunch idea!

back to school tuna sandwich

5. Go back to school with less sodas and sweetened drinks

Sugar packed beverages are not satisfying and cause you to consume more calories in a day. I’m not just talking about soda but fruit juices and sweetened teas as well. Sticking to water and skim milk are your best bets!

6. Go back to school with a variety of foods

Whether you are packing lunch for yourself or your loved one, make sure to include variety to keep mealtime pleasurable and not be tempted to order pizza everyday (even as delicious pizza is!).

7. Include healthy fat!

Avocado, nuts, nut butter, seeds and hummus will help you feel full and satisfied for several hours.

back to school nuts for snack

8. Make sure to have a lunchbox that you love.

Keep it clean and handy so you will remember to pack it.

9. Make sure to include a fun food!

There is nothing wrong with including something sweet or crunchy with your meal for added enjoyment and it does not have to be a fruit or vegetable. Maybe it is a small bag of chips or small dessert. Packing it in your lunch will prevent you and/or your child from overeating these foods after work or school. Remember: Lunch needs to be fun!

Need more help planning out school or work lunches for your and/or your family. Make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians. Call our office at 301-474-2499 or email us at

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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.

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