It’s that time of year! Back-to School brings lunch packing back to our list of things to do. Gone are the days of the bologna sandwich on white bread with a bag of chips. But, brown bagging lunches can be a bit more challenging when you or your child has diabetes, because the carbohydrate content needs to be controlled.
- Turkey & Cheese Sandwich: The old stand-by is still loved by many. Two whole wheat slices of bread contain 30 grams of carbohydrate. Add a fresh apple or peach, and you’re up to 45 grams.
- Deconstructed Egg Salad: Take a classic and take it apart. Two hard-boiled eggs, carrot and celery sticks, and crackers. Make sure you get at least 30 grams of carbohydrate from the crackers (read your food labels!) and add a ready-to-go ½-cup of applesauce for a total of 45 grams.
- Chicken & Rice Soup: Typically, a hearty serving of 1.5 cups has about 20 grams of carbohydrate. Include a side dish of your favorite crackers for another 15 grams, and a bunch of grapes for another 15 grams, and you’re good to go.
- BBQ Chicken Wrap: One whole wheat tortilla contains about 20 grams of carbohydrate. Spread BBQ sauce, line with lettuce leaves, shredded carrots and onions, and tuck in 3 ounces of grilled chicken. Try the ready-to-use grilled chicken strips from the grocery store. Include a small box of raisins for dessert and you have a total of about 40 grams of carbohydrate.
- Hummus: If you like hummus, you have a world of options. This yummy, creamy garbanzo bean dip is wide open to variations with roasted red peppers, jalapeno and cilantro, or even substituting half of the garbanzo beans with black beans or roasted beets. One half (1/2) cup of hummus contains 20 grams of carbohydrate. You can use your favorite vegetable dippers or add a whole pita (25 grams of carbohydrate) and still be within the target range.
- Quick Pasta Salad: Use some leftover pasta from dinner the night before. One cup will provide about 35 grams of carbohydrate. Toss in chopped veggies, cheese chunks, and drizzle with bottled Italian dressing. Finish off your lunch with a cup of strawberries (15 grams).
- Fried Rice: Leftover rice from dinner makes an easy, quick reappearance as fried rice. Include whatever vegetables you have on hand (onion, celery, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini) and stir-fry with 1 egg. Sprinkle a small amount of teriyaki or soy sauce. One cup of white or brown rice contains 45 grams of carbohydrate.
- Yogurt Parfait: Layer 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 1 cup of your favorite sliced fruit, and ¼ cup of granola. Sprinkle the granola on top just before eating so it doesn’t get soggy. Total carbohydrate content is 45 grams.
- PB & Graham Crackers: Spread 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter on 4 squares of graham crackers for 30 grams of carbohydrate. Side dishes of carrot sticks and one pear (15 grams) will round off a balanced super quick lunch.
- Baked Potato: If you’re having baked potatoes for dinner the night before, cook up an extra one. One medium sized potato, about the size of a baseball, has 30 grams of carbohydrate. Before eating, top with Greek yogurt, salt and pepper, or shredded cheese. End the meal with one cup of melon chunks (15 grams) and you’re in the target carbohydrate range.
- Fancy Oatmeal: Make an extra serving of oatmeal for breakfast. Pop the warm oatmeal into a thermos, stir in a Tablespoon of almond butter, ½ of a sliced banana, and a teaspoon of strawberry jam. Total carbohydrate content so far is 35 grams. Finish off that banana and the total is 50 grams.
- Scrambled Egg Wrap: Take one whole wheat tortilla, spread 2 ounces of lean ham on top, and place one scrambled egg in the middle. Roll up the wrap containing about 20 grams of carbohydrate. Include a drink box containing 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice, and your lunch is at 50 grams of carbohydrate.
- Quinoa Salad: Make extra quinoa for dinner one night. Use ½ cup of the quinoa and toss with chopped vegetables you have on hand. Bell peppers, onions, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes all work well. Include ½ cup of garbanzo beans. Total carbohydrate content thus far is 30 grams. You can finish off with one cup of Greek yogurt mixed with ½ cup of sliced pears, and now the total is 52 grams of carbohydrate.
- Chili: Make a batch of veggie chili on Sunday for the whole week. Chop onion, bell peppers, eggplant and stir-fry with olive oil. Stir in three cans of your favorite beans (black, pinto, white, or a variety). Add a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. Season to your taste with chili powder, cumin and black pepper, or even jalapenos. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top, if desired. One cup of chili will provide about 30 grams of carbohydrate. Finish off the hot meal with one cup of cold watermelon for a total of 45 grams of carbohydrate.
- English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich: Toast one muffin and spread a small amount of butter on each half. Top with one slice of cheese, one slice of ham and one poached egg. So far, this lunch is only 30 grams of carbohydrate. An 8-ounce box of 100% orange juice provides an additional 30 grams of carbohydrate. Breakfast for lunch!
- Fancy Grilled Cheese: Use whole grain bread and add chopped marinated olives or mushrooms, or roasted red peppers, or roasted green chilies to the traditional grilled cheese sandwich. Include side dishes of ½ cup of berries, and 4 ounces of tomato juice, and you’re within the recommended carbohydrate range.
- Don’t forget to read your food labels on packaged foods mentioned above for accurate total carbohydrate information. This especially applies to tortillas, crackers, juices, yogurt and condiments from the list above.
- Using high-quality lunch boxes with cool packs or thermoses to keep foods at the optimal temperature is worth the investment.
- Fresh fruits are always best, but make sure you watch your serving sizes carefully.
- Plan ahead – don’t get stuck without lunch plans when you need to be out the front door in 10 minutes. Think about your entire week of lunches over the weekend and get organized.
Branch out and have fun with lunch!