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A new twist for lunchtime

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Alyssa Monson, Registered Dietitian

Stuck in the same old lunch routine? Kids complaining about their PB&J? Check out these twists on the old standbys to add variety and balance to your lunchtime routine.


Add variety:

  • Travel the globe and try out a variety of flavors. For example: a Mexican-inspired salad may include a variety of peppers and use salsa as the dressing. Season your chicken or protein of choice with cilantro, lemon pepper and chili powder.
  • Add fruit for a twist. Fruits can add a fresh flavor while satisfying your sweet tooth.
  • Switch out dressings or seasonings. Sometimes switching from your usual dressing to a different variety (i.e. ranch vs. southwest ranch) might be enough to keep your taste buds interested.

Prep ahead:

  • Salads are easily prepped in advance. Make sure to store any dressing or wet ingredients separately to avoid soggy lettuce.
  • Measure out all ingredients for the week of lunches and you have a grab and go lunch that will satisfy your hunger and won’t break the bank.

Dietitian tips:

  • Measure dressings — they can add up quickly. If you are prepping ahead, purchase small dressing cups (some even have measurements right on them) to keep your calories in check.  
  • Beware of toppings. Even though toppings add variety and can play a role in adding vital nutrients, the calories can add up quickly. Measure these out and account for the added calories.
  • Keep it balanced: Make sure to include a protein food in your salad (chicken, beef, pork, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, tofu, tempeh, etc.)
  • Repurpose leftovers. Use your leftover protein foods or vegetables (or purposely cook/prepare extra) to add to your salads for the week.


Add variety:

  • Skip the bread. Wrap your sandwich in a lettuce leaf for an added crunch, while also cutting calories.
  • Try alternatives to bread. Pita pockets, sandwich thins, English muffins all bring a different flavor and texture to your sandwich. Make sure to choose a whole-grain option to add more fiber and find a “light” version to keep calories down.
  • Sandwich/luncheon meats can be higher in fat and sodium. Opt for turkey, chicken and ham to keep fat lower. Look for a lower sodium option in the grocery aisle. You may also consider using home-cooked proteins for your sandwiches instead.
  • Warm up your fillings and toast your bread. This alone will change the flavor of the sandwich.
  • Switch up your spread. Try out a chipotle mayo or a dollop of salsa to add zing to your lunch.
  • Add vegetables. This is an easy way to add crunch and extra flavor to your sandwich.  
  • Add fruit. If your little ones are PB&J fans, add chopped fruit (strawberries, bananas, apples are all tasty options) to their sandwich and go light on the jam/jelly. For more protein, mix in Greek yogurt with the peanut butter and jelly. Swipe on bread and sprinkle with chopped up fruit.

Prep ahead:

  • Measure 3-4 oz. servings of protein and package up in single portions for the week.
  • Measure out enough spread of your choice (if you are using a spread) for the week and place in a small dressing cup.
  • Package up the ‘wrapper’ of your choice (lettuce/bread/alternative) separately to avoid soggy sandwiches.


Add variety:

  • Start with plain yogurt and add flavors from there.
    • Berries/fruits
    • Powdered peanut butter
      • Add few (less than 1 Tbsp.) dark chocolate chips to add sweetness if desired.
      • Banana slices are great in this option, too.
    • Homemade granola contains less sugar than purchased varieties.
    • Whole grain cereal (unsweetened or lightly sweetened is best).
  • Mix in a ranch/dressing flavor packet (replacing the sour cream) and use as a dip for vegetables.
  • Plain Greek yogurt works great as a replacement for sour cream or mayo. Don’t be afraid to add it to your sandwiches or salads to increase protein.

Prep ahead:

  • Buy yogurt in bulk if desired (saves money!) — then measure out ½-1 cup servings for the week and store in the refrigerator. Plain yogurt works best to keep sugar content down (you control the sweetness with the toppings you add).
  • Measure out desired toppings and package separately.
  • Frozen fruit can be added right away for time to thaw while in the refrigerator.