I wanted to pack my own lunch and started researching guidelines. There are not a lot of guidelines for adults who want to pack their own balanced lunches. Nutritional standards for schools proved helpful. Surprisingly, most of these sources were in the UK and Australia. Searching for the term “lunch box checklist” was also helpful.
- Bread, grains, and potatoes
- Fruit and vegetables
- Milk and dairy foods
- Lean protein — Chicken, turkey, fish, or beans
- A drink
The Anthem company offered a similar checklist:
- Grains: 2 oz
- Vegetables: 1 to 2 cups
- Fruit: 1/2 cup to 1 cup
- Milk: 1 cup
- Meat or beans: 3 oz
Here are recommended serving sizes in these categories:
GRAIN, BREAD, OR POTATO: 1 each slice of bread, biscuit, breadstick, small piece cornbread, tortilla, or rice cake. 1/2 cup cereal, granola, grits, oatmeal, or pasta. 1/2 English muffin or mini pita bread. 1/3 cup cooked rice or grains. 4 snack-size slices of rye bread. 2 Wasa crisp-breads. 3 Melba toasts. 4 whole-grain crackers. 1 cup mini pretzels.
VEGETABLE: 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables, 12 baby carrots, or a side salad with 2 tsp vinaigrette dressing.
- Side salad: 1 cup mixed green lettuce or baby spinach leaves, 1/4 cup grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup shredded carrot, and 1 T sunflower seeds, and 2 tsp vinaigrette dressing: blend 2 T oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 tsp mustard.
FRUIT: 1/2 cup to 1 cup. 1/2 each large apple, banana, orange, or pear. 1/2 cup berries, grapes, or pineapple cubes. 1 snack-size unsweetened applesauce. 1/3 cup dried fruit, 1.5 T raisins, or 1.5 T dried cranberries.
- Fruit salad (3 fruit servings): Combine 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, 1/3 cup drained mandarin orange wedges, and 1/2 cup blueberries.
DAIRY: 1 cup milk or yogurt. 1 string cheese or 2 Babybel cheeses (1.5 oz). 1/3 cup shredded cheese. 3 T cream cheese.
LEAN PROTEIN OR BEANS: 3 oz chicken, turkey, tuna, or cold cuts. 1/3 cup cooked beans, peas, or hummus. 2 T almond butter or peanut butter. 3 strips cooked turkey bacon.