Sacking It

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Experts weigh in on packing healthy lunches

By KEITH ERICKSON

Coeur Voice Writer

It’s so simple. Hopping in your car and racing through a fast-food drive in for a quick lunch.

Relatively inexpensive, it seems—but but those costs add up.

Even if you’re spending only $5 a day, that amounts to $100 a month for work-week carry out.

And then there are all those calories, the fat, the sodium—not to mention the drowsiness that follows the intake of processed foods.

So why not consider a much healthier, less expensive way to satisfy your hunger during the lunch hour? Packing it yourself.

If you plan ahead, taking your own lunch to work or school can be convenient … and certainly a healthier option than what most restaurants offer.

Coeur Voice reached out to some local food fanciers—including fitness trainers, nutritionists and healthy eating advocates—to learn what they pack.

Here are some tips on what you can include in your to-go bag:

“Packing your own lunch is a much more nutritious alternative to fast food and can be more exciting than the typical soggy sandwich and chips.

Pair a seasoned lean meat, such as chicken or fish, with a bunch of fresh veggies (the deeper the color, the more nutritious) and a complex carb.

A couple lunch ideas include a lemon pepper chicken spinach salad with a half-cup of quinoa or a baked chicken breast with two cups of veggies and baked red potato wedges.

Don’t forget to skip the sugar filled drinks and opt for water.”

Alyssa Campbell, nutritionist Coeur d’Alene Nutrishop

“A lot of foods we eat are overcooked and tax our organs.

I try to get raw food in my meals. That is where you find enzymes that help our bodies digest foods, easing the body’s workload and conferring significant health benefits.

The base of a good sack lunch will be raw vegetables such as cucumbers, celery and red onions. For protein, I go for tuna fish, chicken, ground turkey or grass fed ground beef. For fats, avocados and walnuts are a good choice. It’s also a cost factor.

Do you want to pay $5 for an 1/8 of a pound of bad quality meat at McDonald’s, or spend less and take a little extra time to prepare your own meal?”

Bryan Janzen, personal trainer, Peak Fitness, Coeur d’Alene

“Always make sure to keep your home-brought lunches refrigerated and that there’s a vegetable and a fruit included.

I think it’s important to sit down with your kids and plan out their lunches to find out what they like.

Now that my kids are grown, they’ve told me, ‘You know, Mom, we threw away a lot of our lunches.’ If you talk to your kids and know what they like and what’s healthy, there won’t be waste.

And a good idea is to mix it up. You can try different things beside bread, like pitas, English muffins, tortillas or a wrap.

We all need to sit down and make a plan for the week on what are we going to be eating to make sure we’re eating healthily.”

Laurie Patterson, dietician/nutritionist, Kootenai Health

“My main thing is to let people know that processed foods are not ideal. That said, I recommend soup—like Progresso or Campbell. It’s filling and convenient, and they mostly offer vegetables. Some people think that soups are too high in sodium content, but most of us don’t get enough sodium in our diet anyway.

For a drink, I recommend a meal replacement shake, which provides a great source of added vitamins, minerals, fiber, and some protein.” - Heath Wiltse, personal trainer, Peak Fitness, Post Falls

“With a busy work schedule, sometimes it’s difficult to go out and fit in a healthy lunch. Usually, what I’m packing is leftovers from dinner where you’ve got something that’s easily edible at your desk if you happen to work through your lunch hour, things that don’t necessarily need to be heated up. I’m a strong proponent that the less you eat that’s processed the healthier it is, so my lunch always includes fresh fruits and vegetables.

You can always go to a restaurant, but you are certainly paying a premium for healthy food compared to bringing your own.

Hands down, it’s cheaper and better for you to pack your lunch.”

Ginny Rinaldi, Kellogg, physical therapist assistant

Have a great packed lunch idea? Share it with us at

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