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Published on July 13, 2020

Owensboro Health Dietitians share healthy grab-and-go lunch ideas

Owensboro Health (OH) Healthpark dietitians Shelby Shelby and Kelci Murphy and OH Surgical Weight Loss Center dietitian Scott Hall know their way around the kitchen. While they are no strangers to traditional Southern fare, they try to keep to healthful cuisine. However, that can become difficult when life gets busy — even for a dietitian. That’s why all three of them work with their clients to find realistic solutions for living a healthy life. Food, it seems, is always an obstacle to be overcome.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As you will read below, planning is key in turning food from foe to friend.

Q: What should a healthy lunch look like?

Kelci: A healthy lunch should be full of colorful foods. There should be a variety of nutrient-dense options from each food group.

Q: What are some nutrient-dense options that make sense for the average person to include in their lunch?

Shelby: Sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread are a great option. A salad with lots of colorful veggies and a low-fat dressing would work for most people. Or, have a vegetable soup with a little cheese on top and a side of wholewheat toast.

Q: What if I don’t have time to pack a lunch each morning?

Scott: It’s a really good idea to take a look at your calendar and plan ahead. If it seems too overwhelming to plan for a whole week, just try making enough for one or two days. Jar salads are really popular now, but you could also set up a five-bin lunch system for easy, grab-and-go lunches or dinners.

Q: What are some other time-saving tips you would offer?

Kelci: Pre-chopping fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week is a time-saver, and it also makes it more likely that you’ll reach for those options instead of less healthy ones, like chips or candy, when hunger strikes. You can also divvy out portions of crackers or cheese ahead of time or make options that freeze well, like cooked roast beef or peanut butter sandwiches.

Shelby: You can also utilize theme nights like Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday to make meal planning easier when it comes to dinner.

Scott: Taking the heat off one person is also a good way to stay healthy. It doesn’t always have to be Mom that does the cooking. Get everyone in the family involved in meal planning and prep. It’s a great skill to teach the kids!

Try the Five-bin Program

Owensboro Health dietitians use a five-bin system to plan for healthy eating. Each bin represents a food group: vegetables, fruit, grains, protein and dairy. Fill each bin with pre-portioned items from that food group so that you can grab one of each when it’s time for lunch. Here are some easy suggestions for each group.


  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Applesauce squeeze pouches
  • 100% fruit juice box


  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Vegetable juice
  • Salsa
  • Salad


  • Whole-grain bread
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Granola


  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat string cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat shredded cheese
  • Low-fat, low-sugar pudding
  • Low-fat sliced cheese


  • Lunch meat
  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Beans
  • Grilled chicken strips
  • Tuna
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Sunflower seeds

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 edition of Lift magazine, check out our latest publication.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.