With the return to school just a couple of weeks away, parents everywhere are aware of the need for daily lunchbox ideas all too soon. And while the mere thought of preparing a school lunchbox is a nightmare for many, the truth is that adults would benefit in a multitude of ways if we too got into the habit of packing ourselves a lunchbox. Here are just some of the reasons why.

1. You'll slash your calorie intake

The average lunch of a salad, sandwich, wrap or stir-fry that we buy at the local food court of cafe will contain at least double the calories than the equivalent meal we would prepare for ourselves at home.

There are a number of reasons for this — the portions tend to be much larger (think jumbo sized slices of bread or an entire avocado in a single serve), salad dressing tends to be poured in a heavy-handed way, and fattier cuts of meats than we would generally buy are used. This means that for an instant diet boost, you simply need to take your lunch from home.

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2. You take control of your nutrition

Planning is the key to dietary success. When we plan our meals in advance, not only do we make healthier choices generally but we are less likely to be tempted by the various treat-style, higher-calorie foods that slip into our daily intake — the extra side of rice or hot chips, the extra cake or muffin from the coffee shop, or the meal deals served at popular food outlets. Planning and packing a daily lunchbox ensures the bulk of your daily food decisions are taken care of so you do not need to worry about what you are going to eat at all.

READ MORE: • Find hundreds of great lunch ideas on bite.co.nz

3. You'll have natural structure

One of the most important components of eating well on a daily basis is maintaining a daily food structure — eating at regular intervals so you do not find yourself with low blood glucose levels and especially hungry when you do not have access to nutritious meal and snack options.

Packing and planning your daily food in advance naturally structures your day so that you know that you have various snacks and a larger meal to look forward to (when you pack foods you like) and schedule into your day. For those who find they eat their packed lunch by 10am, a simple strategy is to keep your lunchbox out of reach and assign times to your meals and snacks.

4. You can plan meals more efficiently and eat better

If you consider the types of snacks and meals we buy away from the home, very few of them contain the volume of fresh food, fruit, salad and vegetables we ideally need to keep our nutrition on track. When we take our food from home, not only do we naturally consume more fresh food, salad and vegetables, but packing your lunch means that you can utilise leftovers and meal-plan efficiently to make sure any meal you do prepare at home has enough for leftovers, saving time and money.

5. You'll save a lot of cash

If you are particularly savvy and plan ahead, your lunch can cost as little as $5 a day (think bread, crackers, tuna and frozen vegetables). When you consider that a single coffee and muffin can cost as much as $10 or a simple sandwich up to $12, it is easy to see how you can save a whole lot of cash by packing your lunch and snacks even a couple of times each week. And who doesn't want that?