Packing lunch. Whether it’s for your child, spouse, or yourself it may be part of every school or work week. Most would agree having a satisfying, nourishing lunch really does improve the quality of the day, but when it comes to the packing itself of a satisfying, nourishing lunch most would also agree that it can be overwhelming, tedious, and time-consuming. We may procrastinate and put in on the back burner which can lead to reaching for the most convenient items at the grocery stores to put in the lunch box, like portable pre-made lunch kits, snack boxes, chips, fruit snacks, sandwich cookies and fruit juice pouches or we make a last-minute decision to make our way down the hall to the vending machine for a candy bar or favorite fast food restaurant because-surprise lunch time showed up and you’re not prepared but need some nourishment.
These options are not automatically “bad,” or make you a “bad person,” but eating this type of meal every day for lunch is most likely going to be lacking in proper energy, nutrient-rich vitamins and minerals and quality that you need to get through the day. They can also be more costly over time and be higher in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar, a combination not in alignment with health and nutrition adequacy.
Making healthier choices at lunch will not only leave you feeling mentally sharper and more energetic, but you can also eat with the assurance that you are giving your body what it needs to thrive!
So how do we achieve packing both a healthy AND convenient on-the-go lunch?
It’s not as hard as you might think.
Thinking about the ‘myplate’ method and food groups leads to what to buy at the grocery store each week and how to put it together for meals, taking one day at a time. Try to pack a source of whole grain, vegetable, dairy/dairy alternative, fruit and protein (plant sources of protein pack an extra punch with fiber and nutrients, as well as are money-savers) each time. Although this can sound daunting, it really doesn’t have to be. To make it easier, take a look at this table and put them together for some healthy go-to meals.
With a list of types of food for each food group, it’s as simple as picking and choosing which sound good for you that week, then buying them at the store. All of the items on this list are have minimal preparation, if any. The most preparation involved would be cutting up some fruits and vegetables, putting together a sandwich, and cooking your protein or complex carbohydrate sources if needed. With anything that needs to be cooked, considering making a large batch on the weekend and using it for the next 2 to 3 days!
Another idea for lunch is to simply use leftovers. If making a healthy, wholesome dinner is something that you practice more easily, double the recipe then refrigerate appropriate portions for yourself. Voila, a few more quick, easy, delicious, healthy lunches.
Lastly, change up your lunch box and containers! Getting motivated to pack your lunch can be as simple as buying new lunch storage items. Having the right type and high-quality containers and lunch box can really make packing a lunch much less of a hassle. It can also help protect your goodies from being crushed, smooshed, sabotaged from heat/cold or from getting too warm, hello food safety.