Whether you are packing sandwiches for your kids to eat in the cafeteria or heating up last night’s leftovers to eat in your cubicle, brown bagging it can be one of the best ways to make sure your healthy diet at home comes along with you wherever you go. Packing a healthy lunch can help you (and your kids) avoid the draw of all the unhealthy choices available for sale in the cafeteria and the local deli.
Unfortunately, there are two common complaints about lunch-packing—it takes too much time and it’s so much more boring than the combo meal from the drive-thru. I’m here to tell you that both of those are problems we can overcome! Here are some of my favorite tips for making a packed lunch both fast and fun.
Double Up Your Favorites
I know a lot of people scoff at leftovers, but we all have our favorite dinners—why not turn them into your favorite lunch? Next time your favorite meal pops up on the dinner menu, make a double batch. Divide the leftovers into individual portions and stash them in the fridge. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can even do a leftover remix. Leftover pasta bakes up awesomely in a frittata and leftover cooked chicken is a great salad topper. Get creative and you’ll never hate on leftovers again.
I love packing a tasting plate of various foods instead of a big container of one item. It makes lunch so much more fun! Fill containers with small amounts of all of your favorite foods to keep it interesting. I like finger foods like cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese cubes, cucumber slices and hummus, and cooked frozen turkey meatballs. When you only have a few bites of each food, it’s hard to get bored. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Prep Ahead of Time
Each Sunday night, I take a few minutes to get myself ready for the work week. I’ll boil a dozen eggs. I’ll make up some trail mix or coconut pecan bites. I’ll slice up a bunch of raw veggies and fresh fruit. When it’s time to pack my lunch in the morning before work, all I have to do is grab the prepared food from the fridge and get on my way. Because all the prep work is done on a leisurely Sunday, I can take the time to make sure I prepare the foods I truly love, instead of being stuck grabbing lackluster foods in the minutes before I have to leave for work.
Pack Yourself a Treat
I don’t pack a lunch unless it has chocolate in it. It’s a rule. Sure, it’s usually a small, 50 calorie square of super dark chocolate, but it’s a treat nonetheless. Just having that little bit of happiness in chocolate form makes my lunch so much more appealing. It’s easier to turn down that invite to lunch at your favorite restaurant with your work spouse if you have your own treat to look forward to.
Make Your Own Convenience Foods
I know low-calorie frozen dinners and 100-calorie snack packs can be tempting, but the truth is those suckers are packed with empty calories, tons of sodium and more chemicals than anyone should be ingesting on a regular basis. Don’t worry though, you can make your own! Freeze a big batch of healthy burritos. Package up your favorite whole grain crackers into single-serving bags. Divide up Greek yogurt or cottage cheese into single-serving food storage containers. You get the ease of convenience of food, without the nastiness.
Share your insights!
What’s your favorite tip for making packed lunches fast, interesting and delicious?
photo credit: Peachy Yogurt