The media is abuzz once again with the old back-to-school rhetoric. Whether we’re students or not, they’ll have us believe that summer is on its way out, and we are now to turn our attention to our responsibilities… time to put away the bikini, buckle down, and become masters of productivity. In the nutrition realm, this translates into dutiful healthy meal planning and lunch-packing. We all know that packing your own lunch is healthier, more economical, and all those boring grown-up ideals we so desperately strive for. But you know how I feel sometimes? Like life is hard enough already, and it’s not all about agonizing over engineering the optimal lunch routine. In this post, I’m giving us permission to TAKE IT EASY and feed ourselves good food with just a modicum of effort. You’re welcome!
Let’s keep it simple with these user-friendly tricks:
- Take charge of your leftovers. At dinnertime, pack up a portion or two BEFORE the wolves descend. Without this step, you may sabotage your leftovers by mindlessly overfilling your plate. This way, you’ll never even miss them!
- Cut up your fruit. Fruit makes a great snack for that 10:30 “how the #*&% is it not lunchtime yet?” case of the hangries. But I know I don’t like to type one-handed while trying to keep peach juice off the keyboard, so whole fruits tend to go overlooked in my lunch bag. Cube up a melon for the week (or whatever floats your boat) and you’ve got fancy fork-able fruit salad on lock!
- Think Food Groups. Instead of falling into a pattern of “sandwich / something crunchy / something sweet,” pick foods to fit into categories like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits/veggies, and healthy fats. If the contents of your lunchbox meet at least two or three of these, you’re well on your way to a balanced diet.
- Stock a desk pantry. Keep a box of granola bars and a jar of trail mix in your desk drawer. Now when your pantry is bare, or you realize that your salad wasn’t quite filling enough, you have some shelf-stable calories to fall back on!
And if you’re feeling extra-motivated, spend a little time on Sunday whipping up one of my favorite lunch-friendly recipes:
Let’s start with a recent favorite: Sweet Chili Tofu Salad. Just a little prep work over the weekend can yield big veggie-loaded, protein-packed, spicy-sweet payoff.
Egg dishes are so under-rated for lunch packing! Fritattas and quiches are cheap, sturdy, high in protein, and totally tastier than the same old boring sandwich. They reheat perfectly in the microwave, and I even like them cold straight-from-the-fridge. Get fancy with this Polenta-Crusted Asparagus and Feta Quiche!
I wasn’t kidding around when I called this my Favorite Kale Slaw – I normally don’t like to cook the same thing over and over again, but I make this practically every time that I can find both kale and cabbage in my crisper drawer. Perhaps it’s because Grant doesn’t like raw kale, and I get the entire mountain of crunchy deliciousness to myself? Don’t judge.
We’re almost back in SOUP SEASON. This is exciting news because we get to heat up the old lunch routine with some of my Chicken Tortilla Soup.
And finally, don’t forget to pack breakfast!! Grab a jar of steel-cut muesli as you run out the door, and you’re covered for the most important meal of the day!
So help me out: do you have any other low maintenance lunch tricks, or easy recipes that make for good lunch-packing material? I want to hear about it!