Operation Lunchbox: Ideas for packing a memorable and healthy lunch

Operation lunchbox

Food blogger and business owner Trish Ryan is constantly looking for healthy options to feed herself and her family. She is the founder of Time for Dinner, a meal planning service to help you enjoy healthy meals with your family.

In this post, she explores easy ways to pack a lunch from home that will not just save you money, but extra calories too.

We’ve heard it before and it is sound advice – packing is the way to go to keep lunchtime healthy. Here’s why:

  • Planning ahead eliminates the temptation of making remorseful decisions, such as reaching for a quick slice of pizza along with the soda sitting nearby. Making healthy choices is easier when thinking the night before, well in advance of early hunger impulses that’ll lead your mind astray.
  • It also allows you to easily control your portion sizes so you can appropriately eat for one. We all know that the typical “single-order” of Chinese takeout could really serve a family of three, but sometimes stopping ourselves 1/3 of the way through just doesn’t happen. Plate up your own food, and the option to overeat can be eliminated all together.
  • The added bonus? You’ll also save yourself some money. Check out this graph that visualizes your savings. The average bagged lunch can save you close to $1,000 per year if you pack 20 times per week.

Packing ahead doesn’t need to take hours to produce a lunch that’s both exciting and memorable. And don’t worry – we know plain old PB&J doesn’t fit this description, so that won’t be one of the items we suggest. Instead, implement these three creative ideas that’ll help your brown baggin’ bring you a little lunchroom stardom.

Warning: Lunchtime envy may ensue. Make sure your lunch has your name clearly labeled on it, or someone may try claiming it as their own.

1. Cook Once, Eat Twice

One of the easiest ways to spruce up lunchtime is to make dinner with the next day in mind. Make extras so lunch can be every bit as delicious as the evening before. Here are some ideas that allow you to reinvent leftovers into whole new meals.

  • A dinner of chicken with rice can be transformed into Chicken Fried Rice with the simple addition of grated carrots, broccoli, onions and edamame. Saute the veggies in a skillet, and then add the rice. Once all ingredients are hot, crack an egg in the center of the pan and start stirring.  When the egg is cooked, add soy sauce, to taste. This can be eaten cold or warmed up in a microwave.
  • Leftover side dishes like beans and veggies can be heated up at the office and used as a topping on a slice of multigrain bread layered with hummus.
  • Having baked potatoes for dinner? Place an extra one in the oven for lunch the next day. Top that one with cooked vegetables, salsa, black beans and avocado. Cilantro and salsa also make great toppings, too.

2. Shop the Grocery Store with Lunch on the Brain

Roast a chicken on the weekend or buy one at the grocery store, solely for the purpose of creating protein packed lunches.

Shredded chicken can turn into a Chicken Caesar Wrap with the help of some low fat dressing, slivered carrots, and lettuce/arugula inside a whole-wheat tortilla. Or try this recipe for Curried Chicken Salad wrapped in lettuce cups.

3. Get Creative with Salads

When you are creating a salad, think of its preparation in three parts, each packed separately.  These parts come together to make a midday meal that’ll elevate a salad from a bowl full of lettuce to a satisfying meal:

  • Greens: washed and dried – your choice of arugula/spring mix/romaine/spinach/etc.
  • Dressing: your favorite, ideally non-cream based (I.e., opt for oil and vinegar based vinaigrettes that tend to be lower in fat the dressings like French and ranch.)
  • The Fixins’: the ingredients that will turn your salad into a hearty meal. Ideas below.
    • Lentil Salad  – prepared lentils, hazelnuts, pears and crumbled feta cheese piled on top of arugula with a simple balsamic vinaigrette
    • Chicken and Bleu – apples, Blue cheese crumbles, cooked barley, and shredded chicken on a bed of baby spinach and served with a lemon vinaigrette
    • Kale and Quinoa – red onion, chopped almonds, prepared quinoa and dried cranberries combined with curly kale and topped with a Dijon vinaigrette

Lunch is one of the most important meals of the day. It keeps your energy levels high so your blood sugar doesn’t dip, and your head doesn’t drift, during those afternoon meetings.

Have a favorite lunch recipe of your own?  We’d love to hear what keeps you fueled throughout the afternoon. Share with us in the comments!

As a LifeVest Health reader, new Time for Dinner members can enjoy a special yearly rate ($14 off an annual membership). To join visit:http://timefordinnerplanning.com/get-started/annual-offer/.




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