In honor of National Pack Your Lunch Day (I don’t know who decides these things, but it’s on my new Food Holiday Calendar App which I downloaded when I got upset I missed National Pancake Day), I thought I would share some tips on quickly packing a healthy lunch. *Note I will recap last week’s Healthy Habits Challenge (Make Balanced Meals) tomorrow instead of today. I bring my lunch nearly every day to work. I am actually to the point now where I’d rather bring my lunch than eat out, but that took A LOT of practice. In college I ate out just about every single day, even if I was making healthier choices I was still spending a ton more money than necessary (many thanks to my grandpa who funded my education and excessive spending habits). Nowadays I’ve got this lunch packing thing down to science for Mr. Hungry and me, here are some of my tips.
Gather the necessary supplies-
For me I have these little sauce/dressing containers I picked up at the dollar store are that are a MUST
They hold all kinds of stuff from a stash of almond/peanut/ sun butter, to salsa, to dressings. I’ve also ordered these disposable containers in the past as well.
– I also have a pretty large lunch box because more often than not I bring my breakfast too (6:00 AM is too early for food for me). See my post on Healthy and Portable Breakfast Options if you are looking for some ideas! (Update: I ordered a new lunch box that I love! Check out the review here!)
Pack at night.
Between stretching, proofing blog posts, getting ready and making green juice in the morning I do not have time to pack a lunch. I usually do it at night either while dinner is cooking or right after we are done. Then it’s done, and I can’t “run out of time” to make lunch in the morning.
Often time I plan to have enough leftovers for one or both of us to take for lunch. So when dinner is over, I pack the leftovers for lunch right away, so it’s ready to go. This provides a nice break in the salad/sandwich rut that we can sometimes get into.
Keep it simple.
– When I first started packing my lunch every day in grad school, I brought an almond butter and banana sandwich with carrots just about every day. That = healthy, cheap, and delicious. So go back to childhood, your body and wallet will thank you!
- Grilled Chicken Breast
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Canned Tuna/Chicken Breast
- Cook Up Lean Ground Meat – either leave it in ground form or make burgers
- Nitrate Free Deli Meat
- Nitrate Free Turkey Bacon
If I buy a head of romaine, I’ll wash and cut it at the beginning of the week so that it’s ready to go for the week. I know on a weeknight I’m not going to feel like prepping that. If I’m going to be short on time, I’ll pay a little more for pre-washed and pre-cut bagged lettuce, so it’s ready to go. I also buy baby carrots to add to any lunch I think is lacking in the veggie or filling departments.
I’ll make a batch of quinoa, brown rice, or bake some sweet potatoes to throw in any lunches all week.
Nuts, seeds, and avocado work well to increase the filling factor of any meal!
Make It Healthy: Lean, Green, and Filling
Now that you’ve got all the supplies and food together, it’s time to build your quickly build your lunch on any night of the week!
- Build your base with vegetables (most people start with the grain/starch). Salads are the easiest for me, but leftover vegetables work well too.
- Add the lean protein to beans, chicken, fish, eggs or lean beef.
- Increase the filling factor with healthy fats and hearty whole grains/ nutrient rich starches.
- Piece it all together.
It doesn’t always have to be the main dish; it can be a huge podge of stuff as long as you like it.
Idea #1- Lean and Healthy: Salad Greens + Grilled Chicken or Fish + Brown Rice
Idea #2-Chipotle Burrito Bowl: Salad greens + cheddar and jalapeño turkey burger + brown rice + ¼ avocado
Idea #3 Hodge Podge Meal: Leftover Steamed Veggies + hard boiled eggs + quinoa
*No picture, but I’ve brought this type of meal to work frequently.
Idea #4 Adult Lunchable: How to pack the adult Lunchable!
Increase the filling factor.
Don’t skimp out and try and save a ton of calories at lunch. Feed yourself enough energy to get through the afternoon so that you are not starving for dinner and overeat. I throw in half an avocado every single day for the hubby’s lunch and 1/4 of an avocado most days for my lunch; I have yet to find a meal that an avocado doesn’t go with.
Mix up the flavors.
If you find yourself making the same salad or sandwich for lunch every day try to break up the boringness by creating different themes. For instance, one week I’ll do an Asian themed salad with peanut dressing. The next week I might do a chipotle burrito bowl, think sweet, salty, savory combinations are endless!
Questions of the day:
What are your go-to portable lunches?
What is your favorite thing to pack for lunch?
I love my salads, but I love having leftovers even more! Leftovers always seem better the second day when the flavors have had a chance to mesh, plus it’s like comfort food!
When do you pack your lunch?