I'm lucky enough that I don't have to pack a lunch each day. Although, I could definitely make some better lunch choices such as less cheese and more raw vegetables. Live and learn. Anywho, I'm here to talk packing lunches and offer suggestions. Please consider your own food preferences, time, etc. These are merely suggestions.
Where to start?
My first thought for lunch is how can I increase the fruit and/or vegetables. My personal preference is to have vegetables for lunch because I don't like to eat vegetables for breakfast. Examples could be raw leafy greens, a side of raw veggie sticks, raw fruit, cooked vegetables leftover from dinner, etc. Whatever you have around works! And remember frozen or canned fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious. Just look for options without added salt, sauces, juices, etc. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, in addition to numerous vitamins and minerals, which fills you up and will keep you regular (you know what I mean).
Next up, choose your protein. Do you have leftover turkey burgers? What about some low sodium deli meat? Nuts? Beans? Hummus? Rotisserie chicken? Hard boiled eggs? Try to choose lean protein such as lean red meat (look on the label for less than 15% fat), poultry, fish, beans, and legumes. Protein adds staying power.
Don't forget a grain! I like to cook a big batch of rice, quinoa, barley, etc. Early in the week to have on hand. You can also buy rice that cooks in the microwave in less than 2 minutes! I use this grain for multiple meals including my mock fried rice (check out the recipe page). Another go to for me is bread or a pita. I love toast. Literally love it. You could also sub starchy vegetables here if you want such as potatoes, corn or squash. Or fruit has similar amounts of carbohydrates per serving as grains. Then you could get fruit AND vegetables at lunch! Winning! Dairy products are also good sources of carbohydrates and carbohydrates are your body's main fuel. Choose grains, fruit, and dairy throughout the day to keep your body fueled and ready to tackle anything!
And last but not least...add some fat for flavor. A little goes a long way. Add some salad dressing. And if you don't like oil and vinegar don't force it! Food is meant to be enjoyable too. I like nuts or nut butter, butter on my toast, oil in my dressing, cheese, vegetables cooked in oil, etc. If your lunch includes a higher fat protein (red meat, hummus, etc.) or a higher fat dairy product then you may not need additional fat. Check in with how hungry you are and then decide. You do you!
Some of my favorite lunches are:
- Classic turkey sandwich/wrap. I get a low calorie spread like mustard, turkey, cheese (of course), and veggies. On the side I usually have a piece of fruit since sandwiches can't fit as many vegetables as this girl would like.
- Leftovers on a bed of greens. Leftover anything goes great on some spinach, in my opinion. Go heavy on the spinach (unless you take Coumadin) to up your vegetable intake. Leftovers can be homemade or from dinner last Friday with your loved one. Take the chance to increase your vegetable intake.
- Tuna or chicken salad made with plain Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard with carrot sticks and crackers or a pita. You can also make this with mayonnaise, I just don't like it.
- Kitchen sink salad. Get your greens and throw in other veggies on hand (for me they're usually cooked), leftover meat or rotisserie chicken, avocado, and toast on the side (or a grain).
- Sweet potato (easy to cook in the microwave), frozen vegetables, and chickpeas. Top with some avocado.
- Hummus plate. Scoop of hummus, pita or pretzels, and all the veggies. I like carrots sticks, peppers, cucumber, and tomatoes.
- Any crockpot meal! Cook all day, serve into to go containers and lunch is served. My favorites are chili and a Mexican casserole I make frequently. Anything works! Let the pot do all the cooking.
- What I like to call a power bowl! Grain of choice (say quinoa for example) plus any cooked veggies (roasted or steamed or microwaved), plus protein (I tend to go with beans and legumes at lunch) and a fat. Goddess dressing is my favorite for a meal like this. Or cubed cheese to off set the crunchier vegetables. So tasty.
I hope this is helpful! And even if you don't cook there are many options out there to save time and energy!