Whether you’re a parent trying to figure out what to pack in your kid’s lunch, or a busy professional who works long hours, I find that lunch is often the hardest meal of the day for my patients to eat healthfully. When I ask patients to recall a typical day of eating, frozen meals like Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones are a common staple for lunch. As is eating out – every day! Read my last post about why eating out too much is not the best idea.
Why is lunch so hard for people? I think it’s because people don’t plan for it. If there are leftovers from dinner, great, but if not, there is no back-up plan. I always tell my patients 80 percent of eating well and being well is simply the act of PLANNING.
My top lunch recommendation is always leftovers! Cook a big pot of something on Sunday and pack up the leftovers. Or, double dinner recipes every night. Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your lunch. This time of year, soups, stews, and chilis make that easy!
Another idea for busy people is the baked potato/baked sweet potato. Bake five, wrap in foil, and they’re ready to throw in the lunchbox every morning. They make a great base for homemade chili. I like to top mine with ricotta or cottage cheese for protein, some frozen vegetables, and I season with garlic salt and other spices.
Another idea that is fun for both kids and adults is the bento box. You don’t even need a fancy new lunchbox to create this style of lunch. Just use several reusable containers to pack up healthy finger foods. Here are a few combos to get you started:
- Red pepper slices or other vegetables with hummus
- Grapes or chopped fruit
- Sliced apples with almond butter
- Carrots with herbed Greek yogurt dip
- Roasted, salted sweet potato rounds
- Shrimp and cocktail sauce
- Caprese salad (mozzarella balls with grape tomatoes and basil)
- Hardboiled eggs
- Cold frittata
The list is endless!
And, last but not least, what about the humble sandwich?! Even a PB&J and an apple is a better option than most items you’ll find at a sub shop. You now have no excuses not to pack your lunch!
-Posted by Registered Dietitian Nicole Holovach