School has just begun almost everywhere and packing lunches is on our minds. Whether you are getting the items ready for the kids to pack or packing your own these tips are helpful all year long. It takes a little effort but pays off in many ways. Not only does it save you money and time (going out, ordering, waiting for the food) it is also a lot better for your health.
Start with these simple steps:
- Plan your weekly menu, not just for lunches. Make a plan for your family’s meal taking into account what activities you throughout the week. Once you plan the meals for the days you will have some time to prep, cook, plan on using the leftovers for the busy days.
- Pack your lunch the night before. This not new nor have you heard it the first time. It really works. Save space in your fridge for the lunches. Group everything together, your sandwich, yogurt and fruit, so you won;t forget any parts of the meal. Even fill the water bottle and refrigerate it.
- Invest in a reusable lunchbag. Pick your favorite color, pattern, shape. Wait till you see the latest collection! August is a good time as most stores have “back to School” sales. If like your lunch bag chances are you will want to take it along.
- Put a reminder to self to take lunch with you. Until you get into the habit of taking all your lunch items along reminders are helpful. Good old post-it notes on the exit door will do or you can use your smartphone reminders.
Here are some ideas for making your lunches easy and nutritious:
- Lovely leftovers: Leftovers are great not only for lunches but also for other dinners depending on how much you have. Foods that reheat well make the best lunches. Think pasta, stew, soup, casseroles. Indian and Chinese leftovers also reheat well. Just don’t microwave any bread, it will be chewy.
- Mason-Jar salads: I am sure you have seen many Pinterest boards about this.
It is an easy way to put together the whole salad ahead of time including the dressing. Construct the salad in reverse of how you would on a plate.
Start with the dressing (vinegar based) at the bottom of the jar, then any toppings and top the jar with the greens. At lunch, flip the jar, shake it and enjoy a delicious salad right out of the jar.
- Sandwich alternatives: Are you tired of the same old sandwich routine? Get creative. Make open faced sandwiches on multigrain breads, use a Butter Lettuce leaf to wrap your sandwich filling in. Microwave a leaf of Collard Greens (makes it a lot better for you) and wrap some leftover grilled meat and veggies. This collard green roll up can be heated up again for a nice warm wrap on a cool fall day.
Need more proof of health benefits of packing your own lunch? Consider these options:
- Double Whopper with Cheese, King size Fries and King size Soda = over 2000 calories vs Turkey sandwich on Whole Wheat bread, small bag of Baked Potato Chips and 12 oz can of Soda = 600 calories. Just removing the soda from this will cut down the calories to 350.
- 2 slices of Pepperoni Pizza (Dominoes Medium) and a 12 oz can of Soda = 750 vs Grilled Chicken breast on a green salad with 2 Tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing, a medium apple and a glass of water = 350 calories.
Your mid-day meal does not have to cost you your health or a fortune. You can make it interesting, fun and delicious! Happy lunching!