School is back in session, the seasons are changing, and it’s time to contemplate your packed lunch needs. Whether you’re preparing lunches for your kids, or just looking for healthier or more economical meals for yourself, consider some of these smart delicious options to keep you on the right track.
The Right Stuff – The best intentions will fall by the wayside if we are not properly prepared and motivated. Storage options with seal tight lids and helpful measurements on the sides assist brown-baggers with an eye on a healthy lifestyle. Fun shapes and colorful containers appeal to kids, making them more likely to eat a packed meal. Try a L.O.T.G. (Lunch On The Go), small plastic cups or drink boxes to help meet your needs.
Visual Cues – Foods in a variety of colors and shapes are visually appealing and can stimulate your appetite. Health advocates know this and have adopted the slogan "Eat the Rainbow” because they know packed lunches which include at least one serving each of fruits, veggies, and protein provide the nutrition and energy to tackle the day without sacrificing taste or adding unnecessary fats. You’re more likely to stick to your eating plan if you have a few quick easy meals within reach that also appeal to your senses. Images can make lunch time more appealing to children, as well. Kids love animals, sports, and fairytales. Cookie cutters are no longer only for sweets. Consider using your favorite shapes to remove the crust from sandwiches, or to make individualized servings of leftover meatloaf.
Favorite Fall Backs – If you’re packing foods you don’t particularly care for, but feel you should be eating, you’ll begin to hate and resent meal times. Another way to increase the odds of eating a full and balanced meal that doesn’t require a lot of extra work is to prepare extras at dinner. When you prepare a meal that you or your family enjoys, simply make a double portion so you have extras for packed lunches.
Take it with you! – Packed lunches don’t do much good if you forget them at home. If you struggle to remember them on the way out, leave yourself a visual reminder where you are sure to see it, such as a sticky note on the door handle that reads "GRAB LUNCH!”
Support Group – Whether you’re trying to lose weight, eat healthier, or just save money by not eating out at every meal, you’re more likely to achieve success with a support group. Find someone, maybe even a group, with whom to take turns being responsible for lunch. Together, set guidelines for what you can or cannot eat. Then take turns bringing meals for all those involved that meet those collective goals. If you work alone, can’t agree on goals, or just need more options, consider using a meal delivery service such as one of these 10 companies who can help eliminate planning: http://www.self.com/food/2016/04/10-healthy-meal-delivery-services?mbid=synd_myfitpal
Autumn often brings a busier schedule and it’s easy to fall prey to the fast food frenzy in order to save time. However, a little preparation will help you stay motivated to meet your lunchtime goals.
Still not sure what combinations to pack? Consider these healthy options for your weekly lunch needs:
- Hardboiled eggs, zucchini muffins, string cheese, goldfish crackers, and blueberries.
- Turkey spinach wraps, popcorn, string cheese, cucumber slices, and grapes.
- Refried bean and cheese quesadillas, avocado and lime, strawberries.
- Turkey and cheese club sandwich, peas, apple slices with almond butter.
- Egg/tuna/chicken salad, banana, and chia seeds.
- Yogurt, carrot sticks, and a nectarine.
- Peanut butter, apple slices, crackers, and celery.
- DIY "lunchables” – crackers, cheese slices, meat slices, and strawberries.