It’s that time of year to get back into your routine. Whether that means packing your child’s lunch, preparing your own, or (ah-ha) adopting the concept of this midday meal for the first time, lunch is definitely an exciting and much needed opportunity to refuel your body with the proper nutrients necessary to continue plugging away until evening! (Yeah right, who has time for that meal? Sit tight, future post to come.)
1. “I don’t have time”
You wait in line at Starbucks for your double tall, nonfat, 1.5 pump whatever, right? Then you have time to make lunch. I swear – Google it. Told you – 40.3 million results for “quick healthy lunch” discredits this excuse.
If you don’t want to Google a solution, here are some ideas:
- Planned-Overs*! Purposefully prepare extra at dinner, and reserve some for tomorrow’s lunch. Grilling burgers? Grill up extra patties that you can use for tacos the next day. Salmon? Roast a few extra ounces and save for a salmon salad. Baked chicken? Cut into strips and use in sandwiches, dice and throw in pasta, or add to a can of your favorite soup for a protein boost.
*Word to the wise (or anyone who has experienced food poisoning from improperly handled leftovers): When using leftovers, you need to know the basics of food safety. Keep foods out of the “Danger Zone”, which is 40-140F. Bacteria that can make you miserably ill favors this temp range, so keep your hot food hot, and cold foods cold. Never keep perishable foods in the danger zone for longer than 2 hours (1 hour if it’s hot outside).
Click here to learn more about food safety, including steps to keeping foods safe, myths, dangerous mistakes, cooking temperatures, recalls and much more.
- Don’t have leftovers to use? Mix and match from the columns to create numerous quick assemble, healthy lunch options:
|Sliced Bread (Any color, any texture)||Bean (Hummus, Black bean)||Produce (get creative!)||Poultry|
|Hamburger bun||Seed (Tahini, sunflower, mustard)||Beans||Fish|
|Sandwich roll||Nut (Cashew, almond, peanut)||Beef|
|Pita||Egg/dairy (mayo, cheese, cream)||Cheese|
|Tortilla/wrap||Fruit (jams, jelly)||Bean|
|Vegetable (red pepper, artichoke, tomato)||Nut/see|
|Soy (tempeh, tofu|
A few additional tips for meals on the go:
- Bread: Store bread in the freezer to achieve an indefinite shelf life (3 months to maintain best quality), allowing you to switch up bread choices daily without the worry of wasting food.
Sauce: Typically good for at least a week after you have opened them. Check the package label. Check Stilltasty.com.
Protein: Costco has grilled chicken strips (freezer) that work well when you don’t have leftovers. Packaged fish is a convenient option as well. Check out this Consumer Guide to Mercury in Fish. Don’t forget to print out your wallet card. Chicken/salmon burgers can be cooked in less than 10 minutes on a skillet and come in individually wrapped freezer packages, allowing you to just cook one at a time.
- Fillings: artichokes, roasted peppers, salsa, beans are great cupboard staples to stock up on so you have something substantial to complement fresh produce.
2. “Ziplocs and brown bags aren’t really my style.”
Fine - Get stuff that is your style. Save peanut butter jars, mason jars, produce bags and food containers if that works for you, or purchase a set (check out www.reuseit.com, www.goodbyn.com, hwww.laptoplunches.com, or Amazon). Bringing lunch to work can significantly cut down on food spending.
3. “I don’t know what constitutes a lunch…”
No time for Nutrition 101 here. Follow these general guidelines: half of your plate is fruits and veggies, the remaining quarters are protein and grains. Want more info? You can find a lot of information and resources at choosemyplate.gov. Have specific questions? Please ask in the comment section below!
4. “I don’t have a refrigerator to store my food at work.”
Get a new job. No? Fine, I can divert this excuse as well. Perishable foods can be left in room temperature for up to 2 hours. So unless you are calling it quits by 9am, you’ll need to plan ahead. To keep food out of the “danger zone” (remember: 40-140F) your lunchbox should be insulated and have freezer packs that keep temps below 40. Use a food thermometer and do a test run to ensure your lunchbox is safe. Frozen juice boxes/yogurt can help keep it cool too.
5. “I don’t know where to get good recipes.”
Your smartphone does! My favorite apps are: Whole Foods Recipes, Epicurious, AllRecipes, BigOven, FoodNetwork and Cook’s. Google is also a great tool, especially if you’re a picky eater or have dietary restrictions. Oprah knows too (there is a reason she makes billions). Start by checking out her Ultimate Guide to Packing Lunches and from there explore a month of lunch recipes, new ideas for old classics and delicious recipes.
What are your favorite tips for getting back into a routine, especially one where you eat lunch? Share your tips, favorite apps, questions, and ideas below!