The holiday season has come to a close and we’re finally entering the calm and quiet months of the New Year. For me, this is the perfect time to re-center and reconnect with what’s most important and that is my health, as self-care seems to take back seat during the holidays. Thus, we can no longer blame back-to-school, outdoor sports, the entire 3 month holiday season or any other social affairs on our less-than-ideal wellness routines. The time to care for ourselves and build better routines is now. So why not start with something as simple as your daily lunch, and maybe your family’s lunch too. While it can seem more convenient to grab take-out midday, this can be less nourishing for your body and your wallet. Yes, packing a lunch takes a little time and planning so I’ve put together helpful hints and kitchen tricks that will get you motivated.
1) Arm yourself with the proper lunchbox: This may seem silly at first, but having the appropriate lunch box is a great first step. I like to use glass storage containers or a Bento Box by LunchBots. Both options are eco-friendly and BPA-free and the latter offers you pre-portioned sections for whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sandwiches. It is worth the investment!
2) Schedule your meals: It’s as simple as planning your dinners before hitting the grocery store. Try making a table chart that lists a variety of lunch components from fruits and vegetables to proteins and treats, with a focus on whole foods. You can plan your shopping list around these preferred foods and mix and match as you wish. If you’re packing for the whole family, ask your kids for input so that they feel a part of the process but try to choose meals that can second as your lunch as well.
3) Meal prep: Set aside time early in the week, or on Sunday for the following week, to pre-cook, cut and package whole foods that will make packing lunches so much easier. Pre-bag smoothies, make tuna salad, cut up veggies and fruits for salads and snacks, and even pre-portion your nuts, seeds and granola. Whatever nourishing foods you like, get them ready to go so that packing your lunch is as simple as throwing a few things in your cooler bag.
4) Batch cook: This is my all-time favorite way to cook because leftovers make the best lunches, and even breakfasts sometimes too! You can do this two ways: on your meal-prep day you can batch cook larger quantities of things like soups, grains, roasted veggies and lean proteins that you can piece together as you like, or you can simply double up your dinner recipes. If you don’t love setting aside an hour or two to meal-prep on Sundays, then go with option two – you’re already making dinner, so you may as well make enough for lunch! Kitchen Tip: Put leftovers directly into your lunchbox after dinner. This helps save time in the morning, and makes clean up easier too!
5) Embrace your freezer: I love freezer friendly foods – vegetables especially, as they’re still beaming with nutrients and make my life so much easier. There are several, items that can be prepared and immediately frozen for grab-and-pack lunch options that will thaw come time to eat. From soups and stews to smoothies and baked goods, your freezer can house a week’s worth of lunches prepared in one day.
By: Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, Chef