A Joyful Kitchen: Healthy Lunch Ideas

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sure, it's great to take lunch to work or school every day because it saves money and is usually healthier. But who has the time? We're all busy, so making gourmet lunches is pretty challenging. I personally have to think about mine at the beginning of the week so I know what to grocery shop for, then make time each night to put things together.

At a loss for what kinds of things to tuck into a lunchbox? Here's a short list to get you started.
  • Peanut butter sandwich - yes, it's about as kindergarten as you can get. But dress it up with some fresh sliced fruit instead of sugar-laden jelly. Skip the fluffy bread for some hearty Ezekiel bread and you'll really stay full for the afternoon.
  • Vegan yogurt and a hearty muffin - this meal will suit your lunchtime at the computer (I hope you have a chance to get away though!). You can toss in some fresh fruit to your vegan yogurt, which is super easy to make at home, and get that comfort food feeling from a tasty carrot spice muffin.
  • Mexican salad - this is easy to throw together and make exactly to your liking! Pick your favorite greens and top with some black beans for protein. Add as much as you like of corn, chopped tomato, green pepper, cucumber, avacado, cilantro and onion. Instead of a heavy salad dressing, have some salsa or a fresh lime ready on the side. When you are ready to have lunch, pour the salsa or squeeze the lime on top. Waiting for this last step saves you from a soggy salad. Want a stricter recipe? Here's Tess Challis' Sexy Mexi Salad.
  • Veggie wrap - you can't go wrong when using hummus! How about a pita or tortilla schmeared with some hummus and filled with your favorite veggies and some sprouts? Yum! If you want to add tomato, you might consider packing it on the side and adding just before eating.
  • Soups and chilis - one of my favorite things on a cold or dreary day is a warm lunch. I often freeze my soup and chili so I can pull a portion out of the freezer on a whim. When it comes to lunches, a frozen individual serving not only is a quick save when I have nothing else on hand, but it also helps keep the rest of my lunch cold while it defrosts.
  • Leftovers - sometimes I don't want to have the same thing for lunch every day. What I do in that case is make extra servings of dinner and then package that up as lunches. What looks like a lot of extra effort to bring in a nice lunch is merely a little thinking ahead!
  • Fresh fruit and veggies - don't fall prey to a vending machine. Make sure you have snacks packed. I love fresh fruit and veggies during the day. Depending on your work/school environment, you may want to peel and chop things in advance. Awesome fruits are apples, oranges, peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwi. Great veggies are broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, pepper slices and maybe some hummus to dip them all in. Of course there are many more fruit and veggie options, but these are just get you thiking.
Don't forget to think green when you're packing a lunch. Invest in a basic reuseable lunch bag - they are under 10 dollars for a nice insulated one and it will last you years. Also get some reusable containers so you can minimize the number of baggies you use. And how about having some spare silverware to pack with your lunch? Instead of disposable forks and spoons, just bring yours home and was them. All of a sudden, the garbage you produce every days has gone way down.

Whether you are packing lunches year round or just getting ready to start a new school year, there are lots of ways to make a healthy mid-day meal. Don't give up. Don't let excuses get in the way of putting something together. Having a solid lunch can make all the difference in your energy through the afternoon!


Aubrey West @ Healthy Lunch Ideas said...

Great lunch ideas! This one is a big help for many.

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