If tossing a frozen meal, canned soup or leftover pizza into your purse or backpack is your idea of brown bagging it, read this article!
Written by: Sabrina Grotewold
While packing your lunch (and your kids’ lunches) requires planning and some extra time, everybody knows that it can be more healthful and economical than dining out (or eating at school). If tossing a frozen meal, canned soup or leftover pizza into your purse or backpack is your idea of brown bagging it, then consider picking up a few more items during your weekly or semi-weekly grocery store runs and investing just 5-10 minutes each evening or morning to prepare more nutritious portable midday meals. You’ll feel better, think better and perform better (and so will your kids).
Fast Lunch Prep Tips:
*Glad Tupperware makes BPA-free reusable food containers in a variety of sizes. I use the entree (a green way of toting sandwiches), deep dish (for my huge salads) and mini rounds (for salad dressing, yogurt, hummus, nuts, etc.).
*Reusable lunch bag(s)—note: Make sure your bag is big enough to fit your reusable plastic containers.
*Take a few minutes to plan out meals, or at least have an idea of what you’d like to make during the week. Make a list before you go to the grocery store.
*Set aside one day where you can spend two hours grocery shopping and prepping food.
*Buy what you can afford of convenience items like sliced whole-wheat bread, canned beans, already cooked rice in vacuum packs, etc., but make sure to read labels carefully. You should recognize and be able to pronounce all, if not most, of the ingredients.
*When you get home from the store, wash and dry all produce (store chopped fresh herbs in the fridge either wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic storage bag or upright with stems immersed in water). Based on the week’s recipes, spend 20-30 minutes prepping food items: Grate cheeses, drain and rinse canned beans, shred cabbage, cook grains, etc., and store them in plastic food containers in the refrigerator so they’re ready to use during the week.
Fast, Healthy Lunches:
*Turkey sandwich, hummus, and baby carrots, celery, sliced bell peppers
Notes: I put Trader Joe’s nitrate-free smoked turkey on whole wheat bread (select the sliced bread with the most recognizable, pronounceable ingredients) and top it with mustard, spinach, sliced cucumber and sprouts.
*Mixed greens salad with leftover fish or meat and sliced almonds, and fresh fruit
Notes: Combine three handfuls of mixed baby greens with shredded cabbage and carrots, baby heirloom tomatoes (or diced tomatoes), a handful of sliced almonds and a handful of shredded cheese (if desired). Top with leftover fish or meat, or with 1/2 cup drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, black or pinto beans.
*Mexican roll-ups, fresh fruit, unsalted almonds
Notes: In a blender or food processor, puree 1 can black beans with a few splashes of vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon black olives, zest and juice of 1/2 lime, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro (or 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro) and pinch of black pepper. Spread black bean mix onto a whole-wheat tortilla (again, read package ingredients carefully), sprinkle with cheddar cheese, mixed greens (or spinach, cabbage, kale, etc.), seeded and diced tomatoes. Roll up.
Notes: Combine 1 cup cooked quinoa with 1 cup sauteed (strain any excess liquid) kale, mustard or collard greens, 1 cup chopped spinach, 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup diced bell peppers, 1/3 cup chopped scallions. In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, zest and juice from 1 large lemon, splash of champagne vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Moisten quinoa salad with dressing (don’t oversaturate).