Open Up to a Whole New Lunchbox

I remember the looks (and comments) I would get when I first started packing healthy lunches for myself.  The transition from turkey sandwich to sweet potato-avocado lettuce wraps happened pretty quickly once I entered nutrition school, and the seltzer where my Diet Coke once stood spoke volumes about how far I had come.  There were hints of criticism ("You're going to eat that?") and shock ("Did you cook that?") and even disbelief ("That's an odd choice for lunch."), but now that I had a taste of high-energy, happy-mood, feeling- good all the time, there was no going back.

It never ceases to amaze me how the body speaks to us - if only we would listen.  My high school teacher no-breakfast-ever diet of Famous Amos cookies, Tootsie Roll pops and cafeteria-line pretzels washed down with an IV-drip of Diet Coke had gotten me really sick pretty fast.  It took me too long to figure out that my food was not fueling my life.

As you know, instead of taking things out of my diet, I started adding in what I thought were healthy choices.  Little by little, they crowded out the fake food as my body called for more nourishment, energy and flavor.

One of the most common frustrations of my clients is figuring out what to pack for lunch.  "I mean, what can you take besides a sandwich?"  Well, A LOT!

Whether it's the kids' lunchboxes or your own, on-the-go meals don't have to be overwhelming.  In fact, considering just how important fueling our bodies for busy lives and school days is, the lunchbox might start to make the top of the priority list.  

Maybe it's the teacher in me, but September represents a sort of "new year," and with that comes a feeling of new beginnings and clean slates.  Now is the perfect time to commit to upgrading your meals, starting with lunch.

Let go of the old PB & J-on-white-bread days, and open up to a whole new world of nourishment, energy and flavor.  Start with any of the tried-and-true lunch ideas listed below and use an assembly line strategy to prep lunches for the week.  (Because eating well all the time doesn't mean you have to cook all the time!)  Simply line up your to-go containers whenever you prepare a meal and portion out lunches for the week.  

You can make variations that don't take much time, if you don't like eating the same thing every day - for example, your quinoa salad can go over greens one day, in an Ezekiel pita the next, into a lettuce wrap, topped with grilled shrimp or chicken, alongside some Mary's Gone Crackers, (my favorite), or on its own.  As you find the lunches you like best, you will find more ways to vary the presentation.

Add in one idea at a time, until healthy lunches are a no-brainer staple in your house.  Enjoy feeling energized, satisfied and nourished with my favorite lunch suggestions:

Jen's Top Lunch Ideas

  • roasted sweet potato topped with goat cheese, red peppers and black beans
  • collard leaves filled with hummus, greens, sprouts, falafel, tomato, avocado
  • hummus with carrots, celery, cucumber, endive and/or Ezekiel pita bread 
  • soup or chili with Mary’s Gone Crackers or Simple Mills crackers
  • collards with roasted vegetables and greens
  • veggie burger (such as Hillary's) or black bean burger on sesame Ezekiel bun with sprouts, tomato, and sliced avocado or guacamole
  • lentil burger over greens
  • spinach salad with red onion, walnuts, tomato, gorgonzola, balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • mixed greens salad with tomato, cucumber, yellow pepper, leek, sunflower seeds, lemon and olive oil
  • green smoothie with small side salad and/or fruit or nuts 
  • frittata with loads of vegetables (cut into pie slices, or made in muffin pan for individual servings)
  • wild grilled shrimp over salad or in whole grain wrap or Ezekiel bun with goddess dressing and greens
  • chick pea salad with red pepper, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, onion and sea salt over mixed greens or lettuce wrap
  • bean pasta (Trader Joe's, for example) with pesto, steamed broccoli and sundried tomatoes, sprinkled with nutritional yeast 
  • artichoke & tuna panino (or over greens or in a lettuce wrap)
  • quinoa salads - cucumber, tomato, goat cheese (tricolor quinoa salad, Sasha's red quinoa salad)
  • tabouli with crackers, Ezekiel pita or hummus 
  • Ezekiel toast with smashed avocado, tomato, sprouts and Celtic salt (option:  sprinkle with "everything bagel" seasoning)
  • brown rice or quinoa topped with avocado (squeeze lime juice over top), roasted carrots and a drizzle of tahini.
  • toasted/grilled polenta with sundried tomatoes, pesto, or olive tapenade 
  • order side of veggies like broccoli rabe or escarole and beans at Italian restaurant or pizzeria
  • order salad or low-sodium soup at deli (avoid creams and meat that may not be high-quality)
  • dinner leftovers (reheated before leaving home, if necessary - see Tiffen box)
  • divided bento box filled with any combination of the following:
    crispy toasted chickpeas or cooked chickpeas with Celtic sea salt
    cherry tomatoes, pepper slices, peas, broccoli, cauliflower
    avocado, hummus, pesto, dressing, sauce, nut butter, dip
    roasted potatoes, cauliflower, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onions, carrots
    white, black, adzuki or kidney beans (see Eden brand for canned)
    quinoa, brown rice, millet, tabouli salad, bean pasta
    seeds, nuts, dried fruit

Other great Feeding Your Life lunch recipes: