Let’s Do Lunch.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you had a fantastic weekend! Turns out the Red Flannel Run was freezing, but we had a great time. And the dogs in flannel made it TOTALLY worth it.

Inspired by one of my Friday Funs last week, I’ve decided to elaborate a bit on packing lunches. A few friends asked what I typically pack, so this is for you.

The perks of packing:

There are a lot of positives that come with packing a lunch. Not only is it cost-effective, but you don’t have to worry about whether or not there is going to be something you like in the cafeteria, or if the daily special at your favorite lunch restaurant is sold out. Packing your lunch is quick and you’re completely in control of what you get to eat! For me, it works especially well since I track my food on MyFitnessPal. I am able to plan the rest of my meals for the day (obsessive, I know) since I know in advance what I’m packing for lunch. And I’m able to track my calories with certainty, rather than having to play a guessing game with how many calories are actually in the chicken stirfry downstairs…

What to pack?

There are limitless options when it comes to packing your own lunch. I tend to favor more bland options — peanut butter & jelly, tuna, cheese & crackers — but it’s totally up to you! I find that through packing my own lunch, I am able to use up foods in my fridge or cupboards that would normally go bad, so it saves me quite a bit of money in the long run. However, depending on what you pack, you may be better off eating out. Just because you bring a lunch, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy alternative! Here are a few tips I go by to ensure that packing my lunch is a positive in my overall health goals:

  • Just because you pack it, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. I constantly need to remind myself of this one, as I love to snack. There are obviously days that you’re more hungry than others. For that reason, I usually pack some sort of sandwich, a little side (crackers, pretzels, etc.), and a piece of fruit. However, just because I bring all of those things to sustain me through my workday, if I’m not hungry for them, I save them for the next day. Due to convenience of having food handy, this can prove difficult for some, so store your food in a nearby drawer. Having it in your eyesight may make you crave it even if you’re not hungry. By putting it out of sight, you may find you actually aren’t hungry for those crackers after all!
  • Pack leftovers. If you’re fortunate enough to have a microwave at your workplace, leftovers are a great lunch option. They’re already prepared, and it uses up the food that may otherwise go to waste.
  • Think outside the lunch box. It’s easy to get in a rut when packing lunches day after day. If you bring the same thing each day, you most likely will end up getting sick of it after awhile. So try  bringing things that you wouldn’t normally think of as “lunch” options. Two of my favorites right now are bagels with smoked salmon (Trader Joe’s sells some great Alaskan sockeye!) and low-fat cream cheese, or cheese and crackers (add salami/proscuitto for an added bonus!). Just because it isn’t a “normal” lunch option, doesn’t make it any less suitable! If it’s in your fridge and it sounds good, bring it for lunch!
  • Go for healthy alternatives. Packing lunches can often times end up being a calorie bomb, even if we choose “healthy” foods. One slice of bread usually has nearly 200 calories, and mayonnaise is especially fattening. To counteract what could be a rather high-calorie sandwich, I use Arnold Sandwich Thins. Only 100 calories for the flatbreads, they’re the perfect proportion of bread to inner-sandwich contents! I also opt out of mayonnaise, which is especially helpful with tuna sandwiches. Try subbing ranch dressing, mustard, or pickle juice for the mayo in your tuna salad to give it added flavor!
  • You don’t have to eat at noon. Just because 12:00 is the typical lunch hour, that doesn’t mean you need to hold out until noon on the dot. If you’re starving at 10:30, have a snack! It’s better to have a snack here and there and keep yourself satisfied rather than holding out until noon and scarfing all of the food you brought. Try to spread it out throughout the day to stay at a happy level of hunger. I especially like to have a little something right about 3:00 pm, when that afternoon lull hits. 🙂
  • Take a break. Eating out is fun, so don’t limit yourself from doing it every once in awhile. Just don’t abuse it. Packing your lunch throughout the week makes going out for lunch an extra special treat! It’s like a congratulatory pat on the back for eating well. There are often healthy lunch options at restaurants, too, so if you want to stay on track, scope the menu. One thing that I find particularly helpful when trying to stay healthy when eating out is checking the menu in advance, if available. This way, you know what the good options are, and won’t make a hasty decision if you’re on a time crunch or be peer pressured into getting whatever your friend gets.

In need of a cute lunch box? Check out The Container Store for some fun options! I love the two below: the colorful totes help keep items warm/cold, and the lunch box is microwave-safe, with a dividing dish so you can separate warm foods from cold foods. Who knew lunch could be so stylish… 🙂

Photo Courtesy of The Container Store (containerstore.com)

Photo Courtesy of The Container Store (containerstore.com)

Today, I packed a PB&J on a sesame bagel, some Annie’s snack mix, and an apple for lunch (AND a leftover protein bar from my article last week, since I’m teaching right after work!). What’re your favorite lunch options?

N

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