I’ve been packing my lunch since, well, forever…for camp, for school, and for work. Camp lunches usually had a REALLY fun snack like Dunkaroos or rice krispie treats. Oh, the (sugary) good old days! I like to think that my lunches have evolved over the years to include more healthy snacks with the occasional “cheat” snack thrown into the mix.
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist by any means, but I try to maintain a well-balanced diet. Feel free to use my suggestions and add to them based on your own nutritional needs!
My lunch (and snacks) on a typical day usually consists of…
Main course — Salad or starch with protein
I make my lunch every night for the next day and it’s usually salad — easy to throw together + light on calories = win win situation! A sandwich with protein is a great choice as well, just be sure to use low-calorie bread (I like light-style whole wheat or 100-calorie sandwich thins). I usually switch off between romaine, spinach and kale as the base greens for my salad. Protein could include chick peas/beans, turkey or lean deli meat, leftover grilled chicken, or in the case of my lunch this week (photo above), turkey, ham and cheese from a leftover antipasto salad. Much of my salad prep includes throwing leftovers into my salad, including veggies and fruit. I’m a huge fan of berries in my salads! As for dressing, I keep it simple — a squeeze of lemon or a mixture of olive oil and vinegar are delicious, quick options. Just pack the dressing in a snack-sized Ziploc bag to avoid soggy salad.
New lunch idea: Chickpea avocado smash
Beverages — Drink more water! I start my day with two cups of hot green tea, but then it’s water and only water for the rest of the day. Spice up your water by infusing it with lemon, cucumber or berries — it makes water SO much more exciting! Need carbonation? Try flavored seltzer water — tastes like soda but it’s zero calories.
Fruit – 1 to 2 servings
My mid-morning snack is usually a banana since it keeps me full until lunch. I’ll also pack an apple, berries, or grapes for an afternoon snack or “emergency” snack.
Veggie – 1 to 2 servings
I’ll admit, I don’t eat enough veggies during the day. However, snacking on veggies is a great way to introduce more of them into your diet. Baby carrots and celery are my go-to’s because they’re super portable. I love pairing them with Laughing Cow flavored cheeses (they’re low-calorie) or hummus for added protein.
“Fun” snack – 1 serving
This is my wild-card snack…the snack with some level of ‘indulgence’ that keeps me (and my tastebuds) happy! I recently made a trip to Trader Joe’s so I stocked up on whole-grain fruit bars, but I’ll often be in the mood for a piece of chocolate (I think every office has a stash of chocolate SOMEWHERE), baked chips, or Greek yogurt with granola. I need some sort of “fun” snack to get me through the afternoon slump!
I like to keep my snacks around 100-150 calories — think of a snack as a little something to get you through to your next meal. These are a few of my favorite healthy snack ideas:
- Chocolate peanut protein bites (click for recipe)
- Carrots and hummus
- Roasted almonds/peanuts
- Apple and peanut/almond butter
- Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt with honey & berries or granola (also one of my favorite breakfast ideas)
- Whole-grain crackers with reduced-fat cheese
- Reduced fat string cheese with a piece of fruit
- Peanut butter and berries on a whole wheat wrap
- Roasted chickpeas
- Baked kale chips
- Whole-wheat toast with Nutella
Lunch-packing life lessons:
I’ve learned that I eat SO much better if I make my own meals, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare my lunch and snacks for the next day. I can’t rely on empty-calorie snacks – if I eat a candy bar, I’ll be hungry an hour later. I like to keep my snacks small but protein-heavy and I pack enough food so that I have something to eat every 3-4 hours. If I go longer than 4 hours without eating, I’ll inevitably eat the first thing I see (which is never anything nutritious!).
My lunch and snacks generally keep me full all day. I’ll often pack ‘emergency’ snacks for those days when I’m starving right before I leave the office at night, and I definitely have those days where two of my snacks are gone before lunchtime (oops!). Eat when you’re hungry, drink a LOT of water, and figure out what works best for you and your schedule!
Note that I have not been compensated by any brand listed in this post and all opinions are my own.
Photography: Lighten Up Recipes