September 25, 2017
There’s only so many different ways you can change up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your kids or a turkey and Swiss on white bread for you. Monotony sets in and now you’ve started ditching your brown bag for the more “exciting” option: the drive-thru, take out, and delivery.
Between the larger portion sizes and the cost, getting lunch out starts to add up. In a 2015 survey by Visa, only 32% of Americans say that they never eat lunch out.1 But what if you could bring your own lunch that was not only exciting, but healthy, too? A healthy lunch can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent, on average, according to a study by the International Labour Organization.2 Say goodbye to the boring sandwich, and hello to the lunchbox you look forward to.
Prepping a Healthy Lunch
Before you start creating that amazing lunch for work, you need the right supplies. It’s time to get rid of the brown bag in favor of a reusable, insulated lunch tote. Not only will this keep your meal temperature controlled during your commute, but it will also protect your lunch from being smashed. No one likes a crushed sandwich at the bottom of their backpack or purse.
Quality containers are also a must. Forget wrapping things in tin foil and sandwich bags; compartmentalized containers are the way to go. They’re inexpensive, leak-proof, and with only one lid to open, you and your kiddo have more time to enjoy your lunch.
If your child wants to bring soup or pasta, you may want to invest in a thermos to help keep their meal warm when they don’t have access to a microwave. For adults, try a ceramic soup mug. Both microwave and dishwasher safe, these mugs heat food evenly and their vented lids allow steam to escape. No more office microwave eruptions or steam burns.
For the entire family’s lunches, it’s a good idea to purchase reusable utensils which are sturdier than the disposable variety.
How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch
When it comes to packing your child’s lunch for school, there are a few housekeeping things to take care of. First, does your child’s school have any food restrictions in place? Due to food allergies of students, most schools do not allow peanut/tree nut products, like peanut butter, even if your child is planning to keep the item to themselves. When in doubt, call your child’s school to find out what is and isn’t allowed.
Second, work with your child to make a list of foods they like and will, most importantly, eat at lunch. Once you have your list, it will be easier for you to mix and match different food combinations, and plan out a weekly menu.
When it comes to packing the lunchbox, keep these tips in mind:
- Get your kids involved in the process. Pack foods you know your child will eat, not what you hope they eat. Balance this by making sure they’re also eating healthy options, not chips and crackers every day.
- Take a weekly approach to nutrition, rather than daily. If your child is getting a good balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbs throughout the week, a treat is fine. Remember the “rule of three” – three items per lunch that are relatively healthy.
- Limit the amount of containers so children can spend time eating instead of opening containers.
- Fun lunches don’t have to mean fancy! A simple note, sticker, food pick, or more can turn a packed lunch from drab to fab.
MedExpress Pro Tip: If your child picks foods that aren’t typical lunch foods, don’t panic! Waffles can be eaten cold, smoothies can be frozen in tube molds, and leftovers can always be taken in a thermos.
Easy School Lunch Ideas
Is your child begging for one of those pre-packaged “lunchables”? Make your own! Cut up whole-wheat pitas and include grated cheese, pepperoni, and marinara sauce. When paired with their favorite fruit or side, like carrot sticks, your little one won’t notice a difference.
For more ideas on healthy school lunches, check out our Snacks to Grab and Go blog.
How to Pack a Healthy Lunch for Work
Adulting does come with its perks, like more flexibility with lunch. Oftentimes, your office is equipped with at least a microwave, which to some, may mean heating up that frozen meal that was hiding in the back of your freezer for a few months. But, a microwave also allows you to either re-heat leftovers from home or do some “mini-prep” at work.
Before you plan your lunch menu, get a feel for the lay of the land. Do you have access to a toaster oven at the office? Or, is there only a microwave? The more preparation tools you have, the easier this will be. When you do order takeout, what do you normally get? Is there any way you can recreate this lunch? Or, are you grabbing takeout everyday as a chance to decompress mid-day?
Take the stress out of packing a healthy lunch with these tips:
- Use your time and money wisely. Can you double the dinner recipe and take leftovers? Use leftovers creatively – roasted chicken from dinner can be lunch’s burrito, salad, and more.
- Do a little prep and assembly at the office. Pack ingredients for a salad separately so everything stays crisp and fresh.
- Include some novelty. If you’re taking a sandwich, try a bagel or wrap instead of bread, a new spread, or unique cheeses. The possibilities are endless.
- Meal prep on Sunday. With some preparation and a few hours, you can cook enough food for 3 days at a time.
- Keep some essentials at the office – real silverware, seasonings, salad dressings, etc. can set you up for success and help your lunch feel like a meal at home.
- Don’t save the treats just for the kids. Whether it’s a small piece of chocolate or a mini-bag of popcorn, bringing a treat makes the vending machine a little less tempting. Just make sure to go easy on sugar.
MedExpress Pro Tip: Mornings can be hectic. Get in the routine of packing your lunch the night before, while you’re making dinner. Not only does it help to make it a habit, you’ll save on cleaning up twice.
Easy Work Lunch Idea
Not sure what to do with last night’s meat and roasted vegetables? These are great starting points for either a salad or pita pocket, when combined with your favorite cheese and dressing. Pack all ingredients separately and assemble at work after re-heating meat and vegetables.
1Visa: When Lunch Bites Back
2International Labour Organization: Decent food at work: Raising workers' productivity and well-being