A few people recently have asked me how I go about packing healthy lunches for work everyday. There is a reason processed, chemical-laden foods are called “convenience foods,” because, well…they’re convenient! But I promise you don’t have to sacrifice time to eat healthfully. With these tips, you can create lunches that are flavorful and healthful in about the same amount of time it takes to pack up a Lean Cuisine or make a trip to the drive-thru.
1. Make your own convenience foods.
My number one trick to eating healthfully on a time crunch is to prepare ahead. Do you have a free hour or two on the weekend? If so, chop some veggies, make a batch of soup and portion it out or whip up a couple dozen burritos. It may seem like a lot of work now, but if you do the work on a day when you aren’t so swamped, you will be thanking yourself on a day when you are drowning in to-dos.
2. Skip the standards.
When you think of lunch foods, what comes to mind? Probably a lot of you thought of sandwiches and salads. Both of which can be definitely made healthfully, but are some of the most time-consuming foods to make. Think about how many different ingredients you have to pull out, chop and prepare to create a salad or sandwich. Save those for days when you have a bit more time.
3. Embrace leftovers.
I get it. Some people hate leftovers. If you are one of them, then you are going to have to accept the fact that it’ll take you a bit longer to fill up your lunch box. Leftover lovers, make sure to really use the leftover food you’ve slaved over to your advantage. Most recipes serve 4-6 people. If there are only two of you, make a full batch and then divvy the dish out on two plates for dinner and into two containers for the next day’s lunch. Not only do you automatically have a main dish for lunch, but it also keeps portion control in check. No going back for seconds when seconds are tomorrow’s lunch!
4. Organize the fridge.
How much time do you waste just searching the fridge for that container of yogurt you know is in there somewhere? Save time by getting organized! Buy foods specifically for lunches and stick them in their own totes or containers on the fridge shelf. If you are feeling particularly organized, do what we do and organize by food group. Have a container for dairy (put in single serving organic yogurts and organic string cheese), a container for veggies (single serving baggies of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes or celery sticks), and a fruit container (grapes, berries, bananas). When it is lunch-making time, simple grab one item from each container and toss in it your lunch bag. Combine those with a main dish (leftovers from the night before) that has whole grains and you have a rockin’ healthy lunch in under two minutes.
And when all else fails..
5. Buy natural and organic convenience foods.
Okay, so sometimes you just get caught up in life and need to buy convenience foods in order to eat. It happens to me, too. But when do you, please, please make sure you are paying the extra dollars to get all natural, organic convenience foods. If you are going to eat processed food, the least you can do is make sure you aren’t eating poisonous food (which is what most non-organic processed foods are). The cost can be astronomical for organic versions of soup, frozen burritos and pizzas, but hopefully you aren’t buying them enough for it to be a big problem.