Lunch Box Rescue

Stuck in a lunch time lull? Consider a midday meal makeover inspired by a healthier version of a fun classic….the lunch box!

The Situation:

The clock has finally reached noon and you are more than ready to eat. You’re committed to eating smart today and making healthy decisions. But then, you realize that you’ve been eating the same lunch all week and suddenly, the chicken breast and broccoli that you enjoyed three days in a row just seems lackluster. That invitation earlier to join the group for Mexican seems pretty good right about now. Have they left yet? Maybe you can still catch them!

The Solution:

How about a quick, customizable, budget-friendly, no microwave required, make-ahead option? It’s easier than you think! Just follow these steps to create a grown-up, more sophisticated version of the classic meat and crackers box-style lunch. Ready to give it a try?

Step 1: Pack in the veggies! Steer towards non-starchy varieties and opt for an array of colors. Options in this category should make up around half of your box.

Examples:
Bell peppers
Broccoli
Radishes
Celery
Spinach
Zucchini
Tomatoes
Snow peas
Turnips
Asparagus

 

Step 2: Pick out your protein(s). Choose good quality options that can also be enjoyed cold.  

Examples:
Mini meatballs
Salmon
Hard boiled eggs
Chicken breast
Tuna
Shrimp
Greek yogurt
Uncured turkey pepperoni
Tofu
Edamame

 

Step 3: Don’t forget the fat! The healthy fat that is.

Examples:
Hummus
Avocado
Walnuts
Nut butter
Olives
Shredded coconut
Pumpkin seeds

 

Step 4: Make the call on your zinger, an optional item that adds a bit of fun but still keeps you on track!

Examples:
Blueberries
Roasted chickpeas
Kale chips
Orange slices
Dark chocolate
Cheese wedge

 

Important considerations:

On choosing a box:
Look for divided spaces to keep wet foods separate and consider lids for items that might tip or spill. Consider how you’ll keep it cold, how much storage space it takes up, whether the compartments are interchangeable with other units and durability.

Before you leave the house:
Be sure to pack silverware, napkins and any other tools or condiments you may need.

On deciding what goes inside:
Add in some spice — figuratively and literally! Try paprika on cucumbers, cumin on pepper rings, or garlic powder on broccoli. Use cookie cutters to create shapes, make patterns with different-colored foods, experiment with different fillings for “stuffable” foods like hard-boiled egg whites and mushroom caps, or cut fruit and veggies in a non-standard way, like kiwi wedges and carrot cubes.

 

Give your lunch some drama and come up with a theme, or try one of ours:

“Better Than a PB & J”

Plain low-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon
Celery ribs lightly filled with PB
Cucumber slices
Raspberry Chia Pods

“South of the Border Box”

Roma tomatoes
Quinoa stuffed mini roasted peppers
Leftover chicken breast
Monterey Jack Cheese

“Fish ‘n Chips ‘n Greens”

Baby spinach
Jicama spears with lime juice, chili powder, and parsley
Tuna patties
Diced apples with mint and lemon juice

 

My hope is that the 10 minutes you’ve spent reading this has resulted in a spark to create a new, well-balanced meal you can be proud of. Be the kid at the table that everyone wants to trade lunch with!

 


Becky is a Health Coach originally from upstate New York, currently living in North Carolina. She is a registered nurse with a background in long-term care, as well as nutrition and preventative medicine. She has a BS in Biology and a MA in Health Studies. Aside from staying busy as a mom to two active kids, she enjoys experimenting with healthy recipe substitutions, soaking in the beauty of the great outdoors, and feeding her addiction to Zumba.