Lunchtime has a funny way of springing up. Some days it arises slowly, teasing you throughout the morning, distracting you from office work, but in a barely noticeable way. Then there’s those other days; I’m sure you know the ones I’m speaking of. Those days where lunchtime barges into important meetings, unannounced, demanding immediate attention by grabbing you with its ravenous growl. The days where it rudely interrupts phone calls and cuts lines of patiently waiting clients. It has a way of taking over your head, making your mind become unfocused and easily irritated. You can’t put it on hold or move it down on the to-do list; it needs immediate addressing.
If you’re like most people you immediately run to the nearest food stand as soon as lunch break begins. You probably have a ‘usual’ by now and it’s likely they’ll know it. In fact, your falafel (or, if you’re a “healthy person” as my friends call me, then salad) may even be pre-made, waiting only for you to swipe your credit card and continue on your merry way.
But is this really a healthy way to eat on a day to day basis? Of course there’s room to eat out the “smart” way – I’m not saying that salad isn’t a healthy option and all. But do you really know how much oil is on the “natural” sweet potatoes or how many grams of sugar are in the balsamic vinaigrette your “healthy” salad is dressed in? What about the salt content of the roasted vegetables, or the artificial chemicals and preservatives in the “light” veggie tuna? Portion control goes out the window, and I won’t even bring up how much money this is costing you…
Packing your own lunch is a great idea. Not only will it save you tons of money, but you’ll also be able to know exactly what ingredients are entering your body.
Here’s how to do it:
Step One: Start the Night Before
I cannot emphasize this step enough. Finding time to do anything pre-work is close to impossible which is why planning in advance is essential. You don’t want lunch to become an afterthought. Taking ten minutes in the evening to plan your meal for the next day can have a great impact on your health and your wallet. You can even prep lunch containers for several days and store them in the fridge for easy grab-and-go.
Step Two: What Are You In the Mood For?
Are you craving a soft sandwich or would you prefer a crisp salad? There are ways to pack both of these (and more!) in a balanced way.
Whatever option you decide to go with, make sure your lunchbox always contains vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Pack your lunch according to the ratio depicted below for optimal health. According to the plate model, vegetables should take up half the space on your plate and the remaining space should be divided between carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats.
Here are some examples of what a healthy lunchbox could look like:
- Tossed salad with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, carrots + tuna + brown rice cakes + extra virgin olive oil, spices and lemon
- Make a balanced stir fry: roasted vegetables + tofu + whole wheat pasta + olive oil, salt, pepper and spices
- Israeli chopped salad + grilled chicken + half of a whole wheat pita + hummus, techina or guacamole
As you can see, healthy lunchbox ideas really are endless.
In order to remember to hit all four categories, a good thing to have is a sectioned lunch container. If your lunchbox has sections, filling them up with the proper foods will soon become second nature.
Step Three: Almost Done!
Now that you’ve decided on what you’re going to bring for lunch, it’s time to pack it all up. Try to package your food in a way that takes up the smallest amount of space possible. Use a small container for your dressing (you don’t want any olive oil leak emergencies…), and place everything into an insulated bag with an icepack. Throw in a fruit for later (a healthy way to satisfy that 4:00 hunger), a fork, knife, and a napkin, and you’re good to go! Place your lunch in the fridge when you get to the office. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle as well.
See, that wasn’t so bad. With advanced preparation eating healthy can be simple and fun!
What’s going into your lunchbox this week? Share your lunchbox ideas, comments, and questions below!
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Visit Dena’s blog, The Artsy Palate, for healthy recipes and advice on how to stay healthy while in seminary and beyond!
“Healthy Eating Plate & Healthy Eating Pyramid.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2011. Web. 16 July 2016. <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/>