Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (Part Two)

I hope you enjoyed part one of my "Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas" posts, which focused on what to pack in lunches. Today, for part two, I will discuss some of my favorite tips for packing lunches, but first.....

In my last post I asked you for some of your favorite foods to pack in lunches. Here are some of your responses;

Caitlin said; "My favorite is a grain salad (quinoa or brown rice) with a bunch of veggies thrown over lettuce or arugula." ---- YUM!

Julie said; "You need to get your paws on some bumblebee honey dijon or deli dijon BOTH (are) staples in my office" ----- Ok, so not necessarily a lunch idea, but a great condiment suggestion!

Andrea said; "I always make sure to rotate fruits, veggies, and crackers so that there is always something new and different" ---- Yes, I do this too, and it's a great way to prevent getting bored! For example, I pack kiwi sometimes, then oranges other times, or I'll pack quinoa salad one week, and brown rice with chicken another week.

Tami had a ton of great ideas; " I make huge batches of soup with tons of veggies that can be reheated and packed in a thermos to stay hot for hours. Also, chicken fried rice made healthy at home and packed in a thermos, or cheese and Akmak crackers with fruit, or cottage cheese with pineapple also packed in a thermos, or rolls ups made on flat bread, or PBJ on whole wheat bread is a great last minute item that assembles quickly." ---- Thanks Tami! I think these all sound wonderful, especially the cottage cheese and pineapple.

Kati said; I think portable is key! I always have a bar or a baggie of (high fiber) cereal packed away in my lunch because they are easy to toss in and help ensure that I get my daily fiber per serving. ---- I agree. Lunch is a perfect time to load up on some good sources of fiber!

said; "My general rule of thumb is that anything I cook has to taste good on top of greens or spaghetti squash. Lunch solved! Sometimes I prefer a more platter-style lunch though. A few dips, lots of sliced veggies, and sliced meat." ----I love the platter-style idea! Laughing Cow cheese and turkey slices maybe? Yum!

Kelly said; "My favorite lunch ideas include homemade pizza with veggies and black beans, plus pasta loaded with veggies, veggie soup and many more, I almost always put an apple with whatever I bring for "dessert" (sometimes there is also a real dessert, some chocolate)". ---- I'm a big fan of packing black beans in my lunch. And....a Beano.

Ok, now it's time for some more of my person tips!

  • Think outside of the lunch box. Does it have to be a "meal"? Or can it be a bunch of components (snacks) added together to form a meal?

Sometimes I pack leftovers or large salads, but a majority of the time my packed lunches are made of multiple "snacks", such as bags of carrots with dip, granola to put on top of yogurt, clementines, kiwi, or apples, sweet potato chips, walnuts, string cheese, etc.

  • Take advantage of leftovers. Obviously it's easy to pack up the leftovers from the night before, but what if you have leftover scrambled eggs (they make a good dinner, by the way)? Don't just pack a bowl of eggs, grab a bagel and make an egg sandwich! Get creative.

  • Do you have food that's going to go bad soon? Create a lunch from those foods. For example, I had some leafy greens in the fridge the other day, which I knew were starting to go bad, so I tossed them in a bowl with some dressing and added a pouch of tuna to my lunch box. Voila, a garden salad with tuna!

  • Make sure you pack at least one thing you are really looking forward to. Every day I look forward to my Greek yogurt with pumpkin pie spice and granola to pour on top. I have had this every day for about a year now and I still look forward to it every day. Sometimes I even throw in a piece of chocolate :) Lately I've also been looking forward to my raw fruit and nut balls.

  • Use plastic containers for easy portability, and always keep spoons, forks, napkins in the car or your office.

Some companies make containers with lids that you can put in the freezer to freeze. This way, after you put the lid on your food, your food stays cold for a longer period of time. The bowl below even has a little compartment for salad dressing. These containers are from Fit & Fresh (and I did not get paid to put them on my blog!).

  • Take ten minutes the night before to prepare lunch for the next day. Many people say they don't have time to prepare lunch every day. But, you do have ten minutes. Or, better yet, take an hour on one of your days off and prepare your lunch components for the week. Another option is to just write out a list of what you plan on having in your lunch each day for the upcoming week, and hang it on your fridge or put it in your planner. Sometimes if it's written on paper and planned out, you are more likely to actually pack it.

On my days off I take about 45-60 minutes to prepare components for my lunches for the next week. In the picture above you'll see my bags of carrots and containers of yogurt. I also prepare containers with some type of cooked vegetable.

What's your one best tip for preparing a tasty, portable, healthy lunch?


  1. I'm the same way- I pack my lunches usually on Sunday so I don't have to worry about it all week :) This week I got back from Chicago late but luckily my mom brought me some soup so that made up part of my lunch the past two days and today I'm having leftover dinner form last night.

  2. oh I agree that it makes it so easy to cook something for dinner that also goes well on top of salad greens or spaghetti squash, or a grain etc.

    Here's my tip:
    If I grab salad bar at WF, I layer so that as I eat my way down- I could save the bottom half for a balanced complete lunch the next day too. I know its not that crazy of an idea but I will put salad greens on the bottom left, and some protein in the middle (tofu or chicken) and add raw veggies on the right. Then I do another layer but switch locations so that I can have balanced portions for each. I like to have a complete lunch most of the time. I also used to start at the WF bar and just add little things of everything that looked yummy- which meant I'd eat the yummiest stuff then have all veg leftover. If you layer with the intent of creating another whole lunch, you can portion control yourself too.

    Plus you know when you checkout that the cost is for two meals so you are saving money! Well... maybe...
    What do you think RD !?

  3. I have started to make an additional meal on Sundays - I portion it out into containers and it is ready for my husband to grab. He usually takes that and a yogurt for lunch.

  4. I think the best tip for packing a healthy lunch is one you mentioned: lunch does not have to equal a prepared sandwich/salad etc. Putting together snacks like you mentioned (string cheese, yogurt, carrots, etc) make a great and surprisingly filling lunch. For someone like me who doesn't always remember to pack the night before (another good tip) having these things around to throw in my bag really helps!

    PS love how you consistently give other bloggers love in your posts - you and Laural @Being Healthier are both so awesome at that :)

  5. these were great posts! currently i'm munching a big salad with a turkey muffin and quinoa and hummus! love it. turkey muffins are a big thing for me because they're so easy to make freeze and trasnport!

  6. Great tips!!!

    I think prepping lunch/lunch components ahead of time is key to consistently packing lunches. Mornings can get quite hectic in our house, and I'm often out the door before 7. Having everything ready to put into everyone's lunch bag is essential.

    My one tip to pack a lunch: add some color with beautiful napkins, funky spoons, etc. It brightens everyone's day! :)

  7. I think your tip on the snacks as a meal is spot-on. I do that a lot. I think having CUT UP fruits and veggies on hand is key. Greek yogurt, too. Those are my staples.

  8. Think about it in advance and have everything prepped ahead of time.

  9. Great tips! I love leftovers for lunch - I always try and make a bit extra the night before and pop it in the fridge!