Let’s Get Real About Brown Bag Lunches. They Are Not All That Glamorous!
Brown bag lunches are the best bet if you want to have control over what you eat and save money. Most of the time, figuring out what you’re going to put in the bag isn’t the problem. It’s shopping, preparing and pulling it all together that’s a challenge.
I’ve looked at a lot of recipes for healthy lunches. They offer great ideas and the pictures look like something I would love to have for lunch. The truth is, most of them aren’t realistic.
What’s On Hand For The Last Minute Toss-In At Your House?
If you’re like me you end up throwing everything in the bag at the last minute so ultimately, what’s important is what’s available for the toss-in.
If you are able to make a gourmet-style lunch the night before go for it, but most people don’t have the time or energy at the end of the day to go to that effort.
Here’s a list of grocery items to have on hand that may not give you a lunch that looks like it came off of the set of the Food Network, but will supply plenty of nutrition and keep you satisfied throughout the day.
- Boneless chicken breasts or thighs, seasoned, baked or broiled. I buy a bag of frozen breasts or thighs each week, cook them and have them ready to toss on salad greens or pasta.
- Tuna – my favorite is from Aldi – I buy the chunk white tuna in zesty lemon pepper. Only 60 calories per package. Again, this can be put on top of salad greens or pasta.
- Whole grain pasta or brown rice cooked and tossed with olive oil, garlic, pepper and a dash of salt. Cook a batch and have it ready to re-heat with the chicken or tuna.
Salad greens – Again, I’m an Aldi fan. Every week I buy the Artisan lettuce mix. Some weeks it is on sale for $.99. It is unbelievably fresh and nutritious. You can toss it with other veggies and put with the tuna or chicken with low-fat dressing for a complete meal.
- Whole-wheat pita bread or tortillas. I always have a package in the fridge. You have so many options with both of these whole grain products. My latest infatuation is the whole -wheat pita with peanut butter. I’ll have this for lunch with a salad and a piece of fruit. Or, you can put the salad and chicken in the whole-wheat wrap for a real treat. Which brings me to my next item.
- Fruits and veggies – all varieties. Trust me on this one. If you toss an apple and a banana in your lunch bag instead of chips and a fruit bar, you’ll eat the (real) fruit and be way ahead of the game nutritionally. Remember, the trick here is that you will eat what you take, not what you left at home in the cupboard.
- Boiled eggs. This item came up on the Healthy Breakfast In A Hurry blog and I think it is worth mentioning again. They can be tossed with the salad, mixed with the tuna, or eaten on the side of pita and peanut butter. You can’t go wrong with a boiled egg. You get the protein you need to head off the afternoon munchies.
- Almonds – a few whole, natural almonds make a great ‘side dish’ to any lunch.
This eating ‘style’ may not be for everyone so I started thinking about why I do it this way. It’s very similar to the way I dress. I always buy basic clothes that I can mix and match then dress the outfits up with scarves, jewelry, and shoes. This comes from years of having three children to get dressed, fed and to school and myself to work. I’ve never had a lot of time for frills, but we all always got where we needed to be pressed and dressed and on time.
If you make a list of these ingredients you’ll have whole foods that you can mix and match for lunch options that provide nutrition without a lot of calories. It’s what I call low-maintenance, high-nutrition lunching.
The goal is to stay away from ‘fast’ foods that might be easy to grab but don’t provide your body with the vitamins and minerals you need to be as healthy as you can be. Whole foods will eliminate afternoon cravings and help you stay in control of your snacking.
Part three of the 3 Part Series . . . . . Snacking can be good for you too! Stay tuned.