Packing lunch isn't just for school-aged kids. Bringing your lunch from home is a great way to ensure your lunch is healthy as well as affordable. Spending $10 per day on lunch may not seem like much, but over the course of a year those dollars can really add up. Bringing your lunch from home also allows you complete control over what you are eating including the portion size. The majority of restaurants serve oversized meals increasing the likelihood of overeating. If the idea of packing your own lunch seems too daunting a task, start simple--leftovers from the night before, a turkey sandwich or the old standby of peanut butter and jelly. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Make sure your lunch is balanced and provides a mixture of whole grains, lean protein (beans, nuts, poultry, fish, lean red meat) and fruits and/or vegetables. These foods provide protein and fiber that will help you stay full for the remainder of the work day.
- Don't be afraid to get creative! Bringing the same lunch every day can get quite boring, so don't be afraid to jazz up your selections. Try almond or cashew butter with a banana or fresh berries instead of the traditional peanut butter and jelly. Opt for hummus instead of ranch dip to accompany your favorite veggies. Bring a salad made with grilled or roasted vegetables instead of raw ones. You can even go the route of breakfast for lunch and bring cereal, hard-boiled eggs or yogurt.
- Plan ahead. On the weekends or on a weeknight when you have a little extra time, cook up some extra food. If you are making soup or chili, make extra and freeze into individual portions. This makes an easy meal you can grab out of the freezer on your way to work. Grilled chicken makes a great addition to your favorite salad or sandwich. Shred grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts over brown rice and your favorite veggies for an easy meal.
- Pack your lunch the night before, so you are not racing to get your lunch together as you are trying to head out the door to make it to work on time.
- If your office does not have a refrigerator available, make sure to add an ice bag to your lunch box to keep your food from spoiling.
- Invest in a re-usable lunch box or bag, like Aladdin's Chill Lunch Box or Reuseit's Insulated Zipper-Top Lunch Bag, as well as re-usable tupperware. This will reduce the impact paper and plastic bags have on the environment. It will also help keep your food from turning in to a big unappetizing mess before lunch hour arrives. Re-usable bags and tupperware are an initial investment, but they will save you money in the long-run.
- Encourage your co-workers to bring their lunches from home as well. You can all save money together and exchange creative lunch ideas to help keep you on track.
Now that I've shared some of my favorite tips, I'd love to hear some of your favorite foods to pack for lunch.