Tired of plain-old peanut butter and jelly?
Enjoy your packed lunches again with these suggestions.
You know the many health and money-saving benefits of eating a packed lunch, but you also know they can get old after a while when you eat the same thing day after day. In the morning rush before work or school it can be easiest to just pack what’s familiar. Are you stuck in a rut of PB&J, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, or a frozen dinner tray with snacks and maybe a piece of fruit thrown in?
If you and your kids are getting tired of packed lunches, maybe it’s time to change things up a little. Here are a few simple, yummy and healthy packed lunch ideas to get you started.
Unstuck sandwiches. Forget the peanut butter and try something new. In the evening, spend a few minutes putting together a sandwich filling such as tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad. All great sources of protein, these ingredients can be mixed with low-fat mayonnaise or mashed avocado and a few spices. Store the salad in the refrigerator overnight for a quick way to make a yummy sandwich the next morning.
No more bologna and American cheese. Why not try different types of deli meat and cheese? Roasted turkey, pastrami, or roast beef paired with a slice of provolone, cheddar, or Colby Jack cheese on whole-grain bread is a great way to mix things up. Don’t forget the lettuce, tomato and pickle.
Unwrapped wraps. Trying to cut back on carbs? Get creative with a whole-grain tortilla instead of bread. What about peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, banana slices and bacon? Maybe you’d prefer a light Caesar salad with grilled chicken or deli turkey with leaf spinach, hummus and goat cheese. Other yummy options are a black bean, avocado and red onion wrap dipped in salsa or a wrap made with canned salmon, Parmesan cheese and light Caesar dressing.
Unleashed leftovers. There aren’t many lunches easier than packing up leftovers from your dinner the night before. As you prepare your dinners, plan to make extra for the following day. When dinner is over, simply divide the leftovers into single-serving portable containers to be warmed in the microwave when lunchtime rolls around. Soups, casseroles and pastas all make great leftovers for lunch.
Unconsidered sides. You’ve got your sandwich, wrap, or leftovers so what should you eat on the side? Fruits and vegetables are your healthiest bet, so make them your go-to side dish. Keep a variety of fresh produce on hand to make packing lunches quick and easy. Pack a banana, apple slices or grapes. Bring along celery or carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, pepper slices, strawberries or blueberries make great sides as well.
Unsampled snacks. Anyone wanting to eat healthy and lose weight would do well to include a few low-calorie snacks as part of their everyday diet. Rather than the typical bag of chips or cookies, think of foods that are high in protein and fiber to fill you up and give you lasting energy. A few ideas include a hard-boiled egg, nuts mixed with dried fruit, whole-grain crackers and hummus, a cheese stick, a cup of Greek yogurt, popcorn or fresh fruits and veggies.
Pack your wallet. Is packing your lunch really worth the time and effort? It depends on how much you spend on eating out compared to how much the foods you pack cost. But in most cases, packing your lunch can save you bundles. Compare a $10 lunch out to a $4 packed lunch. In one week you’ll save $30, $120 in a month, and more than $1,400 in a year.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.