Packing Healthy Lunches

Fun healthy lunch discussion in un momento, but first we must cover lunch!

On today’s plate:

Thursday Lunch

  • Muenster cheese + raspberry jelly bagelwich
  • Baby bell peppers
  • Unpictured chicken leg nabbed from a leftover lunch event in the break room

Served on the side was some leftover birthday cake from the work fridge.

Cake for Me!

Now for some lunch packin’ talk…

Packing Healthy Lunches

As you know if you follow this blog with any regularity, I pack my lunch to bring to work almost every single day. This not only saves me money, but it makes eating healthy during the work day nice and simple and makes avoiding greasy downtown restaurant fare much easier.

Packing my lunch typically takes me no more than five minutes. I try to pack my lunch the night before while dinner is cooking. Multitasking at its finest!

When I pack my lunch, I go through a similar process each time:

  • Select a vegetable. If I’m enjoying a salad, this is simple, but if I’m not, I make it a point to pack some kind of a vegetable (or two!) to enjoy alongside a sandwich or wrap. Carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, cucumber or bell pepper slices are often my go-to veggies when I’m looking for a side of something nutritious because they taste good raw and are easy finger-foods. I also love dressing up raw slices of yellow squash or zucchini with Italian dressing for a little extra flavor.

Veggie Packed!

  • Select a source of protein. It’s no secret that protein helps increase feelings of fullness, so I try to make sure my meals include some kind of protein, whether it be in the form of lean meats, cheese (my personal favorite), Greek yogurt, beans, whole grains or tempeh.

Tuna Salad

  • Select a carb. This part is usually quite easy, as I am a big fan of sandwiches, bagelwiches, wraps and English muffin pizzas for lunch. I always try to include some kind of a whole-grain carbohydrate with my meals because they help me feel full much faster than any other food, even if that feeling dissipates quicker for me than the feeling of satiety caused by protein, fiber and fats.

Whole Wheat Bagel with Peanut Butter, Peaches and Chia Seeds

  • Select a fat. Adding fat to my meals can be rather tricky. I’m not as much of a stickler for this one and usually allow the addition of fat to my meals to happen naturally, whether it be in the form of an olive oil-based salad dressing or a creamy nut butter. If my lunch doesn’t have a hefty serving of fat, I don’t really worry about it because I snack on nuts, cheese and peanut butter fingers like it’s cool.

And there you have it! πŸ˜€

Of Possible Interest

And some totally random…

  • The Fashion page was updated with the pink cupcake dress info!
  • If you are a bride-to-be and are considering a Priscilla of Boston wedding dress or Priscilla of Boston bridesmaids dresses, you need to check out the amazing deal on RueLaLa today!

ο»Ώο»ΏQuestions of the Afternoon

  • What was your favorite packed lunch when you were younger?
  • What is your favorite packed lunch now?

Comments

  1. says

    Packing lunch saves a ton of money. When I used to work in Manhattan I would drop $10 easily on a lunch from a near-by deli. Your lunches always look so yummy. Those baby peppers are super cute! Do they have seeds inside like big peppers do?

      (Quote)

  2. says

    I go through a similar process as well! My lunch is not a “lunch” unless it has all 4: wholegraincarbs, protein, veg, fat. So much more satisfying than just a few lettuce pieces!!

    As a kid I loved whole wheat bagels with tuna fish. My mom fed us healthy my entire life–I am lucky πŸ™‚

    Love your tips/ideas!!

      (Quote)

  3. says

    I love this post! I always have the hardest time trying to figure out what to bring with me for lunch! Thank you for some great ideas! πŸ™‚ I love bringing lunch because it saves me so much money! I love those peppers! I’ve never seen any that small! πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  4. says

    Your lunches always look great! I get to go home for lunch every day, so I normally try to accomplish the same things! I love when my plate looks fresh and pretty πŸ™‚ Sometimes that doesn’t always happen though…

    My favorite lunch is normally a turkey sandwich with mustard, cheese and lettuce and then cottage cheese on the side! Thats what I had today!!

      (Quote)

  5. says

    I have a pretty similar process as you when selecting my lunch, and am also a huge fan of packing it the night before!

    My fave packed lunch all through elementary school was PB+J!!! I think I had peanut butter and jam sandwiches nearly every day for like 10 years :). I don’t know what I’d eat if I was in school now with all the peanut allergies!

    I still love a good PB&J sammy, but my fave packed lunch these days is a GIANT and filling salad beast. Yumballs.

      (Quote)

  6. says

    I always had school lunch when I was growing up but on rare occasions that we did have to bring a lunch for a field trip, I always had a turkey and cheese sandwich. Plain. With cherry tomatoes on the side and usually a piece of fruit.

    My nana used to make me butter sandwiches after school because I refused to eat PB&J.

    Now I usually bring some kind of wrap, a veggie burger, a big salad, or leftovers from dinner to work. I rarely eat out!

    The tip about packing your lunch the night before is pretty much the best tip EVER. If I wait until the morning, I’m always rushed and end up with the weirdest lunches ever!

      (Quote)

  7. Heather says

    My go to lunch is a veggie flatbread pizza! Flatbread, sauce, lots of veggies, & cheese! I eat like about 4 times a week!!

      (Quote)

  8. says

    my bf and I recently started buying good bread (either from the farmers market or whole foods) and it is revolutionizing my lunches. the other day I made a turkey pesto mozzerella sandwich that was to die for.

      (Quote)

  9. says

    thats how i do my lunches too!!! sometimes i add a fruit as well! but i LOVEEEE FATS.. i eat such crazy amount.. avocado, nuts, nut butters.. ALL DAY LONG!

      (Quote)

  10. says

    Great post, I love seeing your healthy lunches!

    I actually use lunch as a time when I try to get the most veggies in out of all three meals. Therefore, I center my meal around veggies (i.e. big green salad and then have a little something extra (cheese, avocado, hummus and/or, pita, etc.)

    That way I don’t have to worry as much about dinner! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing!

      (Quote)

  11. says

    I use the same process! My go-to is either a cut-up red bell pepper and a few grape tomatoes, a giant cucumber that I can slice up at work if I’m short of time, or lightning-fast salad of bagged mixed greens, tomato and cukes.

    Easy peasy!

    A whole wheat english muffin + cheese and avocado is another quickie choice. If I have to go out for lunch, I’ll usually order a Jimmy John’s #12 unwich πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  12. says

    When I was younger – I was all about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on white bread. gasp!)! And goldfish.. and Ssips Iced-Tea juice back. Oh the memories.
    Now I still love my sandwiches – but I use Ezikel Bread w/ turkey and mustard… carrot sticks, an apple, and some wheat crackers.

      (Quote)

  13. says

    Such great tips on how to easily pack a lunch! I always pack mine the night before during dinner prerpartins as well… it makes it seem so easy (well, I guess it is)…it’s a no-brainer now! And saves time πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  14. Kelly says

    OMG that is a killer deal for Priscilla of Boston!! Would have loved to taken them up on that offer but I already purchased my dress. That boutique and their dresses are so amazing!!!!!

      (Quote)

  15. Bethany says

    I don’t know if this counts as a “favorite” lunch, but every single day I bring the same thing to work: turkey/lettuce/cucumber/cheddar cheese sandwich on whole wheat sandwich thin, baby carrots and celery, and an apple. I also bring along a serving of whatever Trader Joe’s trail mix I have open at the moment and snack on that throughout the afternoon because IT IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. Ugh. So much love.

    Also, your paper plate usage totally made me think of the opinion column in this morning’s Red Eye: http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/ct-red-0428-column-bazer-20110427,0,1341601.story

      (Quote)

  16. says

    Good tips πŸ™‚ I try to get all that in my lunch too. I never used to bring an extra veg as a side, but now I get hungry so quickly without! When I was younger I love love loved tuna sandwiches… like, I had them everyday. I haven’t had one in yeeeears now cos I definitely OD’d!
    My favourite lunch of the mo are cinnamon raisin bagels with PB and wraps stuffed to the brim with anything I can find πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  17. Rachel says

    I found those little peppers a while ago at Publix too – they are so cute! I love all your lunch tips. Packing at night is definitely the biggest thing for me. I also love doing batch cooking on the weekend so that I’ve already planned my lunches ahead of time. Right now I’m really into cold salads with quinoa or barley, veggies, beans, and an olive oil & lemon juice dressing…yumm and so filling.

      (Quote)

  18. says

    I love tuna fish with celery!! It’s the best combination.

    I like that the cafeteria where I work gives us free meals. They have the best salad bar. πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  19. says

    Oooh I love this topic! My tastes have totally changed from when I was a kid. In primary school, I LOVED things like Pizza Pockets, Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, and Mr Noodles (eaten raw, because that’s what the cool kids did). Now I can’t stand the thought of any of them! My faves now are things like salads made with the things you listed above – carbs (usually quinoa, rice, couscous, barley etc), protein (tuna is my BFF, but I love edamame, chicken and tofu too!) and fat (sesame or olive oil in my dressings). Your lunches always look great!

      (Quote)

  20. says

    Great lunch packing tips. Do you have any tips on how to get it together in the morning so that one actually has TIME to pack a lunch πŸ™‚ I need to be more organized! Or maybe I just need to make more bagelwiches?

    Fave lunch as a kid: hmmmm, that is so tough! My mom was never one to let her children have junk food (boo!) but I do remember I was always psyched to have Lunchables. I loved those things. I felt so accomplished as I placed the crackers, cheese and turkey together – like a little child chef hehe.

    Fave lunch now: any giant salad packed with lots of fruits, veggies and proteins. Nothing makes me happier than a fresh salad for lunch.

      (Quote)

  21. says

    My favorite lunch was PBJ (believe it or not, I used to like 75% jelly on my sandiwch….that changed!) with cheddar goldfish and milk. SO GOOD..I still love it though…lol.. Now, I do a similar process that you do… find a protein, whole wheat carb, & veggie….and then pack like 4 other snacks to get me through the day! I work in Manhattan and I’ve spent up to $15 for lunch and felt half as full as I do when I bring my own!

    PS..LOVE the Yoana dress. I worked at a boutique a few years ago and we sold it in every color and sold out every time we re-ordered it! So sad I never got myself one, but she re did the cut in future seasons so maybe it will come back! πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  22. says

    I am a sandwich lover…always have been always will be. I loved sandwiches for kid lunches and I love them now!! haha!

    But I do remember on the rare occasion when my mom would let us have hot pockets…the pepperoni pizza flavor was my favorite!!

      (Quote)

  23. Holly @ The Runny Egg says

    When I was younger I loved Lunchables!!! I only got one once per week, but I just loved them. Now I like a salad + sandwich or sandwich + soup or leftovers from the night before.

      (Quote)

  24. says

    I was a little too excited when I read the headline and saw CAKE! I thought “Yes cake for lunch!”

    Then I read the post a little more and understood πŸ˜›

      (Quote)

  25. says

    Thank you for this post! (and for all the comments with even more great ideas). I definitely need to spruce up my lunches quite a bit. I usually either have a salad with greens, olives, tomatoes, and onions or a tuna salad sandwich. I’ve been getting kind of tired of both, and never thought of bringing a veggie for the side! (I always had the standard sandwich + potato chips + cookies kind of lunch growing up so veggies with lunch is a foreign concept to me LOL). I’m definitely not getting enough servings of veggies as it is, though, and bringing them for lunch should help me out with that! I also need to try bagel thins…I pass them at the grocery store and seriously think of this blog everytime haha

      (Quote)

  26. says

    I’m a huge creature of habbit so most days my lunch consists of a small chicken breast seasoned with Cajun seasoning & hot sauce πŸ˜‰ + either mashed cauliflowers or roasted veggies. For my snacks I usually have a fruit + almonds in the morning, and then a larabar in the afternoon or some carrots & hummus.

    I cannot imagine eating out every day for lunch…. so much $$$$ !

      (Quote)

  27. says

    I think you pack the best lunches. You always seem tp pack in the veggies. I like small cold lunches so sometimes they lack veggies since I am not a huge salad fan. I usually go for yogurts, parfaits, fresh fruit, smoothies and such things. I need to get better about that though!

      (Quote)

  28. says

    I used to bring some kind of Lean Cuisine for lunch every day and you’ve inspired me to take a couple (literally a couple) of minutes each evening to pack a fresh lunch. I love having variety in my lunches–salad one day, sandwich another, etc. My fav lunch lately has been a muenster and apple quesadilla with the rest of the apple on the side. So yum!

    When I was a kid, I loved bologna and ketchup sandwiches. Guess I’ve come a long way! πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  29. says

    I really love overnight oats as an easily packable lunch. I keep old glass PB jars to store them in, then just throw all the ingredients in and put it in my schoolbag. It’s good because you can make them super dense, so along with a piece of fruit it’s a complete meal!!

      (Quote)

  30. says

    i love those little peppers stuffed with laughing cow cheese. It makes the best snack!

    When I was younger, my dad would make us fluffernutter sandwiches every day. All the kids though it was so gross. lol. Now I love HUGE salads–roasted beets, kale, avocado and lemon tahini dressing is my current fave. Or a wrap and carrot sticks.

      (Quote)

  31. Abby says

    My favorite packed lunch as a kid was a PB&J of course. lol. Now I usually take leftovers of dinner from the night before. I try and do the same thing as you by incorporating a veggie, protein, and whole grain source.

      (Quote)

  32. says

    mmm for my lunches i always have a fruit, a vegetable, yogurt, a side (of crackers/tortilla chips/trail mix/granola bar/etc) and a main dish that might include protein or carbs or what not…sometimes its a salad or a sandwich or leftovers from dinner. then i eat one of those things as a snack and the rest as my lunch πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  33. says

    I don’t remember what I had when I was a kid, but in high school I never packed my lunch. My favorite was a bagel dipped in cream cheese and hot nacho cheese, a bag of Doritos and a Fudge Round. Thank God for sports and my mother making me eat healthy at home πŸ™‚

    Now I usually pack some combination of salad, soup, sandwich.. or leftovers from dinner the night before. That’s usually the easiest lunch, leftovers.

      (Quote)

  34. says

    As a youngster, I enjoyed a butter (yes, only butter!) sandwich and a container of shredded cheese, which was eaten with a spoon, on the side for my lunches. It’s crazy what we like as kids!

      (Quote)

  35. Karen says

    I had the same lunch as you except I had a yellow pepper with grape tomatoes and no b-day cake…BUMMER!!
    My favorite when I was younger was pb&j or a cheese sandwich. Now, I am still loving cheese sandwiches but add in some raspberry jelly (Thanks, Julie!! :)) or a salad with a side of greek yogurt.

      (Quote)

  36. Joanna says

    I brought a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with pretzels for lunch every day & was never even open to the thought of bringing something else. It may or may not have been somewhat of an addiction :O)

      (Quote)

  37. says

    I love brown bag lunches! My favorite lunch as a kid was left over pizza slices, sandwiched together so that the crusts were on the outside. Now I have grown up lunches, that usually involve a stirfry of rando ingredients (altho i still have the odd Pizza sandwich) . I’m too lazy to make my lunch every evening, so I make a big batch of strifry on the weekend and pack all of my lunches at the start of the week.

      (Quote)

  38. Karina says

    I always had PB&J with chocolate milk as a kid (and probably some Doritos or something nice and processed on the side). Now I love PB & banana wraps or sandwiches (on Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread- it’s the best). I wish I liked raw peppers too!!

      (Quote)

  39. says

    My favourite lunchs are “random” salads. I make them themed, Italian, French or Mexican based the ingredients that I have in my fridge.

    I add meat/fish for protein, a potato/sweet potato for a starch and avocado or nuts for fat.

      (Quote)

  40. says

    When I was younger, I hated packed lunches. I was such a hot lunch kind of girl. Which makes me want to barf now.

    I go through a similar process while packing lunch. I usually bring leftovers, but if not I’ll do the same thing!

      (Quote)

  41. Shelby says

    Mmmm those baby peppers are delicious! When I was younger, my go to lunch was a jelly and butter sandwich and I would always have it with yogurt, a banana and a capri sun of course! Now, I usually keep it simple with some sort of protein, whole grains, veggies and a piece of fruit for a little something sweet!

      (Quote)

  42. Julia K. says

    I also like packing lunches from home. Sometimes we just don’t know what goes into the foods we get outside, so I would rather be safe than sorry. I also bought baby bell peppers today from costco, but seriously, your baby bell peppers look HUGE! LOL!
    I never got packed lunches from home, so I usually ate lunch from school. I loved the school lunch pizza and the huge pb&jelly sammys from school! Back then lunch was only a $1.00! My go to lunch these days are Dr Praeger’s veggie burgers on a thomas thin bagel with veggies on the side! πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  43. Shayla says

    When I was younger I was so weird about lunchtime foods, I absolutely hated them all, so lunch was definitely my least favorite meal of the day. I absolutely hated sandwiches, deli meats, tuna, salads, you name it, so all I ate everyday was a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter. That’s it! Everyday until I graduated high school, how sad is that?! Although in high school I also indulged in pizza and McDonald’s served in our cafeteria, it’s embarrassing to think about how awful my diet was then! Now I absolutely love lunch time!! I love love salads, Greek yogurt, sandwiches, basically everything I hated before I now love!! πŸ™‚

      (Quote)

  44. says

    I get in major food phases. One of my favorite lunches to pack is a chicken breast with broccoli, brown rice and sweet chili sauce. I can make a whole pot of rice and several chicken breasts and have several lunches during the week. The chicken and rice combo keeps me full and I love sweet chili sauce on anything, I would eat it with a spoon.

      (Quote)

  45. Carissa says

    So this is very twilght-zoney so I thought I’d share. I wrote on my blog today about a peach smoothie I made and I used a Christopher Walken cow bell reference only to read about an hour later your breakfast post and there was MORE COW BELL! Craziness!

      (Quote)

  46. Summer says

    I love to pack my lunch as well. It saves a ton of money and leaves me feeling energized and ready to take on the rest of my day rather than feeling over weighed down by take out food. I have been using a bento box from Laptop Lunches which is great! In addition to offering a great product, they also have a full menu library dedicated to lunch meal ideas as well as a weekly rss feed. You should check it out at: http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/.

      (Quote)

  47. Mel says

    We buy those little peppers…they are the BESTTT.

    My rules for packing lunches are that I usually like to combine my veggies and protein in one aspect (salad, soup, occasional sandwich) and bring a side of nuts and fruit or raisins (carbs/sugar/deliciousness). It’s been doing my right for a few months now!

      (Quote)

  48. says

    My mom used to put loads of pb and jelly on my sandwiches when I was a kid so by lunch time it was all soggy. Sounds gross I know, but I loved it. Now my lunches are usually made up of a salad and whatever leftovers are in the fridge to put on top.

      (Quote)

  49. Emily says

    Hi Julie!

    So I was up reading blogs last night right before bed, and in my dream, you joined my friends and I for a movie and dessert! I wanted to tell you because you were super sweet in my dream, and that’s how I imagine you to be in real life! Have a nice day!

      (Quote)

  50. says

    As a kid I loved pb and j. Today, I still pack my lunch daily…either that or eat what my students eat. I love having chicken or tuna with veggies along side pita chips and greek yogert to dip them in. I have brought everything from lunch to waffles and egg whites or oats and protein powder. I agree it saves money and keeps you healthy!!

      (Quote)

  51. says

    I pack my lunch everyday, and I kind of get tired of it. I really need to get more creative. When I was younger (well, even in high school), I didn’t like peanut butter (I do now!). I would usually bring half a strawberry jelly sandwich, grapes, and pretzels. Pretty much everyday. No wonder I was hungry by the end of the day!

      (Quote)

  52. says

    Great post! I’m usually at a loss for what to pack for lunch as I’m a high school teacher and have limited time and options during my 25-minute lunch/bathroom break/cell phone check. Thanks for the great suggestions!

      (Quote)

  53. says

    That’s exactly my method too! I like to end on a sweet so I tend to take some fruit and a piece of 70% choc to round it all up! I really look forward to my packed lunches, which helps break the monotony of the day!

      (Quote)

  54. Caroline says

    I’ve been super busy at work and therefore behind on reading your blogs! Where are my priorities!? πŸ™‚

    My go-to veggies are raw carrot sticks and broccoli, everyday! Sometimes I’ll throw in cauliflower (but I feel like it gets stinky and bad too fast) or baby zucchini.

    My bagged lunches growing up weren’t the BEST. The only good thing about it, was on EVERY single bag, Mom would write “Caroline” with a big happy face. It was so cute. But I never got the cool snacks like my friends did … Mom nevvver ever bought the GOODS: Gushers and Fruit Rollups! Is there anything better than Gushers? I don’t think so! I guess my daily PBJ sandwich (amazing) kinda made up for the lack of fruit snacks πŸ™‚

    I pack my lunch everyday for work now as well. It’s usually the same thing a lot, just rotated; turkey wrap (La Tortilla Factory WW wrap + turkey + lettuce + avocado + 1/2 YAM + garlic herb Laughing Cow cheese). Don’t judge the yam! I’m a major sweet tooth and adding the yam gives it a sweet mushy kick! LOVE IT. Or sometimes I’ll have cold spaghetti squash + marinara sauce + green onion + salmon (my fave). When it was Lent, each Friday I’d have the yummiest sandwich: Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel bread + yam + PB + chia seeds + banana! SO yummy.

    Anyways, I gotta wrap this up so I can read the other blogs you’ve posted since this one πŸ™‚ Haha … HAPPY FRIDAY GIRL!

      (Quote)

  55. Amber K says

    I never ate packed lunches when I was a kid. It was a hot lunch for me every day! Luckily I eat lunch at home, so I don’t have to worry too much about bringing anything. Which is incredibly good for me, because I like hot lunches (a takeover from childhood?) and I hate leftovers!

      (Quote)

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *