"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

25 May 2015

Healthy, Easy Work Lunches

Do you work outside the home and have a small window of time for lunch like me?

I'm in a public school where I only get a 30 minute lunch so I don't have time to drive through my suburban neighborhood to eat lunch out.....nor do I have the money in my budget to do that! Plus, the time allowed wouldn't let me go to the healthier/more nutritious lunch spots.  I don't do fast food. My supervisor gives me 45 minutes for lunch this year as I don't have time in the classroom schedule to get my 15 min morning break.  But the 45 minutes still doesn't really leave me time to go out for lunch.....even if I had the money!

image courtesy of vera bradley website
This is the pattern my teen daughter has....
mine is the same only in a different color pattern

So...I've learned to pack a healthy lunch that is super easy to prepare the night before and I carry it in this kind of insulated bag.  I also add a small icepack in the inner pocket.  You can find the bags here.  I bought my lunch tote for less than $15 at one of their online sales!  Or buy any insulated lunch bag/tote...doesn't have to be a name brand...any convenience or drug store carries them! The trick is to buy one with a pocket for an ice-pack...I buy the skinny packs.  I also buy the new plastic containers with lids that are also icepacks....just pop the lid in the freezer the night before!

Here are some lunch choices I bring.  I only bring sandwiches once a week.  I'm not really into sandwiches unless I'm at a super good deli and someone else is making it for me! 

I prepare my entire lunch the evening before the work day.  I keep everything in the fridge that needs to stay cold and keep the other items packed in the tote sitting on the  counter until morning.  Once I've had my first cup of coffee (around 5:45 a.m.),  I pack up the tote, place it in my car or near the door, and voila...I'm all set to dash out the door at 7:30!

 I will start with what I bring when it is sandwich day...I do this the evening before.  It is important to be organized and purposeful about packing a healthy lunch!

  • Roasted thin trim deli turkey, low sodium on whole grain flaxseed bread.  I lightly toast the bread and spread spicy brown mustard on each side.  I layer thin sliced cheddar cheese with 2 pieces of turkey.  I then top it with romaine lettuce or several leaves of baby spinach. I slice a tomato and place in a baggie to add to the sandwich once I get to work. I despise soggy sandwiches!  After I add the lettuce/spinach, I slice cucumbers and add about 4 slices on top of the lettuce.  I also add thinly sliced red onion.  I put the sandwich in a baggie and place in fridge. I then place an apple, pear, or nectarine in the tote, along with this kind of granola bar.   I also add either cut up watermelon or cantaloupe in a small plastic container and keep in fridge until morning.  I like to  bring 2 kinds of fruit to work...one for eating when the students have a snack in the morning, and one for lunch or after work if running errands.  I also pack my CamelBak of water with lemon slices.  I sometime will pack this kind of iced tea.  I like it in blueberry-pom or raspberry.  I buy it at our local grocery store.  NOTE:  during the winter, when tomatoes are not that good here in eastern NY, I add slices of a granny smith apple to the sandwich.
For all the other lunch days (4), I do one of the following:

  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (about 1/4 c.); snack baggie of rice or flaxseed crackers; snack baggie of baby carrots, fresh peapods, sliced cucumbers, green pepper sticks; granola mix of this cereal with lightly salted almonds; low sugar non fat Mixed Berry or Coconut Greek yogurt (this is my fave as well as this); the Kind protein bar and a piece of fresh fruit (apple, red pear, red grapes, watermelon, orange, nectarine, cantaloupe, blackberries and blueberries).  IF I pack grapes or berries, I tend to pack about one cup in a plastic container.
NOTE:  stock up on the small plastic lunch containers that sell near the foil, plastic wrap in most grocery stores.  I bought a package of 6 small containers and they are wonderful because they are reusable!!  Just wash them out when doing the dinner dishes!  Pack plastic forks and spoons and re-use those, too!!

  • Pasta Salad:  Sometimes we have leftovers and one of the things I love to take to lunch as a leftover is pasta salad.  I usually bring about one cup with flaxseed crackers (about 6-8). I always have a protein bar OR 100 calorie pack of walnuts/almonds.  I always have some kind of fruit.

  • Veggie or Ham/Veggie Wrap:  another great lunch choice is a wrap!  I take the small size tortillas (either whole grain or plain, sometimes a spinach wrap) and place rolled low sodium, low fat deli, thinly sliced baked ham (or turkey) on it along with baby spinach or chopped romaine lettuce, chopped red peppers, chopped green peppers, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber, shredded cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese, and drizzle the whole thing with lite raspberry-walnut dressing.  I actually pack a super small container of dressing and add the dressing to the wrap once I'm at lunch.  Simply roll the wrap the night before and wrap it in plastic wrap!  I typically pack some of these chips (no more than a half cup), along with fruit and a protein bar OR the Greek yogurt/granola like mentioned above.

  • Almond butter or Sunflower Butter Sandwich or in a cup (plastic container, about a half cup serving) with crackers and veggie sticks to dip.  Greek Yogurt/granola, a protein bar, and fruit.

  • Leftovers like bison chili, bison sloppy joes, chicken-barley soup.  When I pack soup, I always have some kind of whole grain cracker (about a half cup) and the fruit and/or granola bar/protein bar.  I always have those little packets of walnuts/almonds in my tote in case I am out of the Kind bars.

  • Hard-boiled egg.  Sometimes, if I haven't had an egg all week, I will bring a hard-boiled egg to work, already peeled and placed in a small baggie.  I eat the egg with a piece of flaxseed or whole grain/multi grain bread spread with Sunflower butter.  I also bring an apple ( I prefer Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady or Empires), or Red Pear. In the late spring and early autumn months, I tend to bring lots of various melons and berries.  I do a berry mix of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries with a small (1/4 c.) container of Nutella for dipping.  It's a good lunch that is filling!

  • TUNA FISH:  Sometimes I make up tuna salad (white albacore tuna packed in water and drained; mixed with olive oil mayo, garlic flakes, chopped red onion, basil, oregano.  I put about a half cup in a small container and also pack the flaxseed crackers, or low sodium wheat thins, or other multi-grain crackers.  I add chunks of cheddar cheese, the Greek Yogurt, and fruit.  

  • TOSSED SALAD:  I have a container that holds about a 1 1/2 c of salad.  I make a lot of salads during the week for dinner and we always seem to have at least enough for 1-2 people to have as leftovers.  I like to use romaine lettuce mixed with fresh baby spinach.  I also sometimes use arugula or leafy green lettuce.  I put all kinds of good things in my salads:  tomatoes, cukes, peppers (red, yellow, orange, green...whatever I have in the fridge!), scallions, or red onion, shredded carrots, fresh pea pods, a cup of black beans, or a cup of chickpeas.  Be creative!!  Pack the light salad dressing of your choice separately.  I like the light bacon and ranch, raspberry-walnut, or creamy vidalia onion/peppercorn.  I also sometimes add pine nuts or sunflower seeds to my salads.  I almost always add walnuts. If I bring Salad, I also bring yogurt/granola, a piece of fruit and a protein bar.

  • Lean Cuisine Garlic and Chicken Spring Rolls.  I keep these on hand if I'm running low on the more whole/fresh foods.  These keep in the freezer and come 3 in a pack.  There are 2 packs per box.  I will sometimes put a pack in my lunch along with the yogurt and protein bar and fruit.  BUT..these are not the healthiest choice.  They are in a pinch for the days I need to get to the grocery store!!

Any kind of leftovers like a pasta dish you made the night before, or a veggie dish, works well for lunches.  Once in a great while, I will have a veggie frittata for dinner and we always have at least 1-2 slices left over.  I just put a slice in a flat plastic Rubbermaid container and add the other lunch items.  

The trick to packing your self a healthy lunch is to be organized!

Stock your cupboard with healthy choices like the ones mentioned above.
I tend to like the Kind protein bars because they are the lowest in sugar that I have found in my area.  I buy the Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt ones in a box from Target (lowest prices in my area).  That way, I am getting my chocolate craving for the day without succumbing to the baked goods I have in the house for the other members of my family!  Once in a while I will treat my self to a home baked brownie but these days it is rare that I bring those kinds of foods to work.

Buy a few plastic containers to save on using baggies.  I just re-use plastic-ware....it only takes a few minutes to wash them.

I always use a CamelBak now as do my daughters....buying water bottles is a waste of money and not good for our environment!  If you  don't like the CamelBaks, just buy any kind of water bottle that is re-usable.  My oldest daughter actually likes her Nalprene.

Keep fresh lemons, apples, limes, oranges on hand.  Add lemon, lime, or orange slices to your bottled water...they act as a de-toxifying ingredient and helps to ward off bloating!  Plus, it makes drinking water more interesting.  In the summer I add fresh raspberries to my water...YUMMY!

Things to keep on hand for lunches:
Peanut butter (if you eat that)
Sunflower Butter
Almond Butter
 Hummus of your fave flavor...I prefer the spinach/artichoke or red pepper
Flaxseed or multi-grain crackers
low sodium Ritz crackers
soup crackers
tuna fish packed in water
canned salmon
fresh veggies like carrots, peapods, baby spinach, celery, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, avocado
fresh fruits like melons, berries, bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit
cage-free, antibiotic free/hormone free eggs 
unsweetened iced tea
brita filter for water
whole grain, multi-grain, or flax-seed bread
non fat Greek yogurt (or whatever your fave yogurt is)
granola in low-fat, low sugar.
lightly salted or salt free almonds 
chopped walnuts
Kind bars or granola/protein bars of your choice
low sodium chicken broth for making homemade soups
cans of diced tomatoes, low sodium for adding to soups
fave deli meat, thinly sliced and ask for low-sodium options.

I hope this gives you some great ideas of what to pack for work lunches!!  I did this post based on a co-worker and her questions about healthier food options and from my friend Diane who had a FB question posted about lunch ideas other than sandwiches.  

What is YOUR favorite thing to bring to lunch??


Melanie said...

Thanks, Faith for all the lunch tips. I no longer work outside the home but these are wonderful ideas for lunch at home too.

Susanne said...

Working from home my temptation is to always be snacking and over eating. Usually, depending on what it is, I just eat whatever I'm making the dayhome kids.

Deb said...

Great ideas! I always struggle with what to take to school for lunch. I have a little longer than you do and I have a small fridge in my classroom, but still left overs can get old (literally) and boring and I am always looking for new and "fresh" ideas. You have given me some good ones! I need to revisit this before school starts again for me at the end of summer. Enjoy the week ahead!

Simply Linda said...

Thanks Faith-I carry my lunch to school. I rather do that than buy lunch, every once in awhile, I will get a smoothie. Blessings

Melanie Lopata said...

Such wonderful tips!! Thank you!! Joe and I went shopping tonight to look for healthy stuff for me to eat that won't bother my IBS or GERD. I think we did pretty well but I LOVE THIS POST!!!! Got a lot of great ideas and tips :)