Lunches don’t have to be boring or complicated just because you want to eat a healthy meal. When I first started packing my husband’s lunches I finally started really thinking about lunch meal planning. I knew if I didn’t, he would be eating Krispy Kremes© for lunch. *Pause for dramatic horror*
Though, he does still come home with Krispy Kremes every once in awhile and I occasionally lose willpower. But every time I take a bite, I remember that I like my food waaaay better, even if they do have vegan pies, that sugar tastes pretty gross to me now. For the most part, Lunch Meal Planning For Work and School Year is foolproof!
Okay, back to business! I didn’t do menus for this, but if you want menus, let me know! What I have done, is divide each category up with my philosophy on lunches. I prefer dividing my meals into a different system than a food pyramid. Instead, I use this method:
- Nutrition: Usually I’m most careful about packing protein and vegetables
- The Five tastes: Bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami (savory). I actually think I snack way less when I eat this way. I would theorize you do too! If I’ve missed one of these tastes I eat way more, like my body hasn’t been fully satisfied without each of the five. I need my salad sandwich (umami) with dill pickles (bitter and sour), but I also need a couple salted nuts (salty) to go with The Best Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies (sweet) before I feel like I’ve enjoyed my meal. Then I also want to enjoy a pure grape juice to reward myself for drinking 4 glasses of water before lunch and for the awesome benefits.
Doesn’t food sound way more fun this way? Healthier too? And strangely, you’ll find these lunches aren’t time consuming since you can mix and match. My husband says these lunches are “the highlight of my (his) day.”
Lunch Meal Planning For Work and School Year: Finger Food
The Japanese style of not using silverware is perfect for lunch and I think lunch is best served up as “snacks.” Something that you can pick up with your fingers at 11am when you need something to nibble on, something for lunch and something for that 4pm craving. Or, a lunch that your kids will enjoy eating with their friends and *gasp* trading one thing without giving away their whole lunch. The best part of snacks is it often means half assembled items, like crackers, celery, apples, and a small tub of nut butter with a plastic knife. It’s quick to prepare and easy to do the night before. Sometimes I will separate lunches into 2 bags, one that I keep in the fridge and the other on the kitchen table. That way you know you just have to grab 2 bags and go.
I also think one item to eat with a spoon or fork is deeply satisfying because you tend to eat it slowly when it’s just one thing, like a pudding or applesauce. Unless it’s a leftover dinner that you ♥love♥, in which case ignore this list, often times microwave/one-pot type meals just get choked down and you won’t even enjoy it.
So get ready for school to start and take joy in something from each of these categories! Feel free to print these graphics and use them as post-it notes for your lunch containers.
Cheese: Spreadable vegan cashew cheese or packaged cheese are really fun with crackers
Use Ezekiel Sprouted Breads for high protein bread
Bean Soups I like: Minestrone, Sweet Potato, Squash & White Bean Soup, and Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup
Protein Balls: Vanilla Orange Protein Balls or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls (doubles as something sweet)
Make a chocolate protein milk by using a fitness shakeable container like these.
I haven’t tried it yet with a shake container instead of a blender, but I bet cacao, mixed with hemp powder, maple syrup sweetened milk would be incredible for a protein on-the-go. I would do this by mixing the powder in a snack-sized plastic bags for the week. I haven’t found a protein powder that beats my homemade powder taste for a reasonable price, so let me know if you have fallen in love with a non-dairy protein powder I should know about!
Bell Peppers: Check out my How to Cut a Bell Pepper Like a Pro infographic for how to chop one up in less than a minute. This is the only vegetable my husband will eat raw! Orange, yellow and red bell peppers tend to be the sweetest and in the order listed.
Carrots: Chop them up as soon as you get home from the store and bag them for the week with a little lemon juice on them. Use meyer lemons to change up the flavor!
Fermented vegetables: Just because you don’t like cucumbers doesn’t mean pickles are off the table! My obsession lately has been kimchi and sauerkraut–something I absolutely hated until I turned about 28. You may be surprised how you start to crave these probiotic veggies once you start incorporating fermented dishes regularly. For me, I think the gateway was kombucha, but now, I can finish a whole container of this kimchi by myself in one sitting.
Grapes in a mason jar (detach from the stem so you can easily pop them in your mouth). These are my husband’s favorite fruit to have at work!
(see with a spoon or fork section for more fruit)
Try not to use drinks from concentrate, but I don’t recommend raw juices unless you have a way to keep them at a consistent cold temperature.
Apple Juice: We bought a 4-pack of glass Martinelli’s apple juice and now we recycle and refill them with the juices we like. For example, the Martinelli’s unfiltered apple juice tastes really similar to the filtered apple juice but has way more nutrition and it’s cheaper to buy a big bottle and refill the little juice containers. We also refill them with pure concord grape juice.
I like to make my sweet for the week, so make this part of your #sundaymealprep. If you don’t have time, go simple that week! Put some dried fruit in the mix instead or something store bought.
The Best Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls (doubles as a protein and takes about 10 minutes)
Coconut Macarons (I like to get mine in the raw vegan section of Whole Foods)
Black Bean Brownies
Dried Fruit: Dry your own whole persimmons for the fall…the outside develops a natural powdered sugar or buy them here.
Strawberry Chia Parfait in mason jars
Apple Pie Bites
Dark Chocolate Energy Bites
Seaweed Snacks: You could just get the little Nori packets, but I’m loving these Nori Power Sticks
Crispy chickpeas: I like these smokey ones, but you can also sweeten chickpeas with cinnamon sugar (idea from The Sneaky Chef cookbook)
Rice Balls: These can be the main course if you put things like edamame inside, I like this how-to video. I use SHORT GRAIN!!!! brown rice. Brown rice will not work if you use long grain rice since it won’t stick together. I learned way back when from a blogger (can’t remember which one!!) that Alton Brown bakes his brown rice and that works wonderfully!
Something with a spoon or fork
Anything you can put in a mason jar and eat with a spoon or fork is so pretty and luxurious but not so pretty that the boys will mind! Get creative! Mason jars aren’t just for your overnight oats. I just picked up 12 from Target for about $10, but I also frequently reuse my old jam containers.
I always have a big glass bottle of water ready in the fridge to take on-the-run. It’s this one. If you’re a mega klutz, try this one, but I love the feel and thickness of the one I use at home. If you like to flavor your water, use a wide-mouthed one like this. When you use these everyday like we do, consider it an investment in your health and an easy way to get away from plastic bottles. We just throw them in the dishwasher when we get home, fill them back up when they’re done and throw them in the fridge. They live in the fridge, not in a cabinet.