People complain to me all the time that they don’t know what to pack for lunch. The people who opt for healthier options — ones that don’t involve the cafeteria or the takeout place down the street — seem to be the most confused of all. It may seem like an overwhelming and time-consuming feat to pack a healthy lunch, but let me tell you that it’s really not. Once your lunch bag is brimming full of healthful options, you’ll no longer crave and consume empty calories — and you’ll save money, too.
But remember that packing a nutritious lunch is only easy when you have the right ingredients at home to choose from. Here are some ideas for your brown bag:
1. Make an all-bean dip loaded with heart-healthy fibre and protein. A batch of this will last throughout the week and can be tossed into a wrap or sandwich, eaten with veggies, or even placed on top of brown rice for an energy-boosting meal.
2. Whenever you make dinner during the week, whether it’s vegetarian shepherd’s pie, baked sweet potatoes, or mac and cheese, make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. You can also make a large batch of whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice to supplement several meals. You don’t need to use the microwave to heat up your leftover goodies. Those kinds of dishes will taste just fine at room temperature.
3. Keep your pantry and fridge filled whole grain breads, wraps, and crackers made from spelt, kamut, oat and barley flours in which you can stuff or top with anything from sliced avocado to fresh veggies. Or why not go with a simple favourite such as an almond butter and natural jam sandwich with sliced banana!
4. Cut up veggies and have them available in your fridge and ready to go so you can easily munch on them throughout the day. These will also work well when stuffed into a sprouted, whole-grain wrap, or they can be chopped up in the morning and placed on a big bed of salad greens for a nutritious fresh salad.
5. Have some hearty protein options on hand such as black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, avocado, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds to accompany your salad, to top off a slice of bread or a wrap, or to mix up with some quinoa. They can be topped with simple condiments like Dijon mustard, tamari, or tahini.
With these options alone you should be set to get yourself through a week’s worth of lunches that add some variety to your meals. Not to mention, you will be more energized, will save some money, and may even shed a pound or two. Best of all, you’ll look forward to eating your lunch each day.
Simple bean dip
1 cup soaked or 1 can of organic navy beans, black beans, or garbanzo beans*
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp – ¼ cup tahini
1 bunch of fresh dill, parsley or basil finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
(Add water if a thinner consistency is desired)
1. Cook soaked beans in a large pot for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Place garlic, lemon juice, and half of the beans into a blender or food processor and blend well.
3. Add the remaining beans, tahini, olive oil, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth (add water if necessary).
4. Transfer spread to bowl and stir in the fresh herbs.
5. Serve with flatbread, gluten-free crackers, or a slice of sprouted bread.
*It is important to select an organic canned variety of beans as they are preserved naturally. If you use Eden Organic brand, the cans are BPA-free.
You can also make your lunch eco-friendly by using Laptop Lunches or sealed glassware. These are some great steps to reducing your waste at lunchtime.
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.