Consistently, one of the most popular questions I get from my readers, friends and family is “What to pack for a healthy nutritious lunch?” It doesn’t matter whether it’s for a child or for an adult. Once we run out of dinner leftovers, there is a mind block! So we all tend to take the normal short cuts like buying frozen burgers, pre-packed entrees/lunches, deli meat sandwiches and so on. The other option that the rest of us end up taking is buying our lunch at school or at work. Neither of these options is optimal for our health or wallet!
Pre-packaged processed foods can have numerous issues. They are usually full of preservatives, chemicals, are high in fats, sodium and sugar. I can understand using them as a backup once in a blue moon but not on a daily basis. They can wreak havoc in our bodies by raising the inflammation levels inside leading to lots of chronic diseases in the long term. Plus if you have any sort of food allergies, these become even trickier. Buying from outside not only can have many of the same issues of the pre-packaged foods, they tend to be very expensive also.
Packing a lunch from home on most days is doable, but it definitely requires some planning and meal prep for sure! The best way to start is to make a list of some snacks and lunch ideas that you prefer. You can make it more creative and exciting by getting everyone involved for ideas and brainstorming! But in the meantime, below are some options to get you started 🙂
For packing kids school lunches, these days even if your kid might not have any food allergies, you have to be mindful that there might be other kids in that class with some allergies. It is extremely important that for kid’s lunches you make sure that no such allergens are packed as they could be deadly for another child! Which means packing some food without stuff like nuts, nut butters etc. I try to keep some fresh fruits or veggies in the lunch. For the day I pack 2 snacks and a main meal. I try to keep 1 snack savory and 1 snack sweet. I don’t know, just to sort of balance things out 🙂 But maybe that’s just me!
As far as the main lunch is concerned, I try to have some form of complex carb with protein rather than only simple carbs. That way it keeps you satiated for a longer time and doesn’t give you an energy crash soon after you eat!
Here are some of the popular snacks and meal ideas, feel free to mix and match. Use leftovers whenever possible to reduce your workload. Ideally during your Meal Prep, if you can make some main items in bulk, and freeze half then that would make life a lot easier!
Snacks (gluten free and nut free):
- Carrots/Celery with Spicy Hummus
- Apple/Pear slices with Sunbutter (sunflower seeds butter is a great alternate to Peanut butter)
- Boiled eggs with salt and pepper
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Air popped Popcorn
- Fresh cut fruit
Lunch choices (gluten free and nut free):
- Black bean burgers with lettuce
- Falafel with lettuce and Tabbouleh salad
- Turkey kebab burgers wrapped in lettuce
- Buffalo sauce oven fried chicken in a Caesar salad
- Spicy Hunan tofu or chicken with rice
There are a lot more options under my Recipes tab. These were just a few which are very popular in our household 🙂 so feel free to explore them. We go through phases! These days especially the most popular lunch box choice for both my husband and my daughter is the Baked Falafels with Tabbouleh salad and lettuce.
This is not only allergen free but also gluten free! I pack it at least 2 days/week. So I just make the Falafels in bulk on a Sunday and freeze half of them. Then the night before I keep whatever amount I need in the fridge and it is beautifully thawed by morning.
I really hope this will get your creative juices flowing for some great ideas for a Healthy nutritious lunch box!