When I first started my full-time job, I can remember packing the SAME thing every single day. It was a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with some peanut butter & celery on the side and an apple for a snack. I can tell you from experience, folks… you can only eat so many turkey sandwiches before you begin to loathe them.
*Note: I make time to make an awesome lunch, but not to do anything other than the “lazy girl” braid with my hair for work.
Lunchtime should be fun! Lately, I’ve really been looking forward to my packed lunches. Over time, I feel like I’ve mastered the art. What I find most difficult is packing something ahead of time, not knowing if that’s what you’ll be hungry for when the time comes. Recently, I’ve discovered the beauty of leftovers. Making extra at dinner sure does pay off when you’re scrounging in the fridge the next day for something to throw into your lunch box.
Lite Gazebo Room marinated & grilled chicken with brown rice over baby spinach and a medley of green beans, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, zucchini and mushrooms
Sometimes, I get spoiled and after family dinners, Momma sends me home with the goods for the next day, like in the picture above. But it honestly doesn’t take a long time to throw a bowl like this together on your own time. I made mine in 10 minutes this morning.
Pad Thai, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and two sunny side up eggs with nutritional yeast, salt & pepper
Today’s bowl was courtesy of Dr. McDougall’s All-Natural Pad Thai! I sauteed a bunch of veggies on the stove-top while the pad thai was in the microwave, and in the same pan, I made my eggs. I always take shortcuts, too, using things that I have on hand in the pantry. Things like canned chicken, tuna, and salmon always come in handy!
Leftover cheesy chicken & bean enchilada with brown & wild rice veggie blend and a side of steamed sugar snap peas
I always try to pack my lunch based on my agenda for the night. I workout every weekday morning, whether it’s for 25 minutes or an hour, so I know that a nutritious, fueling lunch is necessary…especially if I’ve got a class that night. Tuesday/Thursday lunches are typically more carb heavy, while Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, usually allow for some down-time after work.
Quinoa with marinara sauce, garlic hummus, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt mixed with green beans, frozen (thawed) kale, and diced tomatoes
You can just call me the Tupperware queen, is basically what I’m saying. I can’t tell you the last time I had a sandwich. Oh wait… I’m lying… I did have one a few weekends ago, while I couldn’t afford to take a lunch break from my Marketing class notes.
Light tuna salad salted and peppered on
the best bread in the universe 100% whole wheat potato bread with celery on the side
Anyway, here are the basics that I try to remember when I’m packing stuff up for the day.
#1– I’m going to be at the office for 8 hours. That means, JUST in the time that I’m there, without considering the fact that 1) I do cardio/strength before work (sometimes burning up to 400 calories), 2) I walk to and from my car in the parking garage to my building, 3) take walk breaks, and 4) I do 3 flights of stairs every time I enter back into the building, I would be burning approximately 750 calories. Just. sitting. at. my. desk. It would be incredibly unhealthy for me to pack a 200 calorie lunch. I’ve come to the conclusion that eating “low-cal” for athletes is absolutely the wrong choice. My lunch should be around 400-500 calories (including snacks), if I’m going to be sustained until dinner time.
Grilled chicken tenderloins with roasted zucchini & broccoli (reduced sugar ketchup & garlic hummus on the side for dippage)
#2 – I try to make sure I have a good ratio of the macro-nutrients (carbs, fat, & protein). I don’t always “measure” to make sure my percentages are perfect. I know what serving sizes should look like, and I go based off of that. This is especially important if I go with the traditional “healthy meal”… a salad. Without adding additional sides, you can turn a salad into a meal by adding things like avocado, nuts, or seeds for healthy fats, sweet potato, roasted potatoes, or toast “croutons” for carbs, and grilled chicken, tofu, hard-boiled egg, or salmon for protein!
Shredded romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, avocado, and Lite Gazebo Room dressing — I had a hummus + egg sammie with this on some whole wheat toast
#3- I make a conscious effort to include vegetables in every one of my meals. Mushrooms, green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, onion, red pepper, green pepper, lettuce, tomato, parsnips, cabbage, zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc. Name a vegetable, any vegetable. I’ve found that frozen and canned are great options if you’re looking for convenience and HATE seeing produce spoil, like I do.
#4- I always, always, always pack “snacks”. More often than not, I’m washing down my lunch with some sweet fruit. Lately, I’m loving cantaloupe, blackberries, and strawberries. If I’m really ambitious in the morning, I’ll mix two together… like my no-sugar-added mandarin oranges and frozen strawberries. If I’m in a hurry, I grab a can of no-sugar-added canned fruit!
Some other recommendations that I have as far as snacks to pack, include things like apples, greek yogurt, celery & peanut butter, baby carrots + hummus, wasa crackers & laughing cow cheese wedges, Questbars, etc.
Throughout the day I also drink at least 7 water bottles full of water. It keeps me feeling hydrated and alert. I’m proud to say, I’ve completely given up my beloved Pepsi Max. Best decision EVER. Not only has it been saving a bit of money here and there, but I no longer get head aches from being without caffeine for too long, and I rarely get that bloated, yucky feeling that I used to!