The usual question you hear advertised is ‘whats for dinner?’ This, however, has never been much of an issue around my house – but instead I often struggle with ‘whats for lunch?’ The challenge of packing healthy, creative, tasty (a must!) and easy to eat sack lunches is a lofty goal – one which I haven’t quite obtained, but I thought I would share a few tips/ideas for those who struggle with the same question.
Packing a lunch for the workweek has become a necessity around our house – the waistline and pocketbook were suffering too highly from 5 day/week lunches eaten at any variety of the local establishments. However, when looking at the standard lunch items, sandwiches with sodium/nitrate laden lunch meat, snack pack chips/cookies, (sugar filled) granola bars, ect, these options are hardly what I would consider ‘healthy’.
Wraps: This fashionable lunch item has replaced sandwiches as a staple for the lunchbox in our house. I have been holding off on writing this post until I attempted to make my own wraps, but life has gotten extremely full so I decided to post the easy way and a few recipes I have on my ‘list’ to try when I get a free moment. I like these wraps so far – low calorie, decent ingredient list, no HFCS. I don’t like to buy bread as a rule because of all the preservatives they have to put in it to make it shelf stable, but you do have to cut corners sometimes. The main reason I have gone to wraps over sandwiches is I look for wraps that have around 100 calories each – an average slice of whole grain bread has around 100 calories, so you are saving 50% of your calories by choosing a wrap over 2 slices of bread (hey my job has taught me something over all these years :)). The other advantage to a wrap is it is easy to ‘stuff’ it with lots of veggies – I use organic baby spinach, baby sweet peppers, sliced or shredded beets, tomatoes, avocados, romaine lettuce, sliced red onion, sliced mushrooms.. and the list goes on. For protein, I found a package roast beef that has no nitrates and a decent sodium level at my local Publix – it took some searching, but there are decent lunch meats out there. I also like sliced grilled chicken, tuna or salmon salad or sliced roasted turkey breast. Add some extra sharp cheddar cheese (or goat cheese, or feta, or…) and there you have it!
Other items for the lunchbox – organic baby carrots – these are readily available at almost all grocery stores (even here, in the heart of fry country). I always buy organic baby carrots because I heard that the traditional ones are soaked in bleach – not an especially appetizing thought. Bananas, grapes, blueberries, celery sticks are other good choices. Reduced fat mozzarella sticks are easy to eat and transport. I also like to include a serving of whole grain crackers (homemade or from a box, depending on the level of sanity for that particular week).
Another item I am toying with is homemade pudding cups – I haven’t found the definitive recipe yet, but I tried this one and it was delicious (a few notes on that recipe – I used cornstarch over arrowroot powder, I used natural, vice dutched cocoa powder and I left out the spices altogether, as my husband gets nervous when I make things too ‘foodie’). While this recipe was extremely tasty, it was a bit too decedent for lunchbox fare, in my opinion. I like that it is dairy free, as our diet tends to be heavily weighted towards dairy, I prefer to use alternatives when I can substitute them and I like the health benefits that coconut provides.
Hopefully this has been somewhat useful! Writing this has inspired me to try one of these wrap recipes – My biggest concern is shelf life – will they turn to dry crumbles after a day or 2? Or will they stay soft enough to hold up against the filling of the day? If anyone has attempted them or tries one of the above recipes – please, let me know!