Packing a healthy lunch on a busy schedule

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

One challenge we face today is making healthy choices for our meals, and lunch is definitely included in that.

As busy individuals, we are faced with challenges to make good choices with shortened lunch times and fewer opportunities to eat at home during lunch breaks.

Quick and easy meals do not have to come from a drive-through window. Packing a healthy lunch can be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.

Email newsletter signup

What makes up a healthy lunch? You want to make sure it has balance and variety. Using the MyPlate way can make balancing your lunch easy. Make sure to include whole grains paired with lean protein for a filling and nutritious lunch to get through the afternoon. Try to include as many food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) as you can.

Sandwiches or wraps are an easy way to start a healthy meal. Try using more whole-grain options and add lean protein like canned tuna or salmon, eggs or lean meats. Looking for more ways to add veggies? Top your sandwich with different vegetables like sliced cucumber, bell peppers and mixed greens.

Maybe sandwiches are not your favorite lunch time option. Simply making a little bit extra for dinner the night before can serve as a great lunch the next day by repurposing some or all of the ingredients.

If you had grilled chicken, you can easily make it into a chicken salad sandwich by adding plain Greek yogurt, sliced grapes and celery.

Leftover steak works great to add to mixed greens for a quick and healthy salad. Fruits and vegetables are easy side options to add on to any leftovers. Add a small dinner roll or container of yogurt and you have a quick, tasty and balanced meal.

It’s easy to run out of ideas and fall back into the restaurant rut. Try to purchase produce more often to keep it from spoiling and to keep your taste buds excited. Different grain choices, like leftover quinoa or rice, or adding different toppings to sandwiches and salads can keep food boredom at bay.

Try this excellent recipe for crunchy granola wedges to fit in a good source of fiber to keep you fuller throughout your afternoon and break-up that lunch habit of the same choices. These are a perfect option to make ahead of time and pack into your lunch the next day.

Crunchy Granola Wedges

Serves 8

 All you need

•1 cup rolled oats

•1 cup wheat flakes (see Shopping Tip)

•1 cup sunflower seeds or chopped nuts

•1/2 cup honey

•1 cup dried cranberries

•Pinch of salt

 All you do

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread oats, wheat flakes and seeds (or nuts) on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Cook 1/2 cup honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until large foamy bubbles form and it starts to darken at the edges, 2 to 4 minutes. (The bubbles will start out small and increase to about 3/4 inch or larger when the honey’s done.)

4. Immediately pour the toasted oat mixture into the honey, add cranberries and salt and stir until completely coated. Quickly press the granola into the prepared pie pan using a heat-resistant spatula coated with cooking spray.

5. Let cool for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 Tips and notes

Make Ahead Tip: Individually wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Shopping Tip: Wheat flakes are simply wheat kernels that have been steamed and rolled, oatmeal-style. Look for them in natural-foods section.

Source: Eating Well