What to Pack for Lunch

Fall is coming soon and its back to school time for all of us whether you’re in school, have kiddos in school, or are continuing to work away. The back to school buzz makes this time of year like a new beginning where we think about what’s ahead as the year end draws near.

We’ve come to a fork in the road– you can either roll the summer right into the fall and keep on eating, exercising, and living as you’ve been doing. Or, you can wipe the summer slate clean, make some healthy upgrades, and start creating healthy habits to carry you happily and healthily through the fall and winter. The choice is yours!

If you’re thinking about what to pack for lunch for the kiddos off to school or healthy lunches and snacks for Mexican Quinoa Saladyourself. . . read this carefully. You may spend 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 hours at work (and your kids probably spend 30 or so hours at school) each week. In order to feel good in your body, be productive, be able to focus, and have enough energy when you get home for the things YOU want to do (this is a big one!!!), it’s essential to pack meals and snacks that give you energy, make you feel good, and help you focus! While this may seem like a no-brainer if you’ve been reading my blog and/or e-zine for a while, its not that obvious.

As a Fort Collins Nutritionist, I’ve had several clients ask me lately about lunches to pack to take to work for themselves and what to pack for their kids. So, I wanted to share some ideas for them and for YOU. Foods to be eaten at work or school should be fairly easy to eat and ready to go in the morning so you can just grab them and take them with you. Mornings are busy and the last thing you want to spend your time doing is packing lunch. So, pack your lunch and snacks at night if possible and just grab them in the morning on your way out the door. Easy peasy.

Get Real Action:

Make a list of food items to pack and bring with you for lunch. This will be like a “lunch menu” that should influence your weekly meal plans and shopping lists. (Not sure how to make all this work, grab a copy of my book Real Food, Real Simple!)

Here’s some ideas for foods to pack for lunch:Summer Picnic Quinoa Salad

  • Leftovers from dinner (by far the easiest!)
  • Re-purposed leftovers from dinner (the 2nd easiest; ex: chicken breast –> chicken breast cut up on a salad)
  • Whole grain or bean salads (the 3rd easiest; ex: Mexican Quinoa Salad, Summer Quinoa Salad, Chickpea Salad, Zesty Lentil Salad)
  • Wraps (made of whole grain tortillas, corn tortillas, lettuce, or greens)
  • Sandwiches
  • Homemade soups (heat in the morning and put in thermos; ex: Black Bean)
  • Homemade granola bars (ex: Chocolate Chip)
  • Homemade muffins (freeze and pack, will thaw by lunch; ex: Apple Cinnamon, Zucchini)Zesty Vegetable Lentil Salad
  • Greek yogurt with granola (ex: Granola)
  • Fruit (ex: apples, pears, peaches, grapes, berries)
  • Fruit smoothie (frozen and melted enough to drink by lunch time)
  • Whole grain crackers with hummus or nut butter
  • Fresh cut vegetables with bean dip, hummus
  • Hard boiled eggs

Want some more healthy lunch guidance? Check out these blog posts I wrote: 6 Quick Tips for a Better Packed Lunch, 16 Back to Work Snack Ideas

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Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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