3 Easy and Healthy Packed Lunches
By Shannon Crocker MSC RD PHEc
Packed lunches: love ’em or hate ’em?
Packing lunch day in, day out can add stress or feel like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re heading back to work, sending kids off to school or just looking for easy, healthy lunch ideas, I’ve got you covered!
A healthy lunch should give you fuel to feel energized, provide nutrients you need to stay well, and taste delicious.
Try these tips:
- Include an energizing combo of protein, fibre and healthy fats that will keep you satisfied all afternoon:
- Protein foods such as lean turkey, hard-boiled eggs, or legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils and black beans)
- Fibre-rich foods such as whole grains (e.g., barley, oats, quinoa) and veggies and fruit (such as peas, broccoli, apples and pears)
- Healthy fats foods such as nuts, seeds, or avocado.
- Take a break. Enjoy your lunch away from your desk or workspace and eat mindfully, paying attention to the flavours, aromas and textures.
- Eat until you’re satisfied but not stuffed. Loading up at lunch can make you feel sluggish when you get back to work, so enjoy portions that match your true level of hunger.
Here are three easy lunches to pack for school or work, or to enjoy at home:
- “Heat it up” lunch: Shredded Turkey Tacos
If you like warm lunches, then leftovers are your best friend. Shredded Turkey Tacos are a quick fix for dinner, and they’re easy to pack for lunch. Fill them with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and warm shredded turkey for a tasty, nourishing meal.
Make extras when prepping dinner. For lunch the next day, pack shredded turkey into a container. Pack cold ingredients into a bento-style lunch box or small containers so they don’t get squished together. Refrigerate everything. In the morning, reheat the turkey and take it to go in an insulated container, or use the microwave at work.
- Power lunch: Sweet and Savoury Turkey Power Bowl
Power bowls are basically deconstructed salads that you can load up with veggies, whole grains, protein and crunchy, flavourful toppings.
Here’s how I prep this bowl for easy weekday lunches. On Sunday, I cook a big batch of quinoa (or another whole grain) for dinner plus two turkey breasts – one for dinner that night and one for lunches. After dinner, I slice the extra cooked turkey breast into strips for power bowls and sandwiches – or even soup, once the weather turns cool.
I often make this power bowl lunch for Mondays and Tuesdays. You’ll want to have it two days in a row, it’s that good! I pack the avocado separately (to help prevent browning, I add a squirt of lemon or lime juice). I also keep the dressing, almonds and cranberries separate and add them to the bowl just before eating.
- Snackable lunch
Kids and adults alike love snacks, so make a snack-style lunch! Pre-packaged snack lunches can be high in salt and fat. You can easily make a better-for you version at home with nourishing ingredients.
Assemble your snack lunch with combos of:
- Veggies: cherry tomatoes, snap peas, baby carrots
- Fruit: fresh, dried or canned (unsweetened)
- Protein foods: cooked turkey strips, edamame, hard-cooked eggs, nuts
- Grains: whole-grain crackers, flatbread, brown rice or barley
Pack your snack-y items in a bento-style lunch box or one medium-sized container, separated using silicone muffin cups.
Here’s one of my favourite, energizing snack-style lunches:
- Cold turkey strips (see tip in the “Power Lunch” idea above)
- Whole-grain crackers
- Slices of aged cheddar cheese
- Thin cucumber slices
- Melon cubes
- Small handful of trail mix
Add a small container with Dijon mustard for making open-face cracker sandwiches (cracker, mustard, cheese, cucumber, turkey strip). Pack enough lunch kits for two days so they are fresh and tasty.
Can’t wait for lunch!