As nurses, we know that lunch is essential for a variety of reasons. The benefits of a lunch that offers solid nutrition are many. Benefits include lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, decreasing cancer risk, and improving mood and memory. Studies show that lunch re-energizes us and helps with focus. A healthy lunch makes us feel better.
5 Tips to Plan a Good Lunch
One of the best ways to consistently eat a good lunch is to plan for a nutritious lunch. How? One way is by preparing meals large enough to have leftovers. One of my go to meals for leftovers is baked macaroni and cheese. Make more than you need when barbecuing on Sunday, or on weeknights double the recipe.
Keeping this in mind it is easy to throw extra chicken on the grill when making dinner to use in lunches. When eating out or ordering pizza, use the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Batch cooking refers to the practice of setting aside time one day a week to cook enough to supply meals for several days. Batch cooking helps create enough food to provide for lunches. Use batching with recipes that you are already familiar with and that you love. When you make the recipe, fill your lunch container before refrigerating the food, and you will have a grab-and-go lunch in the morning.
Prepare Twice a Week
I discovered taking time twice a week to prepare foods worked well. This method of preparing more than my family will eat has worked the best for me, adding just a few extra minutes to my usual prep time. Purchasing pre-cut veggies or veggies ready to eat is a great shortcut to having healthy snacks available to bring to work or just to have quick access when you’re rushed.
Roasting vegetables creates delicious healthy food all on one pan at one time. Use roasted veggies in salads, grain bowls or sandwiches. This has been a game changer at my house, and we are eating more vegetables because of this new technique.
Having the prepared food to choose from makes creating the lunch quick and easy. Decide if you are making a grain bowl, wrap, salad or sandwich and build accordingly. The result will be something you enjoy as every ingredient will be from the “I like that” list. Add seasonings if you desire and package it up for the journey to work. The seasonings and sauces help add variety.
Backups are Essential
Having back ups is always a good idea, for those days when life goes sideways. Bagels and cream cheese, or peanut butter and jelly fixings on hand saved me on numerous mornings.
Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Have snacks readily available to fight off the hunger of the commute home with snacks such as nuts, seeds, crackers, carrotsticks, or even chocolate. I am sure that you have heard how good dark chocolate is for you with all those antioxidants, so enjoy as needed!
Be a Food Lover
Be sure to pack food you love. Enjoy your meal. Some studies show that slowing down enough to sit down and focus on your meal has many health benefits. We need those benefits as nurses, we need that break to center ourselves and rejuvenate. Finish with a treat. For some that would be chocolate, for others fruit. Whatever your choice, savor it.
5 Steps to Create a Nutrient Dense Lunch
These five steps have helped in the creation of many healthy lunches.
Five Steps to a Great Lunch:
Choose your carb. Choose complex carbs that are whole grain. This will give you added fiber to help digestion and keep you full! This can be rice, pasta, potatoes, quinoa, beans, bread, tortilla.
Choose your veggies. Make it colorful, and only the ones you like. Thes can be cooked or raw, or a combination.
Choose your dairy and/or meat in combinations you enjoy; omit if vegetarian or vegan. Instead, you can add beans or another legume to help with protein intake.
Choose your dressing or sauce. This can be bbq sauce or sesame oil, hummus, peanut sauce, ranch dressing or mustard. Use a low-fat dip by trying greek yogurt and make your own dips! Whatever will work with your previous choices.
Choose your treat. Fruit, yogurt, trail mix, chocolate, cookies or brownies. The thing that makes you smile. Everything in moderation, though, that’s the key.
The key to great healthy lunches is to plan for them. Being mindful when preparing meals and packing your lunch containers as you make your recipes will create grab and go meals that are healthy and convenient.
Kathi Close is a registered Nurse with 40 years of experience in elder care nursing, adult foster homes, ID and DD care, hospice and in-home care as well as several years at a pediatric hospital. Kathi is an expert in advocating for the quality of life, and finds her own quality of life in her family, garden and beekeeping activities.