Written by Kathi Close, RN
As nurses, we know that a consistent, nutritious lunch is essential. Studies show that lunch re-energizes us and helps with focus. The benefits of a nutritious lunch include, stable blood sugar, healthy blood pressure, improved heart health, decreased cancer risk, improved mood and memory.
And... delicious, nourishing food can give us just lift in mood and resilience to not only survive epic shifts, but thrive.
First Things First: 5 Tips to Plan a Great Lunch
One of the best ways to consistently eat a good lunch is to plan for a nutritious lunch. Here's how!
1. Be sure to pack food you love!
Have you ever packed a so-called healthy lunch, and simply couldn't bring yourself to eat it? Food is meant to be enjoyed. Sit down, savor your meal, and finish with a treat of fruit, chocolate, or anything else you love.
Make the most out of your cooking time by preparing meals large enough to have leftovers.
One of my go to meals for leftovers is baked macaroni and cheese. It's hearty, delicious, and reheats well! I double the recipe when barbecuing on Sundays. When the dish cools, divvy up your mac into small containers or ziplock bags, and keep them in the freezer. A perfect grab and go!
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.
3. Batch Cooking
Batch cooking is the practice of setting aside time one day a week to cook enough to supply meals for several days. 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.
4. Prepare Twice a Week
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 and reduces cooking time when you're rushed. Just open the bag, and toss them in the pan!
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 prepared dishes to choose from makes creating lunch quick and easy. Decide if you are making a grain bowl, wrap, salad or sandwich and build accordingly!
Add seasonings and sauces for variety if you desire, and package it up for the journey to work.
The result will be something you enjoy as every ingredient will be from the “I like that!” list.
4. Backups are Essential
Have backups on hand for those days when life goes sideways. Bagels and cream cheese and peanut butter and jelly fixings have saved me on numerous mornings.
Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Have nuts, seeds, crackers, carrot sticks, or even chocolate readily available to fight off the hunger of the commute home. I am sure that you have heard how good dark chocolate is for you with all those antioxidants, so enjoy as needed!
5 Elements of a Nutrient Dense Lunch
These five steps have helped in the creation of many healthy lunches.
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.
Veggies. Make it colorful, and only the ones you like. These can be cooked or raw, or a combination.
Protein. Choose 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.
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.
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. Be mindful when choosing recipes, preparing meals, and packing your lunch containers. These simple steps will help you to create healthy, convenient Grab-and-Go meals.
About the Author
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.