I’ve given a lot of thought to food prep in the past few days. I’m a pretty busy person — by choice — and food preparation can feel like such an inconvenience! I want my meal prep to be a side act, and not the main attraction — and from the looks of many kids’ school lunches, many parents feel the same way.
Here are some quick AND healthy standbys for busy people and busy parents. No oven, fridge, or microwave required, and vegetarian options included! Grab your lunch bag or box, cold pack(s), and your sealable containers of choice — and enjoy!
The Salad (Appetizer or Whole Lunch!)
I’m not one to get excited by a straight bowl of greens, but mix in some flavor and protein, and a salad turns into a tasty, wholesome meal. Start with some spinach or some mixed greens. Add some olives for a salty taste or peas for something sweeter. Or if you like it really sweet, throw in some strawberries or raspberries. For your sweet salad, add walnuts or cashews. For your salty salad, you may want to try some hard-boiled egg slices or beans (any kind will do). Sunflower seeds can also be a great addition. And of course, throw in any of your other favorite veggies and your salad dressing of choice. Shake it up and dive in!
The most important part of the sandwich is the quality of ingredients. For example, I try to stay away from straight-up wheat bread and go for mixed grains instead (“Ancient Grains”). If you’re going to use meat, avoid lunch meat and go for as fresh as possible. (And I recommend the grass-fed variety.) Throw on some spinach or other greens to get your vitamins, chlorophyll, and antioxidants. For a non-meat option, try egg salad or a hummus or avocado spread. Or go for an old favorite: peanut butter and jelly. If you can’t do peanuts, substitute almond butter or sunflower seed butter. For a jelly substitute, you might try banana or honey!
So many cracker options! Take a look at those ingredients, and try the cracker that’s right for you. And there are so many yummy spices and flavorings! Many of the above sandwich options will work great on a cracker, too. Of course, cheese is great. Hummus is another of my favorites. If you don’t like crackers, try their cousins — the chip! Chips and salsa are a great way to get in some fruits and veggies.
The Smoothie (or Yogurt)
If you have time to make a hearty breakfast, save that breakfast smoothie for lunch! If you’ve got a super mixer like a Nutribullet, so much the better! Combine yogurt or almond milk with greens, frozen fruit, chia seeds, and protein powder or nuts, and you have liquidy, wholesome goodness! Or go with yogurt, but stay away from the kinds that are loaded with sugar — both the real stuff and the sugar substitutes. Also, fat-free does not mean good for you! Try Greek yogurt and add in your own fruits, nuts, and grains for your toppings.
The Snack Mix
I have a friend who eats snack mix for lunch every day. If you’re like me and end up picking around your snack mix, create your own! Mix and match: dried fruits, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate pieces, popcorn, granola, cracker pieces, soy nuts, wasabi peas, and dried ginger. Add some hot or sweet spices and mix to taste!
The Make-Your-Own Wrap
This is a great option for leftovers. Pick out your tortilla of choice — corn? flour? spinach? Throw in your greens, some cheese, and some cold meats/beans/hummus, and some brown rice. Add some avocado and a touch of salsa. Or create your own theme — go with a stir-fry rap. Or meat and cheese. How about a BLT wrap? Mix it and wrap it!
Finger Foods Mix-and-Match!
Or don’t throw it all together — pack these goodies up separately and enjoy one at a time! Hard boiled eggs last a while in the fridge and make a great quick addition to a meal. Nuts and edamame are other quick great sources of protein, as well as string cheese. Peanut butter or almond butter with some celery are other great options. Baby carrots and grapes/raisins are an easy finger food, as well as berries and bananas. If you’ve got a little time, try some sliced apples or cucumber or scoops of melon.
Voila! You’ve created your own happy, healthy, fast food options! Experiment, taste, and enjoy your quick-and-easy lunch!
Which of these match-ups are your favorites? Which would you add to these? Please share in the comments below!