It’s September again, which for many of us means Back to School and packing lunches. Even if you don’t have children to pack for, I hope this article inspires you to start packing your own healthy lunches. I have also included suggestions for lunch-box gear, as having the right containers and thermos can make your lunch much simpler and more convenient.
If you’re reading this article in Sept, 2014 please also join my Instagram healthy lunch challenge. You can follow my account DRSHAWNADAROU, and use the hashtag #healthylunch2014. Three winners will receive lunch-box goodies from Strawsome (glass straws), Lunchbots, BKR (trendy glass water bottles) and Thermos.
- Lunch in a mason jar: layer your ingredients: 1) salad dressing on the bottom; 2) hearty vegetables like cucumber, cherry tomatoes next; 3) softer vegetables and beans above; 4) grains like quinoa or brown rice, or leftover pasta; 5) proteins such as chicken, fish, cheese; 6) salad greens on top. Store a large bowl at work, and empty the contents of your jar in for a fantastic lunch! Here’s a great tutorial on how to build a mason-jar salad.
- Home-made brown-rice sushi (with avocado, cucumber grated carrots, leftover or canned salmon, tuna or tofu)
- Soups – lentil soup, butternut squash, white bean with kale, chicken vegetable, etc. Soups are so nourishing at lunchtime.
- Brown rice pasta with chickpeas or chicken + broccoli and spinach, hot in a thermos (add tomato sauce or pesto; or simple meal with olive oil, sea salt and dried herbs). Pack cheese to top in a small container (or Daiya cheese if dairy-free)
- Lettuce wraps: pack whole leaves of lettuce separately from the filling. Build your own wraps when it’s time for lunch. Fillings can include hummus, chicken, bell peppers, avocado, cucumber, sprouts, beans, lentils, brown rice, cheese and more.
- Brown rice tortillas: pack tortillas separately from filling. Build your own wrap at lunch time. Fillings can include hummus, chicken, bell peppers, avocado, salsa, beans, lentils, brown rice and more!
- Almond butter, sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter on gluten free bread (pack with veggies and fruits).
- Snack meal: rice crackers; hummus dip; raw veggies; berries; cheese cubes; dried-fruit + pumpkin seed mix.
- Hot chili in a thermos with rice crackers on the side.
- Veggie patties (I make them with chickpeas, grated sweet potato and zucchini, held together with brown rice flour + ground flaxseeds, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and a little cumin – baked in the oven) + side of raw veggies.
- Left-over gluten-free pizza slices (my favorite crusts are by Organic Oven; or we often use Food for Life brand Gluten-free wraps for crusts) + if you are also dairy-free, try “Daiya” cheese alternative.
- Quinoa salad with raw or cooked veggies, beans / salmon / chicken for protein + olive oil, sea salt and dried or fresh herbs to season.
- Organic rice cakes with almond butter, Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) and decorated with raisins and dried fruits. Plus veggies on the side.
- Taco salad (lettuce, beans, avocado, tomato, cucumber, salsa) with corn tortilla chips.
- Leftovers from dinner kept warm in a thermos.
- Rice bowl in a thermos: brown rice on the bottom; steamed veggies in the middle; protein on top (beans, lentils, chicken) + top with a sauce (ex. gluten-free teriaki sauce; lemon tahini sauce; simple gluten-free tamari).
- Baked potato with chili (pack the potato in one container and the chili in a small thermos. Optional: small container of grated cheese to top.
- Baked sweet potato (keep warm inside a thermos)+ toppings to add at lunch: fresh herbs; broccoli; black beans and salsa; refried beans, avocado and cheese (real or “Daiya”).
- Hummus and dippers – carrot, cucumber, peppers, cherry tomatoes, leftover chicken pieces, tofu cubes, …
- Cold grain or chickpea salad (add onion, peppers, chicken / tuna / salmon / beans, tomato, avocado, cucumber, herbs,…
- Home-made gluten-free chicken nuggets (I use ground sesame rice crackers, brown rice flour, salt and dried herbs to coat them) + raw veggies and hummus or other dip.
- Fruits of all types – whole, chopped or a quick fruit salad
- Raw veggies: carrot, cucumber, celery, peppers, fennel, cherry tomatoes
- Gluten-free crackers with hummus, nut butter, soft goat cheese
- Home-made gluten-free muffins
- Dry gluten-free cereals
- Baked lentil chips or corn tortillas
- Popcorn for a treat (air popped is best), or home-made in a pot with coconut oil and sea salt
- Kale chips
- Apple chips
- Yogurt (or coconut yogurt if dairy-free)
- Applesauce (can be flavored with berries)
- “Ants on a log” – celery with almond butter or Sunbutter + raisins sprinkled on top.
- Edamame beans
- Dried fruit with nuts and seeds; or dried dates or figs
- Green smoothie with spinach, kale, protein powder (pea, hemp or brown rice) and berries for added flavour.
- Blended fruit smoothie with berries, protein powder, and a handful of spinach
- Homemade guacamole with corn, black bean, on rice tortilla chips
- Fruit kabobs: thread your favourite fruits onto a bamboo skewer for a colourful and fun way to eat fruit
- Fruit salad: cut up fruits into bite-sized pieces and squeeze fresh lemon or orange juice over fruits to prevent them from turning brown
- Gluten-free granola bars or snack bars (ex. Enjoy Life brand)
- Snacking seaweed – “Seasnax” brand is made with olive oil
- Flavoured rice cakes – ex. Lundberg brand tamari seaweed rice cakes
And some visual ideas:
Favorite tools for packing healthy lunches:
- Lunchbot: divided stainless steel containers and a great selection of lunch box tools, which are great for ‘snacking’ lunches and a huge variety of foods other than sandwiches: http://www.lunchbots.com (free shipping in Canada)
- Planet box: similar to the bento box idea, stainless steel containers, dipping containers and comes with a perfectly sized carrying case: http://www.planetbox.com
- Life without plastic: another great site for alternatives to plastic for lunch-packing, food storage and shopping: http://lifewithoutplastic.com/
- Thermos for hot lunch: here is my favorite model that actually keeps food hot until lunch-time! 16 ounce thermos food jar.