Nearly all of us have fallen victim to dull lunch boxes, both our kids' and our office lunch. And yet, we are so worried about our kids getting enough nutrition that we often forget that what we (adults) eat is important too. An excellent way to model good eating habits to our children is to pack our adult lunches as well.
As parents, we often think about the foods we include in our kids' lunch boxes, and then completely forget about our need for a healthy lunch. Maybe we are just too busy, and picking something up from down the street seems easier.
If you work outside the home, you know that when lunch time comes around, we are faced with three options: bringing food from home, going out to eat, and skipping lunch. The latter is not a good choice; since by 3 pm low-sugar crashes typically lead to unhealthy snacking, more caffeine, or both.
Of course, packing our adult lunches in the morning is often "one more thing" in the rushed to-do list, so here are five things you can do ahead of time, that can include the kids, and will help the entire family eat healthier all year long.
1. Make a huge salad for dinner and divide extras into single lunch containers.
The key to crispy salads is to use fresh produce and pack the dressing on the side. I make 3-4 days worth of salads and keep them in the fridge. In the morning, I pull one out, pack it in the lunch bag, and I'm good to go! Need a salad idea? Check out how easy this Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Jalapeño Ranch is to make.
When the kids see us eating salads other than at dinner, they realize that it's a healthy option for other meals.
2. Put the crockpot to work, overnight.
A big bowl of soup can be just the thing one needs on a cold winter day. Why send the kids with soup to school while you head down to the deli down the street?
You can make this Chicken Noodle Soup overnight and add the noodles in the morning when you get up. Pack it in a thermos or microwave safe bowl and lunch is ready!
3. Make portion-controlled versions of take-out favorites.
One of my favorite lunch time "healthy" take-out recipes are burrito bowls from a popular casual restaurant. Unfortunately, portions are much bigger than what I should be eating; so the easiest way to solve this is by making my own. Also, I'll save about $10 since the cost of making my own burrito bowl is roughly $3. Plus, they are so easy to make!
Burrito bowls are easy to make and this is one meal I often recruit my 9-year-old to assemble with dinner leftovers.
4. Invest in a Thermos.
Leftovers of healthy homemade meals are one of the best things to bring to school and work. If you have a microwave, you can always use that to warm up the food. Thermoses are also great for cold items like parfaits, smoothies, and cold salads.
To see how to warm up a thermos so it stays hot until lunch check out this video.
5. Pack a healthy treat.
Whether it's a small piece of pure chocolate, a fruit cup, or a healthy homemade cookie, bringing something that will satisfy that late afternoon craving for something sweet is important in order to not make an unhealthy choice with other foods.
I usually make a big batch of these 2 ingredient cookies and keep some frozen dough balls in the freezer. Every couple of days, when the oven is already on, I cook a few of them. They are healthy, have less calories and fat that packaged cookies, and they satisfy everyone's sweet tooth.
Packing a healthy, homemade treat is a lot better than hitting the vending machine after school or at the office.
As you can see, packing both adult lunches isn't much different than the kids. Getting into the habit of packing adult food while packing the kids' shows our children that we value what we put into our bodies and that nutrition-rich foods are necessary for everyone.
For more ideas to fill the lunchbox, both for adults and kids, check out these recipe videos.