Easy Packable Lunches
Tina Miller, MS RDN Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.Meijer.com/ahealthieryou
For work or school, it’s important to keep your energy up, brain alert and body fueled with good nutrition so you perform your best. Here are some planning tips and a week’s worth of affordable, healthy and easy packable lunches for the entire family:
Make lists. Whether it’s an inventory of what you already have at home or what you need to buy, use lists to avoid unnecessary purchases and reduce food waste. Lists will also help you stay on budget.
Be a savvy shopper. Save money by clipping coupons and looking for sales. Meijer offers many opportunities through the grocery sales ad and mPerks digital coupon program.
Pay attention to nutrition. When planning your lunches for the week, include protein, whole grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables for a balanced and nutrient-rich meal.
- Preserve muscle and curb hunger with protein. Protein helps you feel fuller longer and builds strong muscles. Eating a variety of protein, from both plant and animal sources, ensures the body receives all essential amino acids for good health.
- Lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and nut butters contain protein.
- Plant-based proteins such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas—also known as pulses—are nutrient-rich, affordable and sustainable. Studies have shown that people who eat at least a half cup pulses per day have higher intakes of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium.
- Use canned or steamed lentils or beans to save time. Choose reduced sodium canned beans or rinse and drain to reduce sodium by 40 percent. Add canned beans, meats and fish to sandwiches, wraps or salads.
- Bump up the fiber with whole grains. Whole grain wraps, flatbreads, quick-cooking whole grains like quinoa, barley, brown rice or whole grain pastas contain many nutrients including fiber, several B vitamins and minerals. Studies show that eating whole grains may help with weight management, reduce your risk for heart disease and ease constipation. Quick-cooking grains can be used as a base to make power bowls, salads or lettuce wraps.
- Load up with disease-fighting fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber, antioxidants and potassium which support a healthy heart. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season to get the best value and stock up on frozen or canned vegetables and fruit (without added sauces or unsweetened). These are convenient, create very little waste, are nutrient-rich and are often on sale or more affordable than out of season produce. Use canned or jarred veggies like artichokes, beans (which also count as a vegetable), roasted bell peppers or beets for salads, sandwiches or wraps. Substitute mayo for mashed avocado for a lower calorie spread and serving of healthy fats (monounsaturated fats).
- Support bone health and an active lifestyle with dairy. Low fat or fat free milk, yogurt and cheese are all good sources of calcium which can support bone health. Look for plant-based milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Milk is a nutrition powerhouse that can help fuel your active lifestyle with these nine essential nutrients:
- Phosphorus and calcium work together to build strong bones.
- Vitamin D helps absorb calcium.
- Riboflavin and niacin helps the body convert food into fuel which is used to produce energy.
- Protein makes you feel fuller longer.
- Potassium triggers your heart to squeeze blood through the body and enables your heart to beat in a healthy way. It also helps your muscles to move and your nerves to work.
- Vitamin B-12 keeps your red blood cells healthy.
- Vitamin A supports eye health.
- Milk also contains water and electrolytes that helps you stay hydrated which replaces what is lost in sweat during physical activity.
Easy Prep. Tips:
- Chop all of your vegetables you need for the week when you buy them or on a day when you have extra time. You’ll save time during the week when all you have to do is assemble the ingredients together. You can also pick up pre-cut veggies in the Meijer produce department.
- Cook a batch of whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, barley or brown rice to use throughout the week. You can swap out the grains for variety and use for salads, wraps or power bowls. Cooked grains can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
To help get you started, try five of our favorite packable lunch recipes below:
- Chipotle Salmon Salad (see recipe below)
- True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Multigrain Bread, toasted
- True Goodness by Meijer Nonfat Greek Yogurt
- Cantaloupe Chunks
Chipotle Salmon Salad
- ¼ cup diced celery
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper
- 1 5 ounce can boneless, skinless pink salmon in water, drained
- 1 to 2 chipotle peppers, minced, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons light mayonnaise
- In a bowl, combine celery, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and salmon. In a small bowl, combine chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and mayonnaise. Stir in chipotle-mayo with salmon.
Nutrition Information (per 1 cup serving): 117 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 469mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 14g protein
- Southwest Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Lettuce Wraps (see recipe below)
- True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Green Smoothie
- Mango Chunks
Southwest Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Lettuce Wraps
- 1 cup True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic canned low sodium Black Beans
- 1 cup True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic No Salt Added Canned Corn
- 1 tomato, diced
- ½ cup True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic shredded Mexican Cheese Blend
- ½ cup True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Thick n’ Chunky Salsa
- ½ avocado, diced
- 4 Boston lettuce wraps
In a bowl, combine beans, corn, tomato, cheese, salsa and avocado. Serve bean mixture on Boston lettuce wraps. Roll up.
Nutrition Information (per serving): 189 calories, 7g fat, 2.6g saturated fat, 7mg cholesterol, 337mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 9g protein
- Mediterranean Turkey Wrap (see recipe below)
- True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Greek Yogurt
Mediterranean Turkey Wrap
- 2 tablespoons hummus
- 1 Flatout Flatbread multi-grain with flax
- 2 tablespoons True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 slices True Goodness™ by Meijer™ deli antibiotic free Honey Smoked Turkey breast
- ½ cup chopped kale
- 4 to 5 cucumber slices
- 3 to 4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Spread hummus on flatbread. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Layer turkey, kale, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.
- Roll up. Cut in half diagonally. Cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
Nutrition Information (per serving): 333 calories, 12g fat, 3g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 839mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 12g fiber, 27g protein
- Asian Quinoa Mason Jar Salad (see recipe below)
- A protein-packed meatless salad in a jar, perfect for a portable lunch on-the-go
- True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Soymilk
Asian Quinoa Mason Jar Salad
- 2 tablespoons Lite Asian Sesame with Ginger & Soy Dressing
- ½ cup cooked True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Tricolor Quinoa
- ½ cup edamame
- ½ cup shredded or matchstick carrots
- ½ cup snow peas, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- ½ cup canned bean sprouts, drained
- 1 cup baby spinach
- Add dressing to bottom of a quart-size mason jar.
- Layer jar with quinoa, edamame, carrots, snow peas, cucumber, bean sprouts and baby spinach.
- Shake up the jar to distribute the dressing or pour the salad in a bowl and mix it up with a fork.
Nutrition Information (per serving): 353 calories, 9g fat, 24mg cholesterol, 524mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, 27g protein
- Lentil Power Bowl
- Apple Slices
Lentil Power Bowl
Makes 3 servings
- 1 cup dried brown lentils* or Melissa’s steamed ready-to-eat lentils
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup sliced cucumber
- 1/3 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Organic Crumbled Feta Cheese
- 2 tablespoons True Goodness™ by Meijer™ Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
- In a saucepan, add lentils, water, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed and lentils are tender. Set aside.
- In a round plastic container, place 1 cup cooked lentils. *Save leftover cooked lentils for later in the week to make more power bowls for lunch with different fresh or grilled vegetables. Or use the ready-to-eat lentils. Top with cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, feta and yogurt.
Nutrition Information (per serving): 351 calories, 7g fat, 808mg sodium, 21mg cholesterol, 47g carbohydrate, 18g fiber, 28g protein