It can seem overwhelming to plan a lunch for every day. Planning tasty and healthy meals can be a challenge, especially when life gets busy. It is important to provide your body with the nutrients to fuel you throughout the day. Using a bento-box lunch method eases the stress by giving you a plan. You can easily swap foods from the box without starting from scratch. Here are some ideas to get you started.
The Secret Formula
Each box should contain 1 serving of protein, 2 cups of assorted veggies or fruit, a healthy fat, a dairy, and a starch. By sticking to this formula, it takes out most of the thinking. Typically the protein and starch go in the large portion of the bento box, and the fruits, veggies, and healthy fat go in the smaller side containers. Dairy can go anywhere. Here are some examples of lunchboxes you could pack to get you started.
- Chickpea Salad and Naan Box- Place the chickpea salad and Naan bread in the large section of the container, put grapes in a small side container, and sliced carrots and celery in the other container. Add a dipping sauce for your veggies in a small muffin cup if you desire.
- Taco Salad Box- Add Pico, corn, black beans, and lettuce to the large section of the box, fill one small section of the box with cheese, and the other small section with chips and a dressing for your salad.
- Turkey and Cheese Box- Put a turkey and cheese whole grain wrap in the main section of the container, fill one small section with fruit, and the other with popcorn.
It can be difficult to pack a lunch every day. Here are some helpful tips.
- Get Inspired- Consider color, flavor, and nutrition. Your lunch will be more appealing if it has a variety of textures and flavors. It can also be exciting to try new recipes based on the season. Including foods that appeal to all the senses can prevent your meals from getting boring.
- Make a List- Choose the foods you want for lunch before grocery shopping. This will reduce the stress during the week as you pack your lunches.
- Plan Ahead- The night before, begin to pack your lunch. Cut up your fruits and veggies, place any refrigerated items in the box, and put non-fridge items in an easy to grab location for the morning.
- Buy a Box- Having a bento box for meal preparation makes it easier to pack lunches. It also serves as a guide for portion control.
- Get into a Routine- choose foods you enjoy and rotate them, pick a day to shop, and pick a time to meal prep. As you incorporate lunch box building into your routine, it feels less like a chore.
- Repurpose Leftovers- Incorporate last night’s meal into today’s lunch. Maybe your chicken from last night could be a sandwich for lunch?
- Stick to the Formula- If you know where to put each item in the box, it takes the stress out of meal prep.
- Balance- In an optimal nutritional state, all of your nutritional needs for macro and micronutrients are met without exceeding your caloric needs.
- Utilize all Food Groups- In each lunch box, make sure you have protein, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Choose Color- Aim for a rainbow of colors when choosing fruits and vegetables. This will make your lunch feel more appealing as you eat it and will provide many beneficial nutrients.
Tips for building a lunch box
- Red fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins A and C.
- Orange fruits and veggies are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, fiber, and beta-carotene.
- Yellow fruits and veggies contain flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamins A and C.
- Green fruits and veggies are packed with fiber and beta-carotene.
- Blue and purple fruits and veggies contain vitamins D and K, lycopene, and flavonoids. They can also help promote bone health and lower the risk of certain cancers.