Packed Lunch Ideas

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Packing lunches can seem like drudge-work, but it doesn’t have to be so tedious. Infuse some globally inspired meals between routine choices to break the monotony and add more flavor to your lunchbox.

I’m bored with packing lunches for work and school. Do you have any ideas to mix up my lunch routine that are easy to prepare?

There are many benefits to packing your own lunch, including saving money and ensuring that you have a more nutritious and balanced meal mid-day. In order to make packing lunches something to look forward to instead of something to dread, try focusing on some of your favorite types of cuisine and get inspired to prepare something new at least once a week.

Here are a few of my favorite easy lunch meal ideas:

Spring Rolls: Budget-friendly and customizable to each of your family’s food preferences, spring rolls are a great addition to any lunchbox meal. Purchase rice paper wrappers in the Asian section of your grocery store. Simply moisten the wrapper in warm water until the wrapper is pliable and then fill with your favorite sliced vegetables and protein sources and roll. Pair with a great dipping sauce and fresh fruit for dessert.

Tip: Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time and maximize leftovers from dinner by using finely chopped vegetables or proteins, like shredded chicken or steamed shrimp. Spring rolls taste best fresh, but if making in advance, make sure that the spring rolls are wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container.

Mediterranean Mezze Platter: Tight on time? Pull together a Mediterranean-inspired mezze platter. Pack hummus and/or tzatziki and pair with a whole-grain pita or crackers, olives, raw or roasted vegetables and a few slices of prosciutto di parma.

Tip: Keep ingredients on hand regularly to ensure that you are able to pull together your mezze platter without much preparation. These refrigerator and pantry staples are also great for pulling together a quick appetizer board when friends and family visit.

Open-Faced Smoked Fish Sandwich: Try pairing a slice of dark rye bread with Jarlsberg cheese, sliced cucumber, radish and smoked salmon. Pair with an Icelandic style-yogurt, which is typically high in protein and low in added sugar, and fresh seasonal fruit.

Tip: Don’t like smoked fish? Swap seafood for sliced prosciutto, turkey or chicken.

Classic Salad Nicoise: Keep a quality tuna packed in olive oil in your pantry to pull together this classic and nourishing salad for a balanced lunch. Top lettuce with tomatoes, steamed green beans, tuna, anchovies, olives, hard boiled eggs and leftover roasted fingerling potatoes. Pair with an oil and vinegar dressing.

Tip: A simple homemade Dijon salad dressing can really enhance the overall flavor of this simple salad and allows quality control over the ingredients added.

Spanish Omelet or Tortilla Espanola: A basic omelet made with eggs, potatoes and onions, this simple dish is satisfying, filling and easily pairs with a side salad. Traditionally fried, this dish can also be baked in the oven to reduce added fat.

Tip: Use leftover potatoes and onions from a dinner meal to minimize preparation time. This dish is good served cold or hot. Consider preparing it in advance to ensure that lunch is ready to put in your lunchbox or eat when you arrive home mid-day.

Do you have any healthy recommendations for sandwich sides when I’m packing lunches for my kids?

Mid-day lunchbox meals are often lacking in produce options. Focus on including produce with different tastes, textures and colors to provide visual interest as well as a variety of nutrients.

Broccoli slaw
Carrot chips
Celery with sunbutter or cream cheese
Jicama sticks with dipping sauce
Seaweed snacks
Sugar snap peas

Cherry tomatoes

Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” “Top Tips for Healthier Eating” and “Cooking With Herbs and Spices.”

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Alison Massey, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with over a decade of experience in various community and clinical settings, Massey is currently owner of Flourish Nutrition Therapy & Wellness, a private practice focusing on providing nutrition and diabetes education. Working with the media is Massey’s favorite way to share her wealth of nutrition and diabetes knowledge with the general public and she is often featured in various Maryland media outlets. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science from the Pennsylvania State University and Master of Science in Health Promotion from the University of Delaware.

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