I feel like a hypocrite writing this one. I rarely plan my lunches. And all the excuses I use for not planning lunches are really solid reasons why I should.
Like the fact that the small toddler naps around the middle of the day. And that by the time he is asleep lunch is the last thing on my mind. By lunchtime I just want a coffee, some work time and the chance to pee alone - cooking and eating takes up valuable time! As a result of this thinking I often end up grabbing something unhealthy to eat at my desk - like that one lonely leftover cupcake!
Cupcakes are NOT a lunch food. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Planning lunches is the best way to save time and energy and ensure you add another healthy meal to your day! Here's how.
What do you like to eat?
Again this is the most important question to start with. So many people get stuck in a lunch rut because they eat what they think they should eat for lunch - sandwiches, salads, soup. These are all well and good, but if you don't like to eat them - DON'T!
I love gluten free pasta. I love cheese. I love olives. I love avocado. I love pesto.
Sound like a weird combination? It is...but it works for me! Add some vegie sticks and fruit and it's a complete meal. I get more excited about a platter of "bits and pieces" than I do over a sandwich. Same with my kids. I've also just discovered that my kids will scoff down sushi rolls - guess what we'll be experimenting with next week? Get creative and get excited about lunch!
Homemade sushi rolls can be a great, healthy way to get excited about lunch. Include it in the plan on days where you have a bit of time to spend preparing it. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
What do you have happening each day?
Make sure you prepare your lunches around what you have happening. If you are going to be out and about pack yourself something portable like fruit, cheese and crackers or a sandwich. Or plan your day so that you are home in time for lunch or go out after lunch.
If you have lunch at work it can be useful to keep some lunch items in your desk drawer or the staffroom fridge - rice cakes and peanut butter, raisin bread and butter, baked beans and toast. These can save you running to the nearest café at lunch time!
A note on take-aways. If you really think that you are going to opt for take-aways include it in your plan!
Going to be in a food court? Plan to pick up some sushi rolls or a subway.
Going to be in a café for a work meeting? Plan your day's meals so that you have a smaller breakfast and higher nutrient snacks and pre-plan what you are going to have. Maybe even ring ahead and place the order so that you are not tempted to add a side of fries when you are in the moment.
Pre-order a healthy meal if you are going to be lunching in a café. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
And remember that a brilliant advantage of menu planning for the week means that you can see what's going to be happening for the whole week - so you might see that you are having a McDonald's cheeseburger for lunch one day, but you will also see all the wonderful nutrient dense foods that you are eating the rest of the time. This will help you to stay on track.
As with all meals preparation can be key.
If you are going to be doing a platter or a salad for lunch have some chopped up carrot, cucumber, cheese, tomatoes and whatever else you like to add prepared and ready to go.
Arrange your fridge so that whatever you are having that day is at the front and that lonely cupcake is at the back.
When you are waiting for the kettle to boil for your mid morning coffee check your menu plan and grab out of the cupboard anything that you will need for lunch - put the saucepan on the stove, get out the chopping board and plates, grab any non-perishable ingredients you will be using. Then it's all "right there" when you decide it's lunch time.
There's also nothing wrong with putting together your lunch, in lunch boxes, the evening before - if you are going out for the day either to work or to run errands this is a no brainer. But even if you are spending the day at home this can be useful.
A lunch to get excited about! A platter of "bits and pieces" that I enjoyed with the children for lunch today. Author's own image.
Follow these steps and pop lunch into your menu plan every day of the week. Say good-bye to soggy sandwiches and less than satisfying salads and soups and say hello to yummy, nourishing lunches that are worth getting excited about!