One of the most important features successful lunchboxes have are the snacks you tuck inside. You need a main meal for lunch & to keep energy levels high throughout the day it’s best to have well balanced, tasty and healthy snacks at the ready.
Snacks don’t have to be over thought, they just need to provide essential nutrients and calories to keep you going. Reaching for overly processed items in vending machines and the school cafeteria are costly, filled with sugars, salt, also empty calories. One of the goals of Project LunchBox is to help you make better, more informed choices. Those choices are best when you purchase your own foods and cook at home.
Besides, snacks and mini meals are super fun to look forward to!
In case you are wondering, what you see above includes:
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Easy Peasy Fruit Salad (cut up fruit with a squeeze of lemon juice)
- Homemade Hummus*
- Homemade Applesauce*
- Beef, Turkey or Bison Jerky
- Homemade Granola
- Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits
- Dark Chocolate and Nuts
- Dried Fruit and Almonds
- Nutty Fruity Quinoa
- Homemade Tapioca Pudding (vegan)
- DIY Lunchables
- Whole Grain Pretzels and Cream Cheese
- Maple Roasted Pecans
*it’s OK if you buy the healthy stuff from the store too
Eat whole foods.
We hear this time and time again. Not only are whole foods better for you, they are budget friendly and are more likely to keep you in your skinny jeans. Besides, whole foods (foods closest to their natural source) taste better. More on this in my 10 Secrets to Skinny post.
Choose your ingredients from the perimeter of the grocery store.
These are the freshest foods and the most economical choices. See my Food Shopping page.
Steer clear of packaged foods.
These are generally over priced, have wasteful packaging and are filled with ingredients you don’t need anyway.
By the way I am obsessed with these sistema containers. They are microwave safe, BPA free and super pretty. They come in so many shapes and sizes too. Lots of the containers have compartments to keep foods from touching one another. You can find them at my Project LunchBox Amazon.com store.
Always know what is in the food you buy. Keep an eye out for ingredients that you don’t understand, excess sugars, sodium and too many fats. Always remember, different strokes for different folks. In our house, fats from cheese, nuts, avocado, coconut and natural sources are amazing sources of energy. Fat helps sustain energy and feed the brain fuel. Some people are really into calorie counting and fat grams, that is not my thing.
Watch out for “enriched.”
The word enriched means that whole foods (let’s use whole wheat as an example) have been stripped of their essential nutrients (maybe in the bleaching process.) Vitamins and minerals are then added back in for color & flavor and to make you think the food still has nutritional value. Our bodies can’t process machine made foods nearly as good as they can real whole foods. As I said above, stick to the good stuff (fresh and minimally processed) and you will reap great rewards in the end.
Prepare a Big Batch when you have time.
Shop and prepare food when you have small chunks of time. That said, make sure you responsibly carve out chunks of time to do this. It is well worth it for your wallet, waistline, energy levels and taste buds. Prepare Big Batches of snacks to get you through a week or more of lunchbox meals.
Above is another one of my favorite lunch box containers (you all ready know how much I am in LOVE with Easy LunchBoxes!) That beautiful meal is featured in the upcoming Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook – Easy Lunch Boxes that I photographed.
Have a separate bag or container for snacks.
In order to keep from eating everything in your lunchbox at once store snacks separately in brown paper bags or re-usable containers (LunchSkins and Itzy Ritzy are great for this). This is what we do for my Kindergartener son. It ensures kids eat their lunch and their snacks!
Make adjustments to recipes.
The recipes below are merely suggestions and ideas to point you in the right direction. If you have allergies or certain restrictions make the appropriate changes to ingredient lists. If you are in a nut free school zone many times sunflower seed butter is a great adaptation. Gluten free? Try swapping out whole wheat flour with gluten free options.