Let’s just say it: Lunch is getting the short end of the stick in our lives. OK fine, yes – breakfast may be the “most important meal” and dinner is the “finale” to our day. But, in my humble opinion, lunch is where it’s at. Lunch is like your own personal little cheerleader who greets you in the middle of your busy day and cheers you on! It sees you through work, errands, traffic, and whatever else Murphy’s Law can conjure up. Lunch is the meal that refuels you and helps you recharge. Lunch deserves a little love – and a lot more than the drive thru or whatever happens to be leftover in the break room. So I’m here to shine a little light on this underrated meal with 5 tried-and-true tips for packing the ultimate healthy bento box. [caption id="attachment_12145" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Pictured: sugar snap peas, blueberries & strawberries, spinach/shredded carrot/walnut salad with a side of dressing, olives, hummus and SmartyPants Women’s Complete vitamins.[/caption]
Tip: Bring dressing on the side and add to salad right before enjoying. This will help to prevent your salad from becoming too soggy and wilted!
1. Give Yourself Lots of Variety.Variety, after all, is the spice of life! If you are going to chisel out part of your day to sit down and enjoy a meal (even if it is just for 10 minutes), make sure it leaves you feeling fulfilled in all ways. Bento boxes are perfect for packing variety since they are typically segmented out into compartments. Try to fill each of those compartments with something different and healthy (okay, fine, one compartment can be for something fun. Treating yourself is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle. SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete gummies are so delicious and bento box friendly that I often pack them as my healthy midday sweet). It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a little of this and a little of that. Whatever gets you excited to stop your day and sit down to eat. The variety will leave your taste buds singing, your stomach full, your brain recharged and your body refueled. [caption id="attachment_12147" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Pictured: grapes, sliced bell peppers & raw zucchini, broccoli florets, low-mercury tuna salad with avocado oil mayo and shredded spinach, and SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete gummies in Lemon Crème.[/caption]
Tip: Skip the bread and enjoy your tuna or chicken salad like a dip and eat it with raw veggies![related]
2. Pack Your Veggies and Fruits First!Whatever we serve ourselves first in a meal tends to be the item we take the most of. So, when packing a lunch to-go, make sure the things you pack the most of are the most important food groups: fruits and veggies! I love to load up my lunch box with carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, sliced cucumbers, grapes, broccoli or cauliflower florets, apples, oranges and all sorts of easy grab-and-go produce that are delicious raw! If you are not a huge veggie or fruit lover, still make sure you pack yourself some to nibble on and to work into the habit of having every day. But also, be sure to pack your SmartyPants gummy vitamins in your lunch to help give your body those amazing nutrients that are easy for the body absorb! [caption id="attachment_12146" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Pictured: mandarin orange segments and raspberries, mini sweet bell peppers, hard boiled eggs with salt & pepper with purple carrot coins, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and SmartyPants Men’s Mo Complete vitamins.[/caption]
Tip: Hard boil eggs at the beginning of the week to use for quick, emergency protein when you are running short on time during the week!
3. Don’t Forget the Protein!Protein is such an important part of any balanced meal, but all too often gets left out of the lunch equation. Protein is vital for tissue repair and muscle growth. It also helps keep you full longer and is wonderful for helping to maintain blood sugar levels. So, making sure you include healthy protein in your lunches is a must in my book. Some healthy proteins I like to include in our family lunches are raw nuts, bean dips, seeds, nut/seed butters, hard boiled eggs, wild caught canned tuna & salmon, and high quality deli meats. [caption id="attachment_12148" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Pictured: avocado, apple slices with cinnamon, cubed hard goat cheese, ham/salami/spinach/mustard roll-ups, dill pickles, cherry tomatoes, and SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete in Blueberry.[/caption]
Tip: to prevent/slow down your avocado from browning, store it in your bento upside down so that the flesh is facing down. Less exposure to air=less oxidization. Also, to help prevent sliced apples from browning, sprinkle them with a little ground cinnamon.[featured-product]
4. Think Outside the Sandwich.Sandwiches are convenient and great and can totally be part of a healthy bento lunch box when made on high-quality bread. However, they can also get a bit boring after a while and leave you less than thrilled to open your lunch box. So, think outside the sandwich! Use raw veggies to eat your tuna salad with. Or roll those meat slices into pinwheels with a little mustard. Or enjoy a really nice salad with lots of great flavors and textures. [caption id="attachment_12149" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Pictured: frozen peas, pomegranate seeds & blueberries, walnuts/cashews/dried strawberries, natural peanut butter & banana bites on grain-free tortillas, and SmartyPants Men’s Mo Complete vitamins.[/caption]
Tip: Think grab-and-go! Fruits like blueberries that require only a quick washing, raw nuts, frozen fruit that don’t require heating are all great healthy foods to throw into a bento box! Also, to slow the browning of the bananas in these bites, I simply packed them tightly so less of the flesh was exposed to air...just like with the avocado!