Can you believe it’s already the middle of August? Some of us are gearing up for September - back to school shopping, finalizing schedules, and savoring the last moments of summer. It's quite an adjustment going from slower-paced, easygoing days to more regimented schedules full of activities, sports, and other commitments. Getting ready in the morning can sometimes feel like a whirlwind - who’s driving where, what are today’s activities, what to wear, and what’s for lunch? Being prepared with easy-to-pack lunch options saves tons of time in the morning, reduces stress, and helps us get out the door in a breeze!
With a decade as a teacher under my belt, and many years as a student before that, I’ve developed a weekly habit of planning and preparing easy go-to snacks to accompany leftovers, a sandwich, or salad. Please be advised that I am not a nutritionist - therefore, not qualified to give nutritional advice. This routine is what I’ve found works best for myself to fuel my brain and body. I encourage you to figure out what combinations of food work best for you, and I hope you’re able to take a little inspiration to put your own twist on them!
Packing a lunch box in this way requires a bit of advance planning and preparation, but in my opinion, is so worth it. Having one less thing to worry about in the morning leaves time and energy to tend to anything else that might come up. I usually take one day a week to think about the next five days or so. How long will I be out of the house? Am I heading to a fitness class or other activity before coming back home? Then, I’ll plan my grocery shopping trip with the items I’d like to eat to match those activities. Usually, I pick 5-6 different seasonal fruits and vegetables and rotate those throughout the week. When I get home from my shopping trip, I’ll spend 30-60 minutes chopping and organizing the fridge and cupboard for easy packing later.
These snacks and variations of them sure do come in handy mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and help keep my energy levels steady. And the best part? They’re all no-cook, so every morning I just pack and go. I try to stick to a basic formula and make different combinations from there: a fruit or vegetable, some protein, and healthy fat. My job requires physical movement and brain power, and I’ve found this works best for me.
Hummus and Veggies
If you want to feel fancy, we can call this one crudités, which simply means “assorted raw vegetables, which are typically served with a dip.” That dip can be anything you like to dress up those veggies. I love hummus, and that there are seemingly endless flavors offered at the grocery store so I never get bored. Favorite veggies to dip include carrots, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, and snap peas. Feeling like just eating appetizers for lunch? Add cheese and crackers! Having 3-4 of these veggies cut up and ready to go also makes it easy to put together a salad, or all together in a wrap for a fresh, hearty sandwich. I’ve even used the veggies to make a super easy stir fry for dinner when short on time.
This is another option with seemingly endless combinations that I rarely tire of. I typically buy a quart-size container of plain yogurt, no sugar added, so that I can make it any flavor I want via toppings and mix-ins. I like to add combinations of nuts, seeds, granola, berries, mashed ripe banana, a dollop of jam, or maple syrup. I don’t add these all at once, but typically go for a crunchy item with fruit to sweeten it up and round it out to my taste. This could also work if you’re short on time for breakfast, or as a nice dessert.
Apples or Bananas and Peanut Butter
I’m pretty sure I went an entire school year eating this as a mid-morning snack. And for good reason - I find apples and bananas travel well (sometimes bananas get smooshed so be careful), and there’s minimal prep involved besides having them on hand. I’ve found a spoonful of peanut or other nut butter with fruit can really keep my brain and body going with steady energy. Don’t like peanut butter or have an allergy? Try a different kind of seed or nut butter that you prefer. There are times when I switch to almond butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and it’s truly decadent!
If you’re looking for a little bit of lunchbox inspiration, I hope I’ve helped spark some ideas! What are your go-to lunchbox snacks to keep yourself or your family fueled? I’d love to hear from you.