A dear friend once requested a brown bag special, so TADAA!! Today’s all about brown baggin’ with style.
Now there are tons of reasons to brown bag, and the most obvious is that it’s exponentially cheaper. Seriously – $2-4 per meal vs. $10-15? Yep. Exponential.
On top of that, it’s a lot easier to keep track of and control your portions and the healthfulness of what you’re eating when you’re packing it yourself. When you’re aware of what’s going into your lunch, you’ll be more cautious of what you choose to eat.
Now I know you’re not thrilled about your usual turkey on wheat, and that’s not at all what I’m talking about here. Like I said, we’re brown bagging with style and that means we’re moving beyond your everyday usual. It’s going to take a little preparation, but what good meal doesn’t?
First and foremost, invest in travelware! Be it Tupperware, GladWare, Rubbermaid food storage systems or whatever the As Seen On TV food storage system of the month is, get something because you’re going to use it a lot. I’m personally a big fan of Rubbermaid Stackables because I lose lids like it’s nobody’s business. Being able to stack them and stick them together makes it easy to keep the cabinets organized and keep everything within easy reach.
Next, detect your resources. Does your office have a fridge, microwave, toaster, Easy Bake Oven, keggerator, etc. and so forth? You’re going to need to pack according to what’s available to you. I’m going to base a lot on the assumption that your office has a fridge & microwave but I’ll definitely give a lot of options that don’t require a microwave. If your office doesn’t have a fridge, an insulated lunch bag should do the trick.
SO. We’re armed, we’re dangerous, and we’re ready to pack some serious.. lunch. Like I said, we have tons of options that go beyond the simple sandwich, so let’s dig in, shall we?
The simplest of our options because it’s already been prepared! All you have to do is set it out into your travelware and VOILA! You have a quick grab & go option. If I make something big, I’ll set it out into the serving sized containers so I cut down on my morning prep time. I’m a big fan of (and still obsessing over) gazpacho – it’s SO much better the next day and it doesn’t require reheating. Also, lasagna is a tasty option, though much heartier. Keep portion sizes down on the lasagna to avoid the itis. Trust me.
Salads are a SUPER easy, very fast, crazy healthy, and very brown-baggable. On top of that, they don’t have to be the typical iceberg, carrot shreds & ranch snoozefest. My fave:
Apple & Candied Pecan Salad
-Mixed Baby Greens
-Sliced Or Cubed Apples
-Raspberry Vinaigrette (or a healthy dressing of your choice)
-*Optional* Grilled Chicken
-*Optional* Mini-Rotini Pasta (on the side)
Mix all ingredients but the candied pecans and pasta. Toss the pasta in your dressing of choice and give it its own little corner of container. Leave the pecans in a snack-sized Ziplock bag to keep them crunchy & add when you’re ready to eat.
Seriously. Salads are easy. Substitute your favorite fruits, greens, crunchy elements (like other types of nuts, croutons, etc.), dressings and meats. And make sure to grill your meats the night before.
Wraps & Burritos
I know they’re semi-variations on the common sammich, but hey, sometimes you just want to shake it up a little, right? So take your fave sammich or salad and make a wrap of it by using a tortilla, lettuce (protein style for all you In-n-Out aficionados), pita bread and more.
Burritos can be pretty healthy & delish too. Beans, cheese & lean meat keep down the calories if you’re counting.
And the sandwich doesn’t have to suck, by the way. Switch out mayo & mustard for a drizzle of your fave dressing, try baguette instead of regular slices, and throw in some flavor & texture variations like red bell pepper, avocado, and cilantro.
Okay, I love Japanese food. Big big fan up in here. The classic bento box lunch is based with cold rice (I prefer using brown rice, but typically it’s white rice) which is accompanied by different bite-sized sides like steamed or fresh vegetables, potstickers, fruit, different meats, and even tamago (sweet egg omelette), all of which are prepared to taste good cold. For a healthy DIY bento box, I’d recommend doing a meat or protein of your choosing (like a curry chicken salad or salmon teriyaki), 1 fruit side, and one vegetable side. I like topping my rice with the protein so whatever flavoring I use on the meat saturates the top layer of rice too! The beautiful thing about the bento box is that you can go a billion and a half directions with it and there are so many ways to not only get creative with what you’re eating, but how it’s presented. While I could keep going, I think this site explains it far better than I can!
If you’re the snacking type, make sure to pack lots of in-between type snacks. Bring veggies, fruits, string cheese, hard boiled eggs (if you like them and if the people who sit around you wouldn’t protest), nuts and the like. Nuts are especially great snacks because they’re a one-stop shop of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs, all of which should be present in any snack or meal).
-If you’re cooking meats for a meal, make a couple extra servings, cut them up and store them so you have a serving ready to go.
-Buy quick, easy snacks like string cheese, yogurt, fruits (like peaches, apples, grapes and clementines) and veggies (e.g. carrot sticks and broccoli florets) to avoid the vending machine.
-Plan ahead! Add your lunch goodies to your shopping list and if they need to be cut, cut them as soon as you get home, pre-portion into your containers, then put them in the fridge. WABAM! Efficiency, y’all.
Like I said, there are TONS of quick, easy options for brown bagging that go far beyond the sandwich and tons of sandwiches that go beyond ham & cheese on whitebread. Happy eating!