March is National
Nutrition Month, and this year's theme is Eat Right, Your Way,
Every Day. National Nutrition Month has been a staple for 40 years
now, providing nutrition information as part of a campaign led by
the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.
In that spirit, now is a great time to think about how to make
healthier choices at the place where you spend the most time-your
job. As I transitioned from full-time graduate student to full-time
employee, I expected some challenges. But I have actually found
that in a lot of ways, it has made me more organized.
In particular, having a regular schedule has made me eat so much
more healthily. No more skipping breakfast because it is almost
lunchtime, no more grazing throughout the day, and far less going
out to eat. It also helps that my mom is a dietitian who packed me
balanced meals throughout my middle school years.
So, in an ode to mom, here are my easy tips for packing your
lunches for the week and making the whole process as painless,
inexpensive, and healthy as possible.
- Eat a good breakfast. My breakfast-of-choice? Greek yogurt,
honey, and granola. Bam. I keep all the ingredients at work, so I
have my coffee and breakfast and then enough energy to start the
- Buy a bunch of containers in all sizes and use them to bring
your food each day. You can buy a huge pack for about $5.
- Make a pledge to only eat what you brought to work with you. No
vending machine splurges in the afternoon. Stock up on healthy
snacks like fruits and veggies, nuts, popcorn, or snack bars and
eat those when you get hungry. This will not only save you cash,
but it will help you keep track of what you're putting in your
- Consider one-dish meals. I love making soups, lentils, pasta
dishes, quiche, enchiladas, stir-fry … you get the picture.
- Sandwiches! They are easy to make and delicious to eat. If
you're a vegetarian like me, stock up on yummy veggies and
- Bring fruit you can eat whole, such as apples in the fall,
clementines in winter, and peaches in the summer. If it is a grab
and go item, you may be more inclined to eat it. If you want more
variety, like mango, melon, or pineapple, chop it all up at once
and put it into portion-sized containers or bags so that you can
just throw one into your lunch bag and have it ready to go.
- Same goes for vegetables. Pick one day and prepare a bunch of
them-peel and slice a whole bag of carrots/cucumber/celery (don't
peel that) and put them into bags. Another cool way to do this is
to use leftover jars, put your dip of choice in the bottom, and
fill up with
- If you enjoy salads, prep several of the add-ins beforehand.
Wash and chop your veggies in one fell swoop. If you want meat or
tofu or another protein, prepare/cook it ahead of time. Then, just
toss all the prepared ingredients together and you'll have a
healthy salad for multiple meals. You can use a small container for
the salad dressing to keep it from getting soggy. There are also
specialty salad containers that you can use. Have you seen them
- Get yourself a water bottle. It'll help keep you hydrated
throughout the day and can help keep you from splurging on
unhealthy sodas. There are even bottles with built-in filters. And
if you don't like the taste of water there are a variety of flavor
additives that you can use.
- Make a meal plan each weekend. For me, this is usually 2 to 3
meals that I will make for dinner and use the leftovers for
- After a meal, pack your leftovers into meal-sized containers.
If you made too much, a lot of foods freeze well, especially soup
(my favorite). If you eat out, box up what you don't finish and
bring that for lunch.
And one final tip to help make all of this a bit easier. Eat
before you go grocery shopping. You'll be less likely to buy things
you don't need, and then you won't be tempted to take them in your