Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fast, healthy and affordable lunches

Ok, so I know that post title might sound too good to be true. I've spent years of my life stressing out at 7:25am trying to throw something together for lunch that day. You know, that perennial problem of a full refrigerator, but nothing to eat.

I'm not saying I'm super [lunch] girl, here to save you, but I have picked up a few tips and ideas - mostly from people more awesome than me - to share. Hopefully this will inspire you to plan your breakfasts, snacks and lunches (and dinners) better for minimal stress, and maximum health!

love my Built NY lunch bag!*

Since I started tracking my calorie intake and exercise on MyFitnessPal, I can tell I've been somewhat more intentional about what I eat. But I still haven't lost more than a pound, and I frequently find myself getting stuck on days when coworkers bring in cookies, cake and bagels, because I haven't brought enough food to work to resist indulging. I realized that I conveniently forgot to record a lot of these little indulgences, which is why I ended up continually under my calorie count on paper, but in real life haven't seen the evidence.

So it is time to kick my booty into gear. Now my goal is 200-250 calorie mini-meals 5 or 6 times a day. This is surprisingly less difficult than I thought it would be. Here is an online journal of what I have bought and eaten during the day over a week's-ish time. (what's bolded are my favorites)

Grocery Store
eggs $4
bagged salad $2
fresh fruit (whatever is on sale) $5
Bolthouse greek yogurt ranch dressing $3 (45 calories for 2 tbsp, AND protein!)
shredded rotisserie chicken, or pre-grilled chicken breasts $6
roasted almonds $4 (I love the sea salt and vinegar flavor)
dark chocolate $3 (Trader Joe's has great options for dark chocolate covered-just about anything you can think of. currently eating dark chocolate covered pretzel thins)
hummus $3

Costco (bulk)
Crudites $10 (lasts two people for 1 week of  daily snacks)
Organic apple packs $7
Frozen mixed fruit $5
Kashi: Go Lean Crunch $5
Greek Yogurt $7
Pico de gallo $4

Pulled from my pantry
whole wheat bread
almond butter or natural peanut butter
chocolate syrup
Tortilla chips


Breakfast: greek yogurt, honey, Kashi go lean crunch, 203 calories
Mid-morning snack: 1/3 c of roast almonds with dark chocolate m&ms, 215 calories
Lunch: 1/3 bagged salad, 1/2 c. chicken, yogurt ranch dressing, 180 calories
Afternoon snack: Rainier cherries, cookie, 150 calories

Loving Rainer cherries. And the fact that I can still knot the stem with my tongue in 10 seconds flat. #uselesstalents #sorryyoudidntwanttoknowthat

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs (or hard boiled made the night before), coffee with cream, 190 calories
Mid-morning snack: apple slices, 1 tbsp almond butter mixed with 1 tsp cookie butter, 225 calories
Lunch: Chips and pico de gallo, crudites with ranch dressing, 250 calories
Afternoon snack: 1/2 c. Kashi go lean crunch 96 calories

Apple Slices

Breakfast: 2 slices whole wheat toast with almond butter, 260 calories
Mid-morning snack: 1/2 c. greek yogurt with  1 tbsp chocolate syrup, 140 calories
Lunch: leftover pork tenderloin with mango salsa, coconut rice and asparagus 260 calories
Afternoon snack: crudites with hummus 110 calories


Breakfast: fruit smoothie (frozen fruit, greek yogurt, orange juice or milk, protein powder)
Mid-morning snack: Kashi Go Lean crunch, 96 calories
Lunch: grilled chicken on salad, fresh fruit 175 calories
Afternoon snack: chips and pico de gallo 160 calories


Breakfast: Special K with Red Berries, 2% milk, 219 calories
Mid-Morning Snack: apples slices with almond butter and honey, 253 calories
Lunch: leftover pollo asada with rice, pico de gallo and chips 300 calories
Afternoon Snack: crudites with ranch 80 calories

Total spent = $71

But almost all of these ingredients will last me for 2 weeks +. So it's about $35/week or $7 a day for breakfast, lunch and snacks.


Total time prepping = 1 minute each day

I love storing individual serving of Greek yogurt, fruit or veggies in these Weck glass jars* E got me for Christmas. I reuse the same bags to store chips, cherries, etc so I don't get tempted to eat more than one serving. I leave the bagged salad, roast chicken, dressing, almond butter, almonds and chocolate at work so I don't have to pack it every day.

Despite the fact that my lunch prep is quick now, it does take some time to plan, purchase groceries and get things together at the beginning of the week. But by figuring out what kinds of things I can eat and packaging them up the night before, I just grab two containers and/or bags of whatever food I've gotten ready, and stuff it in my lunch bag, and I'm off!

Obviously, the calorie count isn't going to apply to everyone - this is just what works best for me right now. But however much you eat, it is important to take time eating! Since your body doesn't register that your stomach is full for 20 minutes, I stretch out my lunch break to be eating for that full amount of time. If you have to eat fast, another trick is to eat as much as you know you should, and if you feel hungry, resist eating more for 30 minutes. If you're still feeling hungry then, you can find another light snack. But more often than not, you won't be!

*affiliate links


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