Whether you are ready to save some money on eating out, or to try healthier recipes, there are many reasons we can enjoy packing our own lunches! As the weather gets nicer outside and we can enjoy venturing out of our homes, there is no better time to celebrate the benefits of packing your own lunch. Let’s take a look at the benefits of a bagged or boxed lunch and some great picnic ideas as we celebrate National Pack Your Lunch Day.
Save Money - According to USA Today, eating out for lunch, on average, costs $11 per meal. Whereas it’s only $6.30, on average, if you prepare your own lunch and snacks for the day! Of course you could get that lower depending on what you pack.
Eat Healthier - People who frequently make their meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research. “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they are not trying to lose weight,” says Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and lead author of the study.
Be prepared - We make unhealthy choices when we aren’t prepared and make bad choices when we wait too long to eat and finally do. Being prepared means you will have complete control over what you’re eating and you can always have a healthy snack prepared. Think of all the healthy foods that are already packaged for you that you can throw in for a much needed snack: orange, apple, banana, whole carrots, small whole cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes (or a whole tomato - some people eat as an apple). You can also buy a reusable plastic bag and fill each day with a handful of your favorite nuts!
Be relaxed - Many of us have a short amount of time to spend enjoying our lunches. Maybe you have a busy day of appointments or a short lunch break at work. Give yourself some time back by packing your lunch. You will be more relaxed and less stressed by already having your lunch planned with your only goal for your lunch break - to sit down, relax, and enjoy!
Plan to picnic
Eating outside has all kinds of healthy take aways - so let’s pack up our lunches and take it outside! There are many benefits to eating meals outside and research shows this includes reduced heart rate, blood pressure, easing muscle tension and lowering stress. Less stress boosts your immunity! Research also shows that when you break from your day indoors to go outside you will get a boost of energy and find yourself more able to be alert, concentrated afterwards. This is why eating outside is such a great reset. With the springtime weather here, there is no better time than now. Plan a day that you pack your lunch and bring it outside!
What should I pack?
Choose from hot meals, cold meals, or sandwich/wrap/pitas! Instead of the traditional PB&J (which is also a great option with one slice of whole grain or low carb bread, no-sugar jam and nut butter)! Usually you can pack most lunches ahead of time for up to four days. Don’t forget to include good portions of healthy grains, protein and plenty of vegetables. Here is a great recipe idea that you could turn into a salad or wrap or swap out the type of healthy grain, protein and veggies to make similar but very different packed lunches that you will never tire from! Sweet Peas and Saffron gave us this one and also have some other great packed lunch ideas.
Roasted Vegetable Greek Chicken Wraps
- chicken- I'm using chicken breast, but you can swap for boneless skinless chicken thighs; you may want to roast 5 minutes longer. For a vegetarian version, skip the chicken and use a can of chickpeas (drained & rinsed).
- vegetables- this recipe calls for zucchini, bell peppers and red onion, but you can definitely get creative here! I bet cauliflower, carrots, brussels sprouts or mushrooms would be amazing- be careful when swapping vegetables as you may need to increase the cook time. It would be smart to place on a separate sheet pan from the chicken so you can pull one out sooner if necessary.
- spices- we are adapting my favorite Greek seasoning blend to add flavor to the chicken and vegetables; you'll simply need dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder and salt
- lemons- add a subtle citrus flavor to the wraps; add to the pan when roasting, but remove before adding the filling to your wraps
- feta cheese- brightens all the flavors up when serving
- Low carb whole wheat tortillas- use your favorite large (10-12 inch) low carb whole wheat tortillas to wrap everything up. You could swap for pitas, or even lettuce!
Season- In a large bowl, toss the chicken and vegetables with the spices and olive oil until thoroughly coated.
Bake- Spread the mixture out on a large sheet pan (or two small sheet pans). It's OK if the ingredients are touching, but they should not be piled on top of each other. Scatter lemon slices over the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are softened.
Serve- Remove the lemon slices from the pan using a set of tongs. Spoon the cooked chicken and roasted vegetables into a tortilla; sprinkle with feta cheese. Fold the bottom of the wrap up, then the sides tightly over and enjoy!
To make it packed lunch ready simply pack your tortilla(s) rolled up in a small piece of tin foil and chicken and veggies packed separately in a lunch portion sized container.
Enjoy all of the benefits that come from packing your lunches and eating them outside or wherever you choose! For more ideas on and support in living a healthy lifestyle with type 2 diabetes check out our online community Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together!