Back to school can be a chore. But packing lunch doesn't have to be one of them. Make it easier on yourself by doing it as you clean up from dinner. You already have food ready and you're full so you're more likely to pack a healthy lunch. If you pack when you're in a hurry then you're more likely to rely on processed convenience foods or skip it all together and grab take-out. Plus it's one less time you'll have to clean the kitchen!
Here are five simple lunches that can be ready in 5 minutes or less and created from dinner leftovers or what's in the fridge. Each has a healthy combination of protein and carbs to sustain you throughout the day.
Power Pasta - Toss leftover pasta with leftover green veggies such as broccoli or chopped spinach, some canned and drained white beans, olive oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper and a dash of crushed red pepper (optional). There's no real recipe here. Just play with the proportions based on your personal taste or what you have on hand.
Chicken, Tuna or Shrimp Salad - Easy-peasy! Toss shredded leftover chicken, canned drained tuna or cooked chopped shrimp with mayo or plain Greek yogurt and any combination of nuts, celery and onion or shallot. Season to taste. Serve in a multigrain tortilla or make lettuce wraps with green leaf lettuce. Add shredded carrot, cucumbers or cucumbers for extra crunch, vitamins and fiber. Some of my favorites: Chicken with curry mayo, grapes and almonds; Shrimp with wasabi mayo, radish, carrot and cucumber; Tuna with lemon-dill mayo.
Grain Bowl - Quinoa, rice, farro, bulgur. Any of these on their own or in combination make a great base for trendy grain bowls. Layer with fresh or cooked veggies and lean protein such as chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, shrimp or tofu. Heat and serve drizzled with soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce or your favorite salad dressing.
Tapas - Great when you have a little bit of this and that on hand or if you tend to graze throughout the day. Try to include something from each of the major food groups - lean protein, dairy, grains, fruits & veggies/legumes/beans. It can be as simple as a hard boiled egg with nuts, hard cheese and a piece of fruit. Our friends at Yumbox have loads of creative ideas.
Soup - Puree 2 cups cooked veggies with 1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock and 1 tsp of dried or fresh herbs. Optional: Stir in shredded cooked chicken or diced ham. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Too thin? Add more veggies until you reach the desired consistency. Cooked potatoes and corn are great thickeners. Too thick? Slowly add more stock to thin. Divide into individual serving-sized containers and simply heat when you're ready to eat.