In this day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to spare, especially when it comes to making time for exercise and eating healthy.
What most people don’t realize is that packing your own lunch doesn’t take as much time as you may think. We all know that packing a healthy lunch can save us inches on our waistline but a lesser known fact is that it will also save you money and time that you would have otherwise spent at a restaurant.
This “time constraint” is how most people rationalize the fact that they simply can’t be bothered to put the effort into eating healthy. This is especially the case for people who work on the road and travel frequently for business who also have the luxury of being able to expense their meals.
Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes less time to prepare a healthy lunch (snacks included) than to eat out, so quit using convenience as an excuse to eat out!
Let’s face it, most people believe that it is a lot more convenient to eat a restaurant than spend the time planning and preparing your meals for a day on the road but the fact of the matter is, you can spend less than 10 minutes making and packing a healthy lunch and snacks which is far less time than you would spend in a restaurant.
For example, if you stop for a coffee and a snack in the morning and the afternoon at a coffee shop, you will spend at least 5 minutes if not more at each shop. If you stop for lunch, this can take in excess of an hour if you go to a sit-down restaurant. Even if you went to a fast food joint for lunch, that will likely take at least 10-15 minutes between lining up to place your order and actually receiving your food. In the least, if you dine out all day long you will spend a minimum of 20 minutes of your day simply waiting for food. That’s significantly more time than you need to prepare something much healthier at home!
I will share with you some examples of healthy snacks and meals that I would typically prepare and bring with me for my average day on the road. They are all very quick and easy to prepare so there are no excuses!
What you will need:
- Insulated lunch bag or cooler
- Ice pack(s) if packing perishable items
- Utensils (Ideally an all-in-one fork/knife/spoon combo)
- Napkin or paper towel
Snacks with Zero Preparation:
- Protein Bar
- Can of tuna
- Whole fruit (apple, orange, pear, etc.)
- Protein Powder (single serving sample)
Snacks with Minimal Preparation (Hands-on Time <1 min):
- Protein Powder: This can be mixed into a small bottle of water or milk. I will put a single serving of protein powder into a Ziploc bag and after I am finished my coffee in my thermos, I put the powder into the thermos and mix with water that I have brought or buy a small carton of milk at a convenience store to mix with it.
- Boiled Eggs: As you prepare your things in the morning, boil some eggs. It takes a few seconds to put them on the stove and the same to remove them from the stove. If you’re concerned about time or forgetting them on the stove, simply boil them the night before. They will be safe to eat for several days after cooking.
- Loose fruit and veggies (grapes, berries, carrots etc.): Simply rinse them and put them into a Ziploc bag. The Ziploc bag can later be used to dispose of your eggshells, protein bar wrapper or other small trash items.
- Nuts: Grab a small handful or count out a single serving and place into a Ziploc bag.
- Cheese slices: Can either be wrapped in saran wrap or placed in a Ziploc bag. Note that if you do pack cheese slices, don’t forget to include an ice pack.
Snacks/Meals Requiring a Moderate amount of Preparation (Hands-on Time: <5min):
- Greek Yogurt Parfait: This is my staple snack in the morning! To make it, place your oatmeal in the microwave (2-5 minutes depending on the Oatmeal), add frozen berries and microwave for an additional 1-2 minutes, add 2-3 TBSP of 0% Fat Greek Yogurt and place into a Tupperware container. Don’t forget to put on an ice pack and pack a spoon!
- Salad: If you keep it simple (lettuce that you simply have to rinse, tomato, pepper, etc.) it will take under 5 minutes to prepare. I usually make 2-3 at a time so I don’t have to make a new one every day. For dressing I put a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small Tupperware container that I place within the Tupperware containing the salad. Don’t forget to bring a fork!
Sandwiches: Try to make it as healthy as possible. Here are a few ideas:
Chicken/Turkey & Swiss:
- 2 slices of multigrain/whole wheat bread
- 3-4 slices of low-fat, low-sodium chicken or turkey breast
- 1 slice Swiss cheese (regular Swiss is low fat)
- Garnishes: tomato, lettuce, onion, peppers, etc.
- Condiments: mustard, low-fat mayo- Only use small amounts (<1tsp each) not just because of calories but because if you eat in your car like me, the last thing you want is to get covered in mustard or mayo before your next meeting!
**Tip: Place the meat on the bottom, the garnishes in the middle, topped by lettuce, then cheese slice in order to prevent your sandwich from getting soggy.
**TIP: This should be made on the spot in your car because if made in advance, the bread or wrap will become so soggy and fall apart by the time you go to eat it!
- 2 slices of multigrain bread or 1 multigrain/whole wheat wrap prepared in advance with a layer of light mayo or light plain cream cheese.
- 1 small can tuna (single serving with peel-off lid). Apply to prepared bread with your spoon and enjoy!
*Note: an alternative to preparing the bread in advance with low-fat mayo or cream cheese is to pack a single serving of low-fat cream cheese in a small Tupperware container and mix with the tuna. I thought it sounded gross at first but it is delicious, low in fat and an excellent source of protein!
Not sure how much and what specifically to pack?
Be sure to incorporate a protein source in EVERY snack and meal! Protein will keep you fuller longer and doing so will help stabilize your blood sugar levels. My personal trainer gave me this advice and it helped me reduce almost 1000 calories per day from my diet and I was less hungry than before!
As long as you’re eating some sort of protein, you can eat small snacks every 2-3 hours. Constantly fueling up on healthy foods throughout the day not only helps improve your energy levels, cognitive function and overall health but it also helps boost your metabolism.
So to answer the question, “How much to pack?“ If you will be gone the entire day, try to bring enough for at least 4 snacks ( 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon) as well as a lunch (if you don’t have a lunch meeting).
I hope that you found some of these ideas useful and that you will incorporate them into your next meal en route.
Unsure about how healthy your snack and lunch combo is? Need some tips on how to make your lunch healthier?
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Travel safe my friends and don’t forget to eat healthy while you’re at it. Time is on your side!