It’s that time of year again. Beach days are officially coming to an end as September begins and school commences (sigh). That being said, today I’m addressing one of the most important (but often overlooked) parts of the school day: lunch time. We all know that school lunches aren’t always the healthiest. From vending machine junk to Chick-Fil-A day, American high schools provide students with foods that are high in calories, sugar, and salt, but low in price. Today, 50% of high schools serve fast food to their students. We expect to send our kids to safe, nurturing schools that will help our kids grow and prosper, but the food at these schools is poisoning the American youth. It’s often impossible for kids to find healthy options in the cafeteria. I mean, how can you possibly make chili cheese fries nutritious? Really and truly, the only way to fix this issue and avoid consuming these toxic meals is to cook real food. That being said, today I present you with Meal Prep 101: a full guide to preparing wholesome lunches and snacks to bring to school or work.
STEP 1: PACK WATER
I cannot emphasize the importance of packing water enough. More often than not, we mistake thirst for hunger. It is crucial to pack at least 2 large plastic water bottles or bringing a filled, reusable water bottle with you to school or work. By drinking water throughout the day, you’ll feel more awake and energetic, and significantly less hungry. Not only are you keeping your body hydrated, but you’re speeding up your metabolism and helping to flush out toxins. If water is too boring, bring some unsweetened green tea or pop some sliced berries or cucumbers in your water!
STEP 2: SNACKS
Lets face it, who doesn’t need a mid-morning pick me up? Having a snack or two before lunchtime not only keeps your metabolism moving, but helps to avoid temptations in the cafeteria. My favorite snacks to pack are fibrous fruit (like apples or berries) and a brown rice cake with natural peanut butter. My other favorite snack options include: carrots with hummus, celery with almond butter, Skinny Pop popcorn, or RX bars. Preparing your school snacks on a Sunday night is always the safest bet. Take 10 minutes out of your Sunday night to lay, gather, and organize your snacks for each school day.
STEP 3: LUNCH
A proper lunch should be composed of 3 parts: vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbs. For example, an arugula salad with tomatoes, quinoa, and chicken breast; this is a filling lunch that can be made in large quantities so that when you meal prep on Sunday night, you’ve got more than half of the week covered. Other nutritious school lunch ideas include: beef tenderloin with steamed broccoli and yams; a green salad with garbanzo beans, quinoa, avocado, and almonds; and, of course, any of my entrees. Preparing your lunch on a Sunday night is the least time consuming and most effective way to ensure you’ll have 5 healthy lunches for the week. Preparing your lunches will take an hour and a half maximum, but it’s definitely worth it. Start off by cooking your protein, be it poultry, beef, or fish. While the protein is cooking, start on the vegetables and complex carbs. Salads are always easy and quick to prepare, but if you’re cooking vegetables and grains, this can be done while the protein is cooking. Once each of your 3 elements is finished cooking, assemble your meals in plastic, reusable containers and place in the fridge. If you’ve prepared salads, pack your dressing on the side don’t dress the salad until it comes time to eat.
grilled chicken breast, roasted turkey breast, beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin, grilled salmon or whitefish, pan-seared tofu
COMPLEX CARB IDEAS
quinoa, brown rice, sprouted grain bread, roasted yams, roasted squash, corn, roasted pumpkin, beans, lentils, peas
mixed green salad, raw or steamed broccoli, steamed spinach, raw or roasted carrots, roasted asparagus, roasted brussel sprouts, steamed green beans, raw or roasted cauliflower