Now that summer is winding down and the kids are heading back to school, it’s time to get back into meal planning mode. During the busy work week, running out and grabbing something for lunch or having the kids buy a school lunch, may seem like the easiest thing to do. That may be true, but making this decision doesn’t give the body the fuel that it needs to last throughout the remainder of the day. The 3 p.m. crash that we have all experienced will be inevitable. It’s time to change that! This guide will help you build sustainable lunches that will keep you fueled until dinner. Also included are 5 sustainable lunch recipes by Chef Ryan Lopez, personal chef to NBA star Kevin Durant, as well as tips to build your own lunches from our Wellness Coach. As Chef Ryan says, “food is your fuel!”
The goal is to you keep your energy high and avoid that mid-afternoon crash by consuming foods that boost your energy, keep your mind alert, your ambition high and your taste buds happy. To start, make your lunch the largest meal of the day, finishing with a lighter supper that won’t weigh you down before bedtime.
Before you jump into the kitchen to chop a vegetable, you need to create a plan. What will your menu for the week be? When planning out your menu, think of foods that you can make multiple meals from – salmon made 2 ways, roasted chicken that can be accompanied by different vegetables and then turned into a soup the next night. The variations are endless! Using a mix of the same items will make meal prep and cooking easier, while giving you a different meal for lunch and dinner every day.
Always think of what your meals should consist of when planning. Keep the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate in mind for all your meals. To build your lunchbox, you want to start with a great container. Choose a glass bento box, aluminum containers or mason jars. They are easy to use and are good for environment.
To build your actual meal, use the following formula as a guide. This will lead to a lunch that will keep you energized the rest of the afternoon: 1 protein + 1-2 carbohydrates + 1 healthy fat + 1 vegetable + water/herbal tea/3-4oz. diluted 100% juice with water *adjust serving sizes based on your needs/child’s needs.
Choosing fruit and vegetables that are in-season will also ensure the freshest produce possible. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are higher in vitamins and nutrients than off-season ones. The freezer can be a great pantry back up! Always have frozen green beans, carrots and even berries on hand in the freezer for when you are in a pinch. For produce that is in-season year round, see the list below (for a seasonal produce guide click here). Ryan recommends using fruits as a great way to guide your eating for the week! “I like to start out with my fruits for the week. I love peaches right now, not only because they’re in season, but also because they are so versatile. You can eat them whole, dice them in a salad, or slice them and drizzle honey over the top to satisfy your sweet tooth. Pick out a few your favorite fruits. Snacks that you could keep handy around the office could be fruits, popcorn, almonds, hummus, guacamole and sliced veggies to name a few,” Chef Ryan Lopez.
Wholesome foods that will keep your energy up throughout the day should always be part of your diet. Choose proteins that are raised sustainably, such as chicken and eggs that are pasture-raised, grass-fed beef and sustainably raised seafood. Asking the butcher or fishmonger where your protein comes from will always provide you with the information you need. Having the Monterrey Bay Aquarium® Seafood Watch® app on your phone is the best way to make sure seafood you are purchasing is raised or caught sustainably, ensuring the best purchase for you, your family and our planet.
We put together one week’s worth of delicious recipes including some favorites Chef Ryan makes for Kevin Durant to get you started.