Making a Nutritious Meal & Packing Lunches {Fit Tip Tuesday}

Hi friends! As per some Twitter requests (Jan and Miss Polkadot this is for you!) I thought it might be helpful to talk about making nutritious meals and how this applies to packing lunches.

A big thanks to Lisa for hosting all these wonderful Tuesday fit tips.

When making my breakfast, lunch and dinner I aim to focus on including five components: protein, fat, carbohydrate, greens and something fun.

I follow these guidelines in order to best nourish my body. Often when I leave out a component or if my portion isn’t large enough, I am hungry shortly thereafter.

Here is what I mean:

Lunch collage2

Black bean burger – protein

Avocado – fat

Sweet potato – carbohydrate*

Spinach salad – greens

Trail mix – something fun**

Nothing too complicated right? Keep it simple.

Protein, fat and greens are always components of my meals.

*I do not always include a carbohydrate source. This is dependent on my activity level and time of day.

**When I say “something fun“, I’m not talking about a Kit Kat bar or bag of cookies. (Oh darn!) I still ensure that my “fun” aspect is nutritious yet provide some balance (a piece of dark chocolate, dried fruit, etc). I also do not always include something fun.

When you’re working or on-the-go, the midday meal is often challenging. Sometimes people are “too busy” so they a) don’t eat at all or b) eat something kinda junky. Both aren’t great options. The biggest thing to combat this is to be prepared. “Oh here she goes again.” No but seriously. I highly recommend to make a plan (even if it is just a guide) and prep some food in advance.

To make lunches easier, I like to make one or two “big batch” meals per week. For me, since I am cooking for one, this means eating variations of the same meal (check out this post). If you figure out a way to avoid this, maintain your sanity and not spend hours in the kitchen, let me know :)

Lately I have been prepping veggies burgers, pre-cooking chicken, hard boiling eggs, baking sweet potatoes and chopping veggies to have for an easy lunch. I buy a few avocados each week and make sure I have nuts on hand for a complete meal. Tuna is also one of my go-to lunches because it is cheap, easy and nutritious, especially after Crossfit. This is what “my” section (thanks parents) of our fridge looks like on Sunday…

Fridge

Full of food! I like to keep all of my prepped food in separate containers and then assemble them into a meal the night before (I find it stays fresher). Spinach, chopper pepper, cucumber, brussels, broccoli, hard boiled eggs, baked sweet potato, veggie burgers and defrosting salmon.

Here are a few “big batch” make-ahead-lunch ideas:

Bean & Veggie Ratatouille – Meal idea: serve with almonds or avocado for a healthy fat option, broccoli for greens, and a piece of fruit if you think fruit is fun.

ratatouille

Tuna Salad – Meal idea: add avocado & hemp seeds (fat), sweet potato (carbohydrate), cucumber (greens) and a handful of frozen grapes (fun)

Tuna sweet potato and avocado

Baked Falafel – Meal idea: serve with tahini (fat), quinoa (carbohydrate), spinach (greens) and a piece of dark chocolate (fun).

Falafel1

Chicken fingers and sweet potato fries – Meal idea: serve with roasted brussels sprouts (greens) and some nuts (more fat/fun)

Chicken fingers2

A frittata is also a great idea. All of this can be made on the weekend and stored in the fridge for about 5 days. When packing your lunch, remember the components of a nutritious meal:

Protein: beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, beef

Fat: avocado, fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil, nuts – check out this post

Carbohydrate: sweet potato, squash, quinoa, brown rice, oats, millet, whole grain or gluten free bread

Greens: spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli, zucchini, brussels sprouts,  — any/all veggies!

Something fun: dark chocolate, fresh fruit, dried fruit (apricots, dates, cranberries), trail mix, Larabar

Making a Nutritious Meal

Questions of the day…

What strategies do you employ when packing a lunch? 

Was this helpful? Any requests for future Fit Tip Tuesday posts? 

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45 thoughts on “Making a Nutritious Meal & Packing Lunches {Fit Tip Tuesday}

  1. This is friggin AWESOME!!! Thank you lady I love this post! I love the idea of including something ‘fun’ as I think it is so true that part of taking your lunch if it includes something fun you will look forward to it.

    You’ve inspired me, I need to get back on track with taking and prepping my lunch and I love all these ideas, especially organising the fridge and containers in advance I’ve been doing it for dinners but not lunches.

    Love the fit tip posts too, I may need to join in the fun one week too :)

    You seriously made my day with this post.

  2. Girlllll you are so balanced in your diet. I can definitely say that my dinners are balanced but that my lunches need some work. I always have some fruit and something fun, but the main dish is where I struggle. I’m still into turkey sandwiches (eeeee I just love them) but know I need to branch out. These are great tips!

  3. This is SO the way I do it, I love it!! My Sunday or Monday consist a lot of meal prep and I love to use the oven – I just make big sheets full of chicken, broccoli/cauliflower/brussels and sweet potatoes and bake it. So easy. If I don’t have any food with me (which happens almost never) I buy a salad, canned tuna, an avocado and some glutenfree bread in the supermarket. No excuses!

  4. So simple yet so perfect. I feel like one of the things I still struggle with when it comes to my meals is sides. For a long time, I didn’t cook at all, and we ate… I honestly don’t even know, it’s a mystery to me. Now, I feel like I’m so proud of myself for making the main dish that it’s all we eat. In terms of nutrition I justify this because the main dish usually includes all those components (protein, fat, carb, greens), but it doesn’t always, and it’s kind of boring. I’m trying to improve this by just having some simple veggies on the side.

  5. I pack up at least 3 complete lunches on Sunday to help me with my late nights during the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) I then get my other lunch components ready ahead of time as well, so making those extra couple of lunches is no big deal when I am tired after a long day of work. I try to get in lots of greens, protein, and a healthy fat…recently I have been wanting to add a more starchy carb/sweet potato at lunch time because I have been super hungry. Trying it this week, so hopefully it helps!

  6. Hi Amy!
    Just a question.. Do you buy separate food from the rest of your family? How do you feel making your own meals instead of having family meals? What if someone takes some of the food you have prepped? Or is that off limits?

    1. Hi Jacklyn, good questions :) I do buy separate food from the rest of my family (I just live with my parents) and it’s what works for me. When I moved back home, it was definitely an adjustment. I usually make my own dinner but eat with my parents. Sometimes we will eat the same thing together (if we can agree on something) but otherwise my parents respect my choices. Usually my parents don’t want to eat what I have prepped haha but I think the most important thing is to just communicate with whoever you are living with and respect each other’s hard work and choices. If my dad eats a box of fruit I bought, I just ask him to replenish/replace it. I hope this answers your questions.

  7. This is great! I can tell you put a lot of thought and effort into your meal planning, and I’m sure it totally pays off! Usually one or two days a week I have one of those magic days where everything seems totally balanced, but it’s hard to do that all the time. I think I really need to turn off the Netflix on Sundays and get to prepping!

  8. I snack pretty much all day, so my lunch rarely has all the essential nutrients because usually I have a snack before and after lunch! I also pack the same thing every day… chicken breast and a veggie!

  9. All of your meals are so beautiful! I love that you are so precise with having all of your food groups and a treat and everything. I certainly am not. I do okay, but I kind of wing it more than anything when it comes to that. I am definitely a fan of food prep though! This is a great Fit Tip Tuesday.

  10. I love all of your tips! I definitely try to do the same thing as you when I pack lunches. I make sure I have some type of vegetable, protein, carbs, fat, and my “something fun” is usually fruit. :) I also love me some trail mix though! I need to try your tuna salad recipe though because I just bought hemp seeds!

  11. This is really helpful, actually. Even though I believe I do eat healthy, it’s nice to see this laid out and find some more choices for the meal. I have to have all my food prepped or I don’t make it through the week, at least in a healthy way! It’s so much easier when it’s all laid out for me! I try to include one main dish for lunch.. the bulk of it I should say, then add in a yogurt (with protein) veggies, and a fruit!

  12. Brilliant post! I was looking for ways to eat healthy while being on a budget and having not a lot of time to cook. This really opens all sorts of possibilities.
    Thank you!

  13. I love this post, especially your colorful chart at the end. I may just print this chart out to remind myself of what each meal should have. I need to start adding more healthy fats into each meal.

  14. I like this approach because it is also something I try and do! If I don’t have all the components and especially a little treat, then I tend to feel deprived and gorge on the nearest convenience food- not good! LOVE your chart at the end too :)

  15. This is such a timely post for me! I work full-time; therefore, I pack my lunches everyday, but I was having trouble coming up with something nourishing and substantial enough hold me over through the afternoon. I bought the bento style lunch containers, which has definitely helped, but your tips will help even more. Thanks so much for all this info! You’ve given me some great ideas!

  16. What a great post! Food prepping is so important, I missed it this weekend and due to a busy day was so hungry all day yesterday. Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to from meals, my favorite lunch recently is a big spinach salad with sweet potato and hb egg.

  17. Such a great post on balance! I try to balance each meal with all of these components & pack my lunch each day but I know I could do a better job of having rounded meals. I LOVE the idea of adding something fun. It makes you feel like you get a little treat even if it is fruit/nuts or a piece of dark chocolate!
    Your fridge looks like ours on Sunday, full of containers with cut veggies!

  18. I LOVE this! I am a major planner, especially when it comes to my meals! I started pre-cooking chicken on Sunday nights and it has seriously changed my life. I love how you suggest a little something “fun” too! Thanks for sharing!!

  19. Prep is key to me for making meals. Like, i didn’t prep any of my lunches this week (I will have to do it eventually) but I’m kicking myself for not getting it done Sunday because I’m so busy today and I was also busy yesterday. I love the sort of building blocks you laid out here for a nutritious meal. It’s really very simple when you look at it that way!

  20. Broken record time but I’m really impressed by your meal prep skills. Thank you so much for sharing this handy guide to create satisfying lunces. Like you I can tell when I’ve left out a component because I’ll be ravenous later [as mentioned in a mail before].
    Even though I’m by far not as experienced as you I like to pack a ‘proper’ lunch [often a soup or stew in a thermos], a fresh/crunchy snack like fruit, something salty and a piece of dark chocolate, too. A little bit of everything so I can satisfy (almost) every random craving.
    Regarding the next Fit Tip Tuesdays I’d still be curious about the timing when it comes to meal prep. How long it takes, which shortcuts you might use, what to prepare/cook at the same time …

    1. Hm I’m not sure how I can better explain this. I’m sorry! I really jut spend time in the kitchen chopping, cooking, etc. There isn’t much of a method to my madness other than figuring out what to make. If you have any more questions, feel free to send me an email :)

  21. Love this post!! Great tips, I love it! :) I meal plan/prep on Sundays. I usually make a couple different sweet potato recipes (Baked, fries, roasted…), as well as thigns for salads, and chicken or soup. Or even a stir fry (like your cauliflower fried rice!).. That way, I have tons of lunches for the week. I usually make my dinners night of and breakfast is usually a smoothie!

    Adding something fun is such a great piece too! It allows people to indulge while still staying on track!

    Thanks for linking up! Hope to see you next week!!

    xo

  22. Thanks Amy, for sharing this. It’s very helpful. =) I’ve been slacking off on packing lunch lately and buying brown rice bowls from school. haha. That needs to change! Money wise and also health wise (since the veggies and protein sources I order with it are a little high in sodium).
    And it’s always nice to include something fun.

  23. This is great! I recently started meal planning and it has made figuring out “what’s for dinner” so much easier. I also noticed I am not throwing away as much food which is a good thing! Thanks for the tips!

  24. CHECK OUT YOUR SEXY FINGERS ;)

    And I adore tupperware! Not sure where any of us food bloggers would be without it, LOL!!! Typically my on the go meal is a can of easy open fish in olive oil, I cannot get enough of those sardines!

  25. I generally have 7 days a week the same lunch because i love it so much and makesme happy, butter beans with sardines in tomato sauce and salad with a yogurt and fruit, I suppose the sardines count as my protein and fun because I like them so much and am happy to have them for breakfast lunch tea or snack

  26. Amy- Your blog is really inspiring to me and I am currently thinking of using it as a way to clean up my fiancee’s diet. I am going to do this with him as motivation for him to succeed! Some questions for you: When you plan/prepare each of your meals, do you use the same strategy that you listed above, meaning with every meal do you include a protein, carb, fat, some greens and something fun?? Do you measure or just follow what you think you need or what? I would appreciate some feedback! I am trying to come up with a meal plan of sorts for us to follow for a couple of weeks to get back on track (especially for him). Thanks!

    1. Hi Caroline, I am so glad you find the blog helpful! Overall, I try to use this strategy for each of my meals. Eating the 3 macronutrients (protein, carb and fat) are my main priority for meals – the greens and something fun are the extras. I don’t always add something fun :) For my pre workout snack, I have a protein and a fat. For my post workout snack, I have a protein and a carb. I wrote posts on this (under the nutrition category) if you want more details. I also don’t measure – well, I used to but it wasn’t fun and I don’t think you need to. I go based on how I feel. The “hand measuring” technique really helped me in figuring out my needs. Here’s a link to a resource about it: http://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-meal-planning.pdf
      It took me some time to figure out my portion sizes but now that I do, it’s super easy! Let me know if you have any other questions and I hope this helps you both.

  27. do you use dressings on your salads? or when you mix together a bowl of protein, veg and carb with some avo do you add any dressings, curious if you find it dry without anything on it? maybe the oil you cook the veg in keeps it moist?! thanks.

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