4 Secrets to Steal from Nutritionists to Pack a Better Lunch
Here are the tricks that will make you actually want to eat the meal you prepared.
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Learn the Japanese Word for "This Lunch Looks Amazing"
Even if you aren't up for arranging hard-boiled eggs to look like bunnies, or cutting strawberries into mini flowers, Japanese bento boxes are the key to making enticing portable lunches. Atlanta nutritionist Marisa Moore
, a past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says separating your lunch's different components, so they don't get all jumbled together, is a great way to add variety to your meal and make you feel excited about eating the lunch you've brought. Any compartmentalized lunch box works; nutritionists Michal Hertz and Rebecca Appleman, co-founders of the nutrition app Honey
, like these stainless steel models
because they're easy to clean and come with a wide range of accompanying pieces.
Photo: Jamie Grill/Getty Images
Include an Amuse-Bouche
Whetting your appetite may not seem necessary when you've had a crazy morning, but Moore has a good reason for this next tip. Separate from your main lunch, consider including a container of vegetables and—this part is key—pack it on top of the rest of your lunch when you place everything in your bag. Eating cut-up raw veggies prior to anything else is one of Moore's best strategies for keeping calories in check; if she sees them before the other items she's packed when she opens her lunch bag, she'll eat them first...and wind up eating fewer calories in the end.
Ditch the White Bread, But for a Different Reason
We know that "light" versions of breads are often not all they're cracked up to be (they usually contain artificial sugars
) and that regular whole-grain breads will keep you full longer. There's even more to love about sandwiches made with those hearty slices, though: They hold up much better in transit and are less likely to turn soggy after a couple of hours. Moore also likes to use sprouted-grain breads, or even collard-green or kale wraps
. Hertz and Appleman have two more smart moves: lightly toast the bread before you build, which will remove some of the moisture; and, spread condiments between the sandwich layers instead of directly onto the bread.
Stock Up on Snack Jars
Neglecting to pack an afternoon nibble is a classic mistake, nutritionists say, but if you're already making lunch, it only takes another minute (or even less time) to throw together something that will prevent an afternoon vending-machine run. Again, having the right containers can make this worlds easier. Hertz and Appleman are fans of glass baby-food jars, while Moore swears by four-ounce plastic reusable containers. They're perfect for yogurt, peanut butter (to dip apples in), hummus or guacamole (to eat with raw veggies).