Make ahead lunches

soup-1006694_1280When it comes to making healthy lunches, planning is crucial. The good news is that once you get used to the routine it becomes easier.

Planning for healthy work or school lunches might look like this:

  1. during the week make a list of possible lunches
  2. create a grocery list
  3. create menu plan to ensure meal rotation
  4. prepare your meals Sunday and possibly a few on Wednesday

Choosing foods that stay in the fridge for a few days without going bad is key. As a general rule cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 to 4 days. This is why you might want to take some time Wednesday to cook a few things such as quinoa.

The following foods keep for at least 3 days once cooked and refrigerated:

Rice: 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Quinoa: 3 days in the refrigerator

Beans: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 1-2 month is freezer.

Chicken: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 4 month is freezer.

Boiled eggs: 1 week in the fridge.

Hummus: see the label. Most are good for up to 5 days after opening.

Foods that freeze well include: soup, stews, chili, pasta sauce, bread, baked goods, or homemade bars.

Not sure what to make? Here are a few lunch ideas:

Wraps
You can use flour tortillas, pita bread, collards or romaine lettuce as your wraps. Fill the wrap with your favourite fillings. Egg and tuna salad is good in romaine lettuce. Refried beans, salsa and cheese are good in a flour tortilla. Make a salad and stuff it into pita bread. Ideally you would have all the ingredients on hand and make your wrap in the morning so that it doesn’t get soggy overnight. You can also bring the filling in a separate container and make your wrap at lunch time.

Bento Boxes
For those who love variety, the possibilities are endless! If you need some ideas check out this post and if you want to make an extra special bento try these.

Hearty soup, stews and chili
Make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch. Use a slow cooker to save time.

Veggie Bowls
Add steamed, roasted or raw veggies over cooked rice, quinoa, rice noodles or another grain. Top with it beans, nuts, or lean meat for added protein and add a drizzle of your favourite sauce.
This is a simple and delicious sauce that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can add it to a veggie bowl, salad or use it as a dipping sauce.

Tahini Lemon Sauce
Blend 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup water.

Burrito Bowl
Layer some rice, refried beans, salsa and avocado. This is one of the quickest lunches to put together when you have everything on hand.

Once your meals are prepared, pack them in containers free of BPA and other toxins. It’s best practice to stay away from plastic as much as possible. If you do use plastic make sure they are dishwasher safe if you use a dishwasher and do not heat your meals in plastic.

Some ideas for safe packaging include: mason jars, stainless steam thermos and parchment paper. Ikea sells these glass containers that have good lids so they are less likely to leak. Terra 20 has a few stainless steal contain options such as this 2 layer sandwich box.

If you have children include them in the planning and prepping process so that they get into the habit of preparing healthy meals.

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

granola-787997_960_720Are you getting enough fiber? Most Canadians only get half the recommended daily amount. According to a survey by the Heart and Stroke foundation the average Canadian daily intake is about 14 grams instead of the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Fiber does more than keep us regular, it helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight, controls blood sugar, and lowers the risk of disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies are discovering the importance of fiber on gut microbiome. Research has found that when your gut lacks fiber the microbes are starved and start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut which can lead to inflammation and disease. You can read more about fiber and gut health here.HighFiberList

The article notes that you need to eat a high fiber diet consistently to maintain a healthy gut. If you currently aren’t eating enough fiber you will want to increase your intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating and discomfort. You will also need to drink more water to help move the fiber along.

There are 2 main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gel-like when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through largely intact. Some foods contain both types of fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types.

Here are some tips to increase your fiber intake:

  • Always compare food label when grocery shopping and opt high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Eat vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner.
  • Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.
  • Have some hummus and veggies as a snack.
  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and shredded coconut to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt
  • Download this list and keep it handy to make high-fiber choices.

By focusing on adding more fiber rich foods to your diet you will inevitably make better eating choices!

3 different uses for protein powder

Protein powder isn’t just for smoothies. You can boost your protein intake by adding it to foods or recipes. The added protein keeps you full longer and reduces cravings. Here are 3 ways to consume your protein powder other than drinking it.

  1. yogurt-1442034_640Power-up your breakfast!
    Add some protein powder to your oatmeal or yogurt. Try a small amount first such as a teaspoon in a bit of oatmeal to see if you like it.
  2. Summer Treat
    These protein ice pops make a great summer or post workout snack
  3. Healthy snacks like these energy bars

1 cup pitted dates
¼ cup dried apricots
1 scoop of VegaOne vanilla flavor or your favorite protein powder
¼ cup ground almond
¼ cup hemp seeds
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup quick oats
2 tbsp of cocoa nibs (optional)

Directions:

  1. Soak the dates and apricots in water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Drain the water from the dates and discard the water.
  4. Process the dates in a food processor or Bullet until they form a paste.
  5. Add dates to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  6. Place in a pan or roll into balls

NOTE: You can substitute the fruit, nuts and seeds with your favorites.

Choosing a protein powder can be challenging because there are so many on the market. My favourites brands are Vega and Sunwarrior because of their ingredients and taste. When shopping for your powder keep in mind it’s different uses so that you can choose a flavor that will compliment the recipes and whatever you plan on adding it into.