Life is busy. We have things pulling us in a million different directions. Lunchtime can present quite a challenge to those of us with busy schedules. We’ve reached the midpoint of our days and we’re likely juggling multiple things on our list of to do’s. Deciding what to eat for lunch is more than likely going to fall to the bottom of that list.

But what if we told you that instead of being rushed to meet your healthy goals during the day, you could carve out a bit of free time during the week to think through your upcoming meals and snacks to avoid overindulging? Preparing your meals ahead of time gives you more control over what you’re eating, and makes it easier to stay on track during the days when you’re busy or not able to quickly whip up a healthy meal. Take a look at these lunchtime meal prepping tidbits from Pack Health Dietitian, Abby Harris RDN.

The first step to meal planning is knowing what your schedule is going to be like during the day. It is important to know if you will need a 10 minute break to consume a healthy meal, a packed lunch, or even a healthy plan to eat out.

The next step is choosing a recipe, refer back to the Healthy Plate. Make sure to always include these 3 components of a meal: a healthy carbohydrate, a protein, and a veggie. If you pick one food from each group, you’ll have a complete and balanced meal. (This comes in great handy when you’re forced to grab lunch at a restaurant. Stick to those 3 main food groups for a well-balanced meal anywhere you go.)

Need some recipe inspiration? Try Abby’s go-to recipes when preparing your lunches:  

01 Sandwiches are a great way to consume a balanced meal, and they don’t require much time to prepare. Make a batch of chicken or tuna salad and spread it on a slice of whole-wheat bread or a wrap. For your base, you can use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. This easy swap cuts the fat content by nearly half, and doubles the amount of protein! Avocados or guacamole also make a good base. If you are looking for a low-carb option, swap the bread for lettuce — butter or bibb lettuce work the best. These are also great for people with Crohn’s and IBS as the lettuce is much more tender and easily digestible.

02 Salads are quick and easy, too. Diane from Spoonie Living suggests slicing and chopping your salad contents on Sunday evening, so you can easily build your salads throughout the week. You can use mason jars to layer your favorite salad ingredients, and when it’s time to eat, add your favorite oil-based dressing, put on the lid, and shake!

03 Grain bowls are another easy go-to. Start with a green of your choice. Think spinach, kale, arugula, or a mix. A grain, like quinoa, couscous, farro, or rice. For protein, try to add ½ cup of beans like Chickpeas and black beans. If you have trouble digesting beans, you could use chicken, tuna, or tofu as your source of protein. Next, add your toppings. You could use anything from veggies, cheese, to avocado. Finally, pick your sauce. Salsa, oil and vinegar, lemon juice, or even hummus are good options.

04 Lastly, soups make for great lunches. You can make a big batch on the stove top or in the crock pot. You may even have enough to freeze for later. We recommend when you make soups to choose one that is broth or tomato based and to use low-sodium products. For the gazpacho lovers, try these recipes for cold, but nutritious soups.

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