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  • Bettina Applewhite

Lunch Meal Prep Ideas for When You Forget to Prep

We've all been there when the weekend goes by too quickly or you get caught up in other activities and meal prep is the last thing on your mind. Suddenly it's time to pack for lunch on Monday and there's nothing ready. What do you do? Don't worry. I have some tips to get through the day.

Lunch is a great time for snacking anyway. Grab nutritious snacks that will be satisfying and not take you off of your goals. The key to create a balanced lunch. You'll want some protein, vegetables, fruit, and grains.

The food options I will provide in this post can be easily found in convenient stores and are in single serving portions in the grocery stores and you may already have in your house so planning can be kept to a minimum.

Protein will keep you feeling full and focused to finish the day. Protein is needed for muscle building but also keeps the immune system in tip top shape. Your protein stores called albumin is what dietitians use to measure how likely you can recover from an infection. Protein is an important nutrient needed in the middle of the day to keep you on track. Here are some ideas for quick protein options:

  • Peanut Butter

  • Cheese Sticks

  • Yogurt

  • Cottage Cheese

  • Protein Bars

  • Hard Boiled Eggs

  • Tuna

  • Hummus

Vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli have low glycemic indexes. This means that they won't raise your blood sugar high and quickly causing that afternoon crash of energy. Vegetables can take care of your heart, prevent certain forms of cancer, and aid in digestive health. All these benefits are reasons why vegetables should be part of your grab-and-go lunch routine. Here are some easy vegetables to try:

  • Baby Carrots

  • Bell Peppers

  • Summer Squash and Zucchini

Fresh Green Salad with lots of Green Leafy Vegetables are a perfect option to get in lots of vegetables in the middle of the day. Lots of restaurants and even grocery stores have salads and salad bars that can satisfy your veggie cravings and keep you on track through lunch.

Mandarin oranges with leaves; fruit to build an impromptu lunch for meal prep

Fruits are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. They are rich in carbohydrates that will sustain you throughout the afternoon and keep you full for longer. Fruits are naturally high in sugar so they'll satisfy your sweet tooth without the added refined sugars. Whole fresh fruits are best, but if you are grabbing a fruit cup, choose one that is packed in 100% fruit juice. Some easy fruits that a great for your grab-and-go lunch are:

  • Apples

  • Banana

  • Pears

  • Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries)

  • Grapes

  • Cherries

Ant Rotezsky for Unsplash

Grains are a great source of folate and B vitamins along with fiber. Chose whole grains to make sure you get the most for your calories. Whole grains have more of these nutrients than refined grains. There are so many good options for grains that this list in not extensive but a starting point to give you some ideas:

  • Whole Grain Crackers

  • Low-Fat Popcorn

  • Whole Wheat Bread

  • Rice Crackers

  • Oatmeal or Whole Grain Cereal

Combining all these food groups will make sure that you stay full until dinnertime but will also give you the nutrition needed to support a healthy lifestyle. Try double portions of the fruits and vegetables while keeping the portions of protein and grains in control. The next time you're caught at lunch without having made meal prep a priority, you'll be ready. You won't have to try fast food as a way to satisfy your growling tummy.

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