Unless you work in one of those fancy tech offices in Silicon Valley that gives you free lunch each day, planning your lunch each day can be a total chore. Do you splurge on takeout? Heat up a can of soup? Or do you actually have time (for once) to prep something from home?
OK, you know this already, but there are so many advantages to brown-bagging your lunch. Not only do you end up saving money (why are cafes charging $15 for salad?!), but you can also save on calories.
A 2016 study found that when adults ate a meal at a restaurant, their total calorie intake for the day increased by about 185 calories, and their sodium intake increased by 300 to 400 milligrams. (Find out menu secrets to help you lose weight here.)
But—ughhh—packing your own lunch can be so much work, especially if you want something fresh, healthy, and filling (i.e. not just reheated pizza).
How do the pros do it? “I love grain bowls,” admits Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City. “They’re so versatile, they’re really, really easy, and they make use of leftovers.”
Largeman-Roth uses a grain as a base (red quinoa is her favorite due to its “nice nutty flavor”). Here’s the trick to making grain bowls in a flash: Make a big pot of quinoa (or whatever grain you want) at the start of the week. That will last you all week—and save you a ton of precious time.
Next, Largeman-Roth adds a protein; canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, or leftover chicken are some of her go-to options.
Of course, the bowl isn’t complete without fresh produce. Largeman-Roth uses whatever seasonal vegetables are in her fridge. If you don’t like raw veggies, try cooking some ahead of time so they’re ready to go in the morning when building your grain bowl.
Too much for your morning routine? Try packing your lunch the night before to shave a few minutes off your A.M. chaos. (Here are more ways to de-frazzle your morning routine.)
For more healthy habits, check out what Largeman-Roth prepares for family breakfast on busy mornings.