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Thinking outside the Lunchbox: Recipe Ideas for Back to School and Work

Thinking outside the Lunchbox: Recipe Ideas for Back to School and Work

When it comes to lunchtime, having the same old thing each and every day can be a drag. No one wants to open his or her lunch and expel a sigh of disappointment. It is easier to stay on track with eating healthy and frugally when there is a variety of foods making their way into your lunch routine. 

Lunch is no longer the boring hour to just slog through. Make it a thrilling break complete with rocking food to add some spice to the day.

Snack All the Way to a Meal 

When considering lunches that aren’t that common, one that is often overlooked is the “snack lunch.” It is a fun way to get in a filling meal but give life a little variety for the fun of it. 

These lunches are not only great fun to eat but super simple to pack. It can consist of five or six of the favorite snacks of the recipient. The average snack lunch would look a little something like this: snack baggie or container of baby carrots and hummus, a mix of peanuts and popcorn in another container, some berries drizzled in just a touch of honey, and finish it off with a few crackers of whatever strikes your fancy. 

The possibilities are endless as long as there is a concentrated effort to avoid junk food. A healthy balance needs to be struck so that all food groups are represented. This is also the perfect opportunity to get kids to try new foods. It is in small enough amounts that some new fruit or veggie doesn’t seem that intimidating. Many people are turning towards this trend for themselves and their kids as a way to integrate variety; we so often think of lunch as having to be a sandwich and chips and a pack of something that we forget we are the ones in charge! 

Interested in packing a more snack-centric lunch? Here are some ideas we have tried and loved for your inspiration.

Avoid the Heavy 

It is easy to fall into the trap of packing sandwiches or pasta because they reheat nicely. There needs to be a guard up against large amounts of carbs. They do little for energy levels and leave eyes nodding before the end of the hour. 

If pasta is something that can’t be avoided, make sure it is paired with lots of veggies and protein. A nice Alfredo might sound like a one-way trip to Snoozeville but if it is mixed in with some roasted broccoli and mushrooms and topped off with a nice grilled chicken breast then it’s an energy boost. 

Sandwiches are another carb-heavy trap that end up usually being just meat, cheese, condiments, and bread. Don’t be afraid to switch it up to keep the spice of variety in life. A flavored wrap takes meat and cheese to a fun place when it turns into pinwheels. 

Adding veggies to the average turkey and cheese will liven up the palate and provides options to technically take the same sandwich every day but never eat the same one. Monday could be turkey, cheese, spinach, and tomatoes for a classic. Tuesday can go a little out of the box by taking the same ingredients but adding in chipotle mayo and some onions. By switching it up, by Friday the sandwich is sporting avocado spread, bacon, and some deep-fried onion strings. 

Here are some carb-friendly, sandwich recipe ideas to try if you are interested in keeping the density of a meal without the slog.

The Breakfast Lunch

When lunch is getting boring, go to the fun foods that don’t often make it into lunch boxes. Everyone loves a good breakfast but it just isn’t something that makes the cut for lunch when you need something portable. 

Imagine opening up that brown sack and inside is a glorious pancake with a delicious combo of berries and syrup with a little bacon and fried egg on the side. 

Cereal isn’t the first thought or even the second for lunchtime outside the house. It has been relegated to the quick supper when one comes home at way too late to do real cooking, but with the availability of individual packs and a good thermos for milk, suddenly cereal is the lunch hero. 

Here are some recipe ideas you might consider tweaking to make portable for your lunch. Don’t be afraid to switch it up this year with breakfast burritos or waffles for lunch.

Salads Are Not Just for the Rabbits 

Salads are another lunchtime food that have gotten a bad rap for being boring and just too healthy to be fun. No one wants to be feeling the pang of envy as their lunchtime companions chomp down on delicious fare and they are stuck with lettuce. 

Fear not! A rescue from the life of iceberg and limp tomatoes is here. First, throw all the preconceptions of salad out the window. Now think of a fun dish that would be delicious to sit down to at lunchtime. How can that translate into a salad? 

A great example of this is the gyro salad. Often when someone says the word gyro, the only images that are conjured up are fair time and Greek restaurants. Not so with this yummy little dish. It starts with a base of romaine mix. Then a generous helping of the gyro meat, add in some onions and diced tomatoes. Throw the tzatziki sauce in a container on the side and it is ready to rock the lunch table. Adding in a generous helping of sauce to the container leaves extra for dipping carrots sticks in too. 

Check out these out-of-the-box salad ideas you might want to pack for lunch next time to add some pizzaz to your meal.

Lunchtime and its food are only limited by imagination. The meal has been reduced to boring staples. This is the time to break the rules and find what will make all the other lunchboxes weep with envy at their contents.