Food Tips

No Sandwiches?? No!!

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Free Range on Food live chat agenda included the topic of workday lunches. (I think this whole “lunch” as a meal thing is going to stick. Don’t you?)

One participant shared this bit of wisdom:

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This person could be a Box Lunch Lifestyle insider! Some of us are already using this sneaky tactic to level up the food part of lunch: eating wheat at only one meal per day.

Why wheat just once a day? Not because wheat is the enemy, but because it can help limit (NOT eliminate) refined foods that are so often made of wheat. Eating a sandwich at lunch just means you might choose non-wheat foods (e.g., not spaghetti or pizza) for dinner. If you eat an English muffin for breakfast, don't have a hamburger for lunch. Overall, you’ll eat fewer foods that tend to be less nutritious, and replace them with…say…vegetables.

A Box Lunch Lifestyle means there’s no saying “no” to sandwiches—or any other food for that matter. And you don’t have to eat a bowl of quinoa if you don’t like it. Love sandwiches as much as I do? Then have a sandwich. But use your lunch to notice how often you eat wheat-containing packaged foods on a typical day. And if you want to be a person who eats “better,” use this as a not-so-painful first step.

Why Two Vegetables?

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Food trends come and go, but people basically agree that broccoli is both hard to spell and better for you than Twinkies. Making a lunch that includes two vegetables is a nice little trick that will get you moving in the right direction.

  • If you eat more vegetables at lunch, you’re still eating “better” that day when you end up grabbing pizza for dinner, or you’re too tired to fight with the kids over green beans.

  • Even homemade lunches often skimp on vegetables. To get your two, you might start adding a vegetable to your meat/cheese sandwich in addition to those carrot sticks.

  • More vegetables are a clever way to bump out of your lunch box those pre-packaged (i.e., not homemade) bring-your-own-lunch foods like chips or crackers.

If you’re new to vegetables, don’t worry about which are the “right” ones, and please don’t choke down a vegetable you don’t like. (In my opinion, life’s too short to eat celery.)

Just eating a lunch with two vegetables means you ARE eating a little better. Today. See? I knew you could do it.

Don't say "Meal Plan"

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“Meal planning.” If you love meal planning, you can probably skip this post. For the rest of us, the words alone make us groan. Meal planning is boring. (Even this picture is boring.) Its a chore, and maybe one we think can avoid. But our food doesn’t magically appear. And we gotta eat. And we want to feel good.

So let’s call it something else: food finding.

When I say “I need to find some food for me this week,” that feels different than “I need a meal plan.”  Everyone has to find something to eat. But rebranding this activity as “food finding,” to me, implies curiosity. What do I want to eat? What are my options? Finding food, unlike “planning,” is flexible. I can be successful at “finding” no matter what funny bounce the day takes. It’s more personal and less monotonous. And it leaves the door open to have a little fun. I can make the hunt for lunch a little adventurous. But even if I don’t, I’m “finding” something, which is always intentional.

Instead being discouraged by other people’s meal planning prowess, think about it differently. We are all responsible for choosing our food, but it’s also a great opportunity—and the freedom—to win on our own terms.


How lunch-hungry are you?

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We sometimes get hung up not only on what food is “good” or “bad,” but also on how much to eat. The answer is: it depends. (Don’t you hate answers like that?)

Lunch makes a great benchmark. It’s your ally in the search for the best answer for you.

For example, by lunchtime, do you feel “painfully hungry” according to this handy scale? If so, maybe you need a different breakfast. If you feel “a little bit too full” after lunch, you can try smaller servings, or a different kind of food. By late afternoon, if you’re thinking more about what’s for dinner than what’s going on at work, you may not be eating enough. (Or you need a new job.)

Portion size guidelines are a place to start, but the best rules are the ones that work for YOU. How much food is right for you is your call, and lunch can help you practice making choices based on what your own body tells you it needs.

Storing Ingredients Right = Using Them Up

Those foods that you love using to make your lunch? They last longer than we think.

You’ve probably seen’s powerful end-food-waste messages elsewhere, but you’ll hear more about their campaign on this blog, too. Your lunch break means a healthier you, but it can also make us aware of what food we use up—and what we don’t. These quick tricks to keep food better, longer, come directly from the SaveTheFood experts:

  • Wrap leftover cheese loosely in wax paper, not plastic.

  • Keep herbs like cut flowers—with their stems in a glass of water.

  • Place ripe avocados in the fridge, they’ll last longer.

  • Keep flour fresher almost twice as long by freezing it.

  • Use a slice of bread to soften up hardened brown sugar.

Wanna become a food storage champ? SaveTheFood has this topic covered. (I just can’t resist a terrible pun.)

Kidding aside, 40% of all food in America is wasted. I think our make-your-own lunch movement can change that. Don’t you?

Better Food: "What am I going to eat?"

Do you worry a lot about this question? Here’s one super-easy path to answer it—confidently—in less than 60 seconds:

  1. Write down two vegetables you enjoy eating. Just two.

    Examples: cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, iceberg lettuce (I like iceberg, too, and I won’t tell anyone that you didn’t choose kale.)

  2. Write down one other food item you enjoy eating. Think “food” (e.g., cheese) instead of “dish” (e.g., fettuccine Alfredo).
    Examples: ham, yogurt, almonds, PB & J, leftover chicken, mushrooms, or another vegetable

Lunch food can be as simple as three items (e.g., tomatoes and bell pepper slices with slices of ham). They don’t have to “match” or become an elaborate, Instagram-worthy lunch masterpiece. You can eat as much of these three things as you need to feel satisfied.

Your Box Lunch Lifestyle food is better simply because you like it and it’s so basic that you can do it yourself. No calorie counting or worrying, just doing. What you choose is better than any “unknown” food—meaning “don’t know what I’ll eat” AND “don’t know who made it.”