Packing Healthy Portable Meals
October 20, 2017
One of our tried-and-true hacks for eating well is to plan ahead and pack your meals, to control portion size as well as ingredients. But it does require a bit of effort and foresight, so we’ve gathered our favorite tips for smarter prepping and packing.
- Sarah Bossenbroek
Invest in a Mason JarThere’s a reason Mason jar meals have become so ubiquitous: the vertical depth allows for many different ingredients to sit on top of each other without losing their texture. If you’re packing a meal with many different components (like salads), your best bet is to layer them in a Mason jar, then mix them together at mealtime. Shorter, squatter food containers don’t quite cut it here. Here’s how we like to order the ingredients:
- Sauces and dressings on the bottom, keeping the jar upright.
- Then, layer in firmer vegetables that stand up well to sauces, like beets, potatoes, and cucumbers.
- Third, pop in any grains or beans like rice, pasta, or chickpeas, followed by protein (tuna, hard-boiled egg, chicken, etc.).
- Softer vegetables like tomatoes and avocado go in next, followed by any seeds or nuts (or super-absorbent grains, like quinoa or couscous).
- Finish it off with torn salad greens or crispy items like Asian noodles before you screw on the lid. Then all that’s left to do is give it a good shake before you eat!
Put Your Muffin Trays to Good UseAnother useful tool for an on-the-go breakfast is your muffin tray. The possibilities are endless:
- Bake mini-omelets with any combination of veggies, seasonings, and eggs.
- Try a lightened-up recipe for breakfast muffins with whole-grain flour, oats, and seasonal fruits.
- Get a portion-appropriate serving of protein with a mini-meatloaf made in your muffin tin. They’re baked in far less time than a traditional meatloaf, and pair with a Mason jar salad perfectly.
- Freeze soups, then pack a couple of frozen cubes to take to work (far less chance of spillage before you get to the microwave).
Freeze a SmoothieMake a few smoothies and freeze them in (not-quite completely full) jars or thermoses. When you’re running out of the door, you can take one to go and it’ll defrost by mid-morning or lunchtime. Or you can use it in lieu of an ice pack to keep your lunchbox cold.
Keep Parfait Supplies on HandIf you’re the type with a sweet tooth, you can always opt for a yogurt parfait: layers of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, and nuts (along with cinnamon and a hint of honey, if you like). Together, they provide you with protein and fiber to get you to lunchtime.Keep nuts and granola in your pantry and single-serving yogurts in your fridge. Snap them up when you rush out the door: you can pick up fresh fruit day-of at a café or deli if you don’t have any at home.
Go the Semi-Homemade RouteNot everything has to be made from scratch 100% of the time. If you don’t have time to prep an entire meal, you can prep single components in bulk, like whole grains or a big batch of veggies. Portion them out in a Mason jar, keep them in the fridge, and round out the rest of your meal by buying the missing ingredients (like protein or dressing) from a grocery store, salad bar, or café. That way you can mix it up and add new items every day to keep things interesting.
- Sarah Bossenbroek