Packing a Plant Powered Lunch

Crunchy Cherry Sunflower Wrap Crunchy Cherry Sunflower Wrap

Plant-based meals don't have to be flavorless and bland. With many renowned chefs and foodies embracing whole plant foods, veggies are becoming more hip and desirable.

It's Hip to Veg

The common misconception that plant-based meals are largely considered flavorless, bland and limited to only granola, alfalfa sprouts, and seeds is starting to fade out. With some of our nation’s most renowned chefs and foodies – including Mario Batali – hopping on board the Meatless Monday bandwagon, vegetables and whole plants foods are starting to become a bit more hip and desirable. 

Go Plant Powered for School and Work

Planning plant-powered wholesome meals at home can be easy – with the amazing online resources and vegetarian cookbooks now available – but once you take plant-powered eating on the road, it can get more difficult. That’s why it’s a great idea to prepare your child’s school lunches and your own work lunches in the comfort of your kitchen.

Chances are, if you forfeit a home-packed lunch for a fast-food burger, sandwich, or even salad – it will show in your health over the long term. It’s not surprising considering that eating fast food meals is associated with eating more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugary soft drinks and fewer fruits and vegetables.  In fact, making a habit of eating out is linked with higher body fat and higher body weight. 

One of the most important things you can do for your health is to get cooking and take charge of your daily lunches by preparing them at home and taking them with you to work or school. 

Recipe >> Crunchy Cherry Sunflower Wraps Recipe

5 Tips for Packing a Plant Powered Lunch

Here are my 5 tips for packing yourself a plant-powered lunch you that the whole family can feel good about.

  1. Double up on veggies at lunchtime - Since vegetables are high in fiber and water, they tend to make you feel fuller. Studies have found that eating more vegetables before and during mealtime can significantly reduce your calorie intake for the meal. Unfortunately, most of us have a long way to go in order to meet our vegetable goal – I recommend feasting on at least 6 servings (½ cup cooked; 1 cup raw greens) a day. A leaf of lettuce and slice of tomato on your sandwich will not get you there. Pile up on the veggies in your lunches by making an entrée salad, such as my recipe for Southwestern Black Bean Quinoa Mango Medley
  2. Pack a whole grain into each lunch - It’s really not hard to do. Sprinkle cooked whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice or barley, into salads, soups, and casseroles for a crunchy, nutritious twist. Don’t be afraid to try foods from a rainbow of whole grains: amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, sorghum, teff, wheat (including Kamut, farro, and spelt) and wild rice.
  3. Embrace plant fats - According to the National Peanut Board, the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates high school. And this is actually a reason to celebrate. The fats found in nuts and seeds are both heart-healthy and satisfying. That’s why I recommend you include nuts and seeds in your diet every day. Skip highly refined margarine spreads or saturated fat-packed butter and spread on nutrient-rich nut and seed butter, such as peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter. Pre-packed nut packs also make a great addition to any plant-powered lunch. 
  4. Skip the sugar-sweetened beverages - When you drink high-caloric beverages such as sodas, sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, as well as sugary, creamy coffee and tea drinks, your body doesn’t receive the same cues to turn down its appetite as it does from eating food, so you tend to eat just as much at the next meal. My advice? Ditch the sugary concoctions all together. Instead, drink lots of water or make your own iced tea and plain coffee beverages.  
  5. Treat yourself right - An ounce of dark chocolate is an indulgent, yet healthy way to make you feel rewarded. But remember, Mother Earth offers you a variety of nature’s “treats”--fruits! Fruits, such as a bowl of fresh raspberries, a crisp apple, or a serving of dried apricots, are sweet treats that can help you feel satisfied when you’re looking for a splurge. Even better, you can enjoy these “treats” three times every day!

 

Sharon Palmer, R.D.

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, will be in stores spring of 2014.

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