Things you'd rather think about on Sundays: whether the window spot in yoga class will be open, if you can make your manicure last another week, and if you're a mom, what book to read to your kid that night (and Netflix show to watch after, privately). Not on that list? Racking your brain for what to meal prep this week.
To simplify the process for you, we tapped dietitian duo Stacie Hassing, RDN, LD and Jessica Beacom, RDN for their expert intel on which meal prep ingredients are essential for nailing lunchtime for yourself—and that even discerning tastebuds (ahem, picky eaters not-to-be-named) will heart.
Their number one time-saving hack? Consolidate everything into one clean-up. "To help make lunch packing a habit (and more efficient), I pack lunches immediately after dinner so I only have to clean up once."
And no matter what you prep, make sure it fits under the "real food" umbrella. "Our shared food philosophy is that food should be real," Beacom says. "It should be minimally processed (if at all) and made from ingredients you can pronounce."
“Our shared food philosophy is that food should be real.”
That's why they're both big fans of natural deli meat (because what's a bigger time-saver than a protein you don't have to cook?), like Applegate®, which is humanely raised with no antibiotics ever and made with clean, non-GMO ingredients.
"Both Stacie and I choose naturally processed deli meat for ourselves and our families because we believe that real food should contain as few ingredients as possible and only those that are absolutely necessary—like water, salt, spices, and natural sweeteners."
Scroll down for the four essential categories of food they always have on-hand—plus download a shopping list to make next week's lunch situation a cinch.
Natural or organic deli meat without preservatives
Beacom likes lunch-prepping with deli meat because of the versatility it offers—without having to turn on the oven (AKA a huge summertime win). Some of her go-to methods for serving it up are cut into one-inch pieces to eat with gluten-free crackers and a slice of natural or organic cheese, or wrapped around apple slices spread with soft goat cheese. Who knew a pre-made lunch could feel so gourmet?
When shopping for deli meat, Hassing's easy trick for determining whether it's too processed is right on the ingredients label. "All the ingredients [should] fit into a 'real food' diet," she says. She also recommends brands without chemical nitrates or nitrites, that source their meat from humanely raised animals, and that include the fewest ingredients possible (oh hey, Applegate).
Quality dairy products
Also on their weekly grocery lists are high-quality dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese, and pre-sliced cheese for easy doses of protein and good fats.
"Organic whole milk yogurt is a daily staple in my kids’ lunch boxes," Beacom says. "I buy plain yogurt in the larger tubs and lightly sweeten it myself using a little maple syrup and pure vanilla extract to keep the sugar down. I then portion the yogurt into smaller containers (or a thermos jar) and add frozen fruit which keeps the yogurt nice and chilled." Genius.
The easiest way to switch up your lunch situation (and avoid food boredom) is tailoring your meals to what's in season. So whether you're loading a salad up with summer fruits or filling a grain bowl with winter squash, your tastebuds can follow the seasons.
"The type of fruit [we buy] varies based on what’s in season, what’s available locally, and what’s on sale," Beacom says. "Favorites at our house are small tangerines or clementines (easy to peel), apples or pears (either whole or sliced), grapes, strawberries, and melon. If I’m sending sliced apples [in my kids' lunches], I’ll often include a small container of nut or seed butter for dipping."
Whole grains and nuts
Sandwiches and wraps are an obvious way to get in your daily dose of fiber and whole grains, but Beacom likes to think outside the box when she's brainstorming lunches for her little ones (and herself).
"My kids prefer ‘deconstructed’ meals (or ‘deli boxes’ as we call them) that include a protein like lunch meat, tuna salad, or grilled chicken, crackers or pretzels, veggies with some type of dip, and fruit with yogurt over sandwiches or wraps," she says. Call it a bento box for kids—but one you'd definitely crush, too.
In partnership with Applegate
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