School is back in session and the struggle to find a healthy lunch option besides soggy salads is back, but fear no more. Hallie’s Healthy Food Hacks is also back and ready to make your school year a little less painful. Being in high school, I know I don’t have time to make a fancy, nutritious school lunch on top of sports, homework, clubs, and social activities, and I’m sure you don’t either. So give yourself or your parents (we all know mom is still up at the crack of dawn rummaging through the fridge to whip something up to put in the brown paper bags) a break, and try these delicious, healthy options.
1. Lettuce Wraps
This one is a must try. It is cheap, easy, healthy, and endlessly versatile. All you need is a head of lettuce (Hack #1- I suggest Boston Lettuce…the leafier the lettuce the easier it is to wrap.) and whatever you put in your normal wrap! From grilled chicken, mozzarella, and roasted pepper to a BLT, the possibilities are endless. (Hack #2- Skip the dressing or keep it on the side for dipping to avoid soggy lettuce.)
2. Spring rolls
I know what you are all thinking-how could the fried vegetable filled food you order from Chinese Restaurants be healthy? Well, the answer is: it’s not. Those are Chinese spring rolls. Vietnamese spring rolls, on the other hand, are just rice paper filled with fresh veggies and a protein of your choice. (Hack #3- You can find spring roll wrappers in any asian market, the international section of most supermarkets, and sometimes Traded Joe’s.) All you have to do is thinly slice fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, etc., as well as a protein of your choice, such as tofu, shrimp, or grilled chicken. Submerge a sheet of rice paper in a bowl of warm water and lay it flat on a cutting board, lay the filling on one side of the sheet, simply roll it up, and enjoy this refreshing, healthy meal!
3. Deconstructed layer salad
This is the solution to all of your salad issues. Layering your salad and waiting to mix it up until right before you eat it means no more soggy lettuce and mushy veggies! The bottom layer should consist of your dressing of choice and any hard vegetables that won’t absorb the dressing too much (Hack #4- I have found that shredded carrots work best, but you could also use cucumbers, cooked beets or bell pepper). The next layer should be any beans or grains such as chickpeas, quinoa, rice, or black beans. Add on your choice of proteins and cheese next, then softer fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, avocado, and berries, then any nuts or seeds, and finally lettuce greens. (Hack #5- When it’s time to eat you can pour the salad into a separate bowl and combine the layers, but no one has room in their school bag to carry around so many containers so I suggest leaving a little room at the top of your mason jar or tupperware to shake your salad before removing the lid.)
4. Celery sticks and nut butter
This old school snack has seemed to fade into the background lately, but I think we should bring it back. (Hack #6- Use almond butter instead of peanut butter for an option with less fat.) From all of the vitamins and nutrients in celery to the protein and healthy fats from the nut butter, this meal will leave you feeling good and energized for your afternoon tests. If you feel that this alone isn’t filling enough, try throwing some chia seeds on top. These little seeds expand in your stomach to keep you feeling satisfied.
5. Vegetables and hummus
Every Sunday, I like to make sure that there are bags of cut up vegetables and pre-packed hummus containers in the fridge. When you hit snooze too many times and are rushing out the door, this protein packed lunch is an easy grab. Switch it up with new veggie combos or a different flavor hummus, and you are good to go!
Photo courtesy of healthyschoollunchidea.net