How To: Pack healthy meals for long days

We’re all busy – there’s no doubt about that. Balancing class, work, studying, meetings and a social life is the ultimate task.

Oftentimes, as a result of being so crunched for time, we let our food habits slip to the easiest option. We resort to convenience foods like fast food, prepackaged and processed foods. While they fill us up, they’re not the best option for a healthy meal.

The internal debate ensues: to eat easily accessible but lowered nutritional quality foods or slightly more time consuming, but better-for your-body foods? Which would you choose? Hopefully the latter.

The 10 minutes it takes to prepare an entire day’s worth of meals will save not only your wallet, but your waistline.

Step One: Fill up your fridge.

Before you can start packing like the savvy meal planner you are, you have to gather supplies. Purchasing some mealtime staples like fruits, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, lunch meats, oats, milk and other sides will make packing much easier.

Step Two: Preparation.

Before turning in to the glorious bed you have been missing all day, head to the kitchen and take 10 minutes to prep your food. Seriously, 10 minutes is all it takes (and let’s be honest, we’ve all played Trivia Crack for much longer than that) — your health is worth the time.

Breakfast: Making breakfast the night before so that it’s sitting ready in the fridge decreases the mess you make in the morning – and it allows you to grab it and go if you’re crunched for time. Remember that bed you don’t like leaving? This tip lets you have a few more precious minutes contemplating the best way to extract yourself from your warm cocoon.

Breakfast ideas:

  • Yogurt Parfait = 1 cup yogurt + ½ cup granola or Cheerios + ½ banana / ½ cup blueberries / strawberries / raspberries. (Pro-tip: use the fruit as a protective barrier between the yogurt and the granola so the granola remains nice and crunchy).
  • Smoothie = 4 ice cubes + ¼ cup yogurt + 1 cup frozen/fresh fruit + ¼ cup juice, all blended together. (Feeling adventurous? Add some spinach or kale for an added boost. If you can taste it, increase the amount of fruit).
  • Oatmeal = Have a plastic bowl, spoon and oatmeal packet in your backpack and heat it up in a microwave on campus after your first class.
  • The Ultimate Grab = An apple, a banana, an orange or another type of fruit (the epitome of “grab and go”).

Lunch: Being in class during prime lunch time is the worst. Faced with the struggle of eating early or going hungry, why not just eat during class?

Lunch ideas:

  • Sandwich = As simple as peanut butter and jelly or as complicated as a gourmet sub. Make it the night before and stash it in the fridge. A sandwich you make at home will be lower in calories and cheaper than any you can have delivered to campus.
  • Veggie pack = Tupperware with carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, celery or any vegetable you like with hummus, ranch or some other dipping condiment — just make sure you’re not eating more condiments than you are vegetables.
  • Sides = Pretzels, cheese sticks, granola bars. These may be more of a convenience food, but notice how it takes up just a small portion of your meal and not its entirety. Balance is key.
  • Salad = Put your salad in a plastic container and use a smaller container to hold your dressing. When you’re ready to chow down, simply drizzle the dressing on, put the lid on and shake. Voila! A healthy meal in no time.
  • Fruit = If you didn’t have fruit with breakfast (or even if you did), a piece of seasonal fruit is a great dessert. Apples, pears, oranges, blueberries and bananas don’t even have to be sliced. Toss them in a container and they’re ready to go.

Step Three: In the morning, take all your containers of food out of the fridge and put them in your backpack. 30 seconds later, and you’re out the door.

After a few days of trial and error, you will quickly become a campus-meal-packing champion. Don’t be lazy about your food! The time you put in the night before will save you valuable sleep time in the morning and health in years to come.