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“Brown Bagging” made Easy

I recently received this question: “I find it challenging to stick to a healthy eating routine while I’m at work. I have long days; sometimes they start at 7am and end at 9pm. To make things worse- most of our meetings are over meals. The meals are usually catered, and the food is pretty unhealthy. Sometimes I skip the meals, but then go too long without eating and get overly hungry. I find it really challenging to pack all my meals with me. Please help! “ –Katrina B.

Katrina thanks for your question. First, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with finding the time to prep and pack food for meals outside of the home. Your situation is especially difficult as sometimes you are out for all your meals, and the meal options at meetings are not the best choice.

And let’s be honest: it can be tough to keep motivated to always pack food to take with you. It is way easier to go with the flow and eat the food that is served at meetings, or to eat out at restaurants. But, when it comes to feeling energetic, healthy, and reaching your weight loss (or weight maintenance) goals, prepping your own food is the obvious choice.

Just like any other healthy habit, it’s important to remind yourself of your ‘why’ regularly to stay motivated. In the tips below I offer strategies to pack your own meal, but staying motivated is key!

  1. Get in the mindset that packing food to take with your requires planning and time. While there are some time saving short cuts, prepping and packing healthy meals to fuel your body away from home takes time. You have two choices: you can resent ‘having to do it’, and forever think, “why can’t it be easier” or “I wish I didn’t have to do this” (ie. The victim mentality) or you can count your blessings that you are able to choose to invest a bit of time so that you can look and feel your best.
  2. Stock up with containers. Purchase a large cooler bag, a few cooler packs, a thermos and loads of containers. I prefer glass containers for packing and storing food. I’m also a fan of large salad bowls with lids. Wide mouth canning jars are also fantastic for packing food to go.
  3. Think nutrition, not meals. It can be challenging to pack a set breakfast, lunch and dinner away from home. Instead, pack multiple servings of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. During the day, you can mix and match the various food options depending on how you feel. Anything you don’t eat can be packed along the next day (providing its’ still good!).
  4. Prep on Sundays (or the day before you start your workweek). Plan to spend about an hour each Sunday prepping your food. Put some music on (or listen to a podcast) and enjoy. Portion out your food into containers for the week. For example, you may portion out servings of cottage cheese or yogurt, almonds. Chop veggies and divide into 5 containers. Boil 6-8 eggs, peel them and put 2 eggs in each container. By prepping most of your meals for the entire week, you’ll save a ton of time. Each morning, you’ll only need to reach into your fridge and grab a few containers. Easy!
  5. Make sure your fridge is stocked up with your regular foods. As you get into the routine of packing your own meals, you’ll quickly come up with a list of staples. Keep those stocked up!
  6. Cook once; eat (at least) twice. Each time you cook, make extra so you can pack leftovers for a meal the next day. If you make enough leftovers, portion into containers and store in the freezer.
  7. Make healthy muffins or protein bars ahead of time. A batch of healthy muffins can become a part of a mini-meal for two to three weeks. 
  8. If you have a fridge at work, store some food at work. Hummus, natural nut butter and fruit can be easily stored.
  9. Save time by purchasing pre-portioned food items at the store. You can purchase portioned out packs of hummus, cheese, and other snacks. Be prepared to pay a few extra dollars, but you’ll likely still save money since you’re not eating out!

When it comes to looking and feeling your best, the less often you rely on meals out, especially when your choices are limited, the better. The occasional work lunch or dinner out can easily fit into a healthy lifestyle, but if you’re out multiple times per week, it pays to take the time to ‘brown bag’ your lunch.

If you have a question you’d like answered, please email it to tanja(at)tanjashaw(dot)com.