Healthy snacks and brown bag lunches

Guest Blog – Christine CrosbyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Christine is a long-time volunteer and former board member of the Coquitlam Farmers Market. Christine provided information about healthy eating in her guest blog four weeks ago. Here she writes about incorporating healthy food into school and work lunches as September approaches.

As we start to move into the fall season we make the change from picnic lunches to brown bag lunches. Some people go with the traditional “sandwich, fruit/veggie, cookie” kind of lunch but there are lots of “outside the box” ideas out there, and lots of cuisines to draw inspiration from.  

First, as this is the peak season for local fruits and vegetables, I would suggest looking at market to find things you love and can preserve for the off-season so that you can put together lunches quickly. I love roasted peppers so I will barbeque a large batch of peppers now and freeze them. Then they’re ready for quick meals (dips, warm salads, sandwiches).  

Consider freezing (tomatoes, fruits, peppers), canning (chutneys for dipping or sandwiches, sauces, jams), and drying (fruits, tomatoes, peppers) so that meals in the colder season will have little bits of summer included. 

A wise investment for lunch-time is a wide-mouth thermos. With this simple tool you can easily have a warm lunch which is comforting in the cooler weather. Soups are quite easy to make and are wonderful for lunches. Or make lots of a dinner and have the leftovers the next day for lunch (don’t they often taste better the next day?!). Or, for example, transform last night’s dinner of mixed roasted veggies into a warm wrap for lunch. Simply warm the veggies, pack them in the thermos and bring a tortilla, condiments and a protein (meat, cheese, beans) and assemble your wrap at lunchtime.  

Bean dips can be a wonderful snack or lunch. The traditional one, of course, is hummus made with chickpeas. I find that hummus, some raw veggies and some crackers or bread make a great lunch. To switch it up a bit you can make a Mexican black bean dip or a curried lentil dip. You can serve bean dips at room temperature or warm with whatever you have in the fridge or kitchen.  

Try a new raw veggie with your dip. I was surprised when someone told me that squash (especially butternut) is nice raw when thinly sliced. I love carrots as the traditional dipper but it’s nice to switch it up with other veggies too: roll up some kale or cut some beets into matchsticks.  

I love to bake as I can make things much healthier and cheaper than buying them (and my house smells really good when things are baking). Try to bake a large pan of bars or a batch of muffins, once per week. If you build up a repertoire of a few recipes that can be tweaked you can have endless variations. For example a date square can be made with blueberries or apples, or add in raisins. You can make a blond brownie and add new things every week: raisins, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Or add squash or carrots to muffins. If you make a batch a week you can have them all week, then try a new variation next week. 

Don’t forget that the Internet is your friend. You can find a recipe for anything online, just type in the ingredient you want to use and lots of ideas pop right up! You don’t have to have a boring sandwich every day. Mix it up and have fun at lunchtime, wherever you are!