1. Cut out the bread. Or at least cut it down dramatically. If we do have bread we try to make sure it's whole grain and in tortilla form. Of course who can pass up a pulled pork sandwich on a fresh baked roll from the Amish Market? Totally acceptable once in a while.
2. Increase fruits and vegetables. I looked at what I was spending on snack food. We were never terrible, but I would buy Andrew Tasty Cakes and the like quite often. I was spending a lot of money on sugary filler foods! So that got cut dramatically. I used to be afraid to spend $2.75 on a half pint of raspberries, but I decided to put the money I would have spent on junk food towards our fresh fruit and vegetable budget. A little difficult at first but well worth it. I typically make a huge fruit salad at the beginning of the week. I buy as much as $20 worth of fruits to put in. Right now our fruit salad for this week consists of pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, a few oranges, apples and blueberries. Make sure it tastes really good and then you'll actually eat it! I throw a handful on the kids plates for almost every meal.
3. Increase the Protein. We aren't dairy free, so we get tons of protein from cheese, milk, and Greek yogurt. Obviously I do a lot of chicken, beef, and fish as well as beans and quinoa hidden in... everything. Whole chickens are perfect in the crock-pot on high for about 7 hours because we have the meat for dinner that night and then I can use the leftovers in the next night's meal. Really economical and extra easy.
4. Prep ahead for success. If I don't have healthy options available immediately/right in front of my face in a moment of weakness, I'm probably going to make a bad food choice. I'm one of those people that gets extremely grumpy when hungry, so I'll do whatever it takes to not feel gross and irritable around my family. That reason alone is enough to prep food ahead of time. You can prep 2-3 days of lunches at once and put them in a brown bag in the fridge so you don't have to think about what to make over and over throughout the course of the week.
The following super simple 'recipes' (no recipe needed, really) are ones that have become staples for energy sustaining lunches, breakfasts, and snacks in our house.
Ham and Egg and Cheese Bites
I'll start with these because they are perfect breakfast, lunch, or snack time food. High in protein, they give you the energy you need for your day. I preheat the oven to 375 degrees, place a slice of ham in each slot in a muffin tin, drop a little shredded cheese into the cup on top of the ham, and fill 2/3 full with some whisked egg/milk. Bake for 15 minutes or until set. Just 3 of these fill me up in the morning, and I often put them in Andrew's lunch for a mid morning snack.
Wraps with Lettuce, Tuna, and Hummus
These are so good for you. Use whole wheat tortillas of rice paper wraps spread with hummus, then top with salad and tuna. Roll them up and wrap them tightly for a lunch time energy booster! I make enough of these for 2-3 days of lunches.
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies
Yes! You can prep these in advance! I make three days worth of smoothies in mason jars and set them in the fridge to grab when I need them. Admittedly, there are about twenty five mason jars filled with food in my fridge at any given time. Mostly it's because I have them on hand since I love to can my fruits/vegetables in the summer, but they also save space compared to their plastic Tupperware counterparts. Almost makes me want to gag (seriously, ugh) at how Pinterest-y it is.
For each smoothie you want one banana, a spoonful of peanut butter, two large spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, and enough milk as you need to make the mixture the correct consistency. I used to add some wheat germ, but Andrew though it was gross tasting so I figured I better leave well enough alone. :) Also feel free to sneak spinach in there! You really can't taste it.
The Quickest Chicken/Rice/Veggie Lunch EVER!
I cheat big time on this one. If I had time I'd prep my organic vegetables and cook my own rice, everyone. But you can't win them all and this is better than nothing. I prepare one frozen bag of chopped broccoli, one frozen bag of brown rice, and three frozen chicken breasts. All courtesy of Shop Rite or whatever your major grocery store chain is. Once all the ingredients are cooked, I layer them divided between three pint sized mason jars and drop a little teriyaki sauce on top. Not perfect, but it beats a lunch meat sandwich.
So those are my ideas... Most people might choose one or two of these to pack for work. Andrew takes all of them, plus a little cottage cheese and trail mix since he has a long day. It doesn't always happen over here (drive through McDonalds run JUST last week..."Here kids, who wants another chicken nugget?! Okay, Mommy's gonna throw it back to you, catch it, ok??? *kid drops it on the floor* Oh come on! You have to catch it! Okay the floor isn't dirty, pick it up...!") but eating well is definitely possible with a little prep work.