Over the last several years, bento lunches have become the latest sport in the mommy Olympics. There are entire blogs devoted to photographs of kids’ lunches, from hilarious to pretty and everywhere in between. The original intent was pretty simple: Get kids to eat the lunches you pack rather than throwing them in the trash. Then moms’ competitive nature kicked in, and the creativity started flowing. But you don’t have to cut your bread into the shapes of cartoon characters to apply some of that creativity to your own work lunch. Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly easy to pack a lunch you’ll look forward to eating instead of “forgetting” it’s there and going out with your co-workers.
The typical brown bag lunch is entirely functional and entirely boring. Swap that brown bag for a compartmented lunch set, and lunch doesn’t seem quite so boring anymore. There are lots of options ranging from the cute to the sleek, and some even come with silverware, a napkin, and mini salt and pepper shakers. Eating with real silverware makes lunch seem a lot more grown-up than eating with a plastic spork!
The main attraction
Lunch doesn’t have to be a ham-and-cheese sandwich. How about a salad? Those compartmented lunch containers can keep ingredients separate until you’re ready to eat, so they won’t get soggy. And get creative with your ingredients. Try using:
- Arugula instead of iceberg lettuce
- Freshly-grated Parmesan instead of the rubbery stuff that comes pre-shredded in a bag
- Chopped chicken, turkey, steak, etc. – whatever is left over from the previous night’s dinner
If you’d rather stick to sandwiches, you can easily make a grown-up version of your childhood favorites. Try these ideas:
- Instead of pre-sliced loaf bread, try a crusty ciabatta roll.
- Add some sliced chicken, turkey, ham, etc. – whatever you have left over.
- When it comes to cheese, you could probably experiment until you retire without ever having to repeat one. Go for a hard cheese one day, and a soft, smooth one the next.
- Torn between your favorite sandwich spread and soggy bread? Take the spread with you, and assemble your sandwich when you’re ready to eat it. A lot of the compartmented sets come with tiny containers for just that purpose.
- If it still sounds boring, we’re not done yet! The choices for toppings are endless: strips of pre-cooked bacon, aioli, banana peppers, sweet peppers, French fried onions, etc.
Now that you’ve got such a fancy lunch, you don’t want to pair it with reliable-but-boring potato chips. Here are some other options:
- Pita chips
- Bagel chips
- Baby carrots
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- A hard-boiled egg
- Sliced cheese
Dessert doesn’t have to be a diet-killer. When you make your own lunch, you can pack something that’s just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fresh fruit is always a great option, especially during the summer. If your sweet tooth demands something with a little more punch than a piece of fruit, try adding some nonfat whipped topping. Or make a parfait of some of your favorite fruits, yogurt, and granola. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the tried-and-true cookie. You don’t have to worry about eating the whole package if you pack only one!
Do you bring your lunch to work? What do you do to make your homemade lunch so appealing that you won’t want to go out?