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Old 04-15-2010, 11:27 PM   #1
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Default Calorie Friendly Packed Lunch

Soon summer session starts and I'll have one hour for lunch, for budget reasons going to the cafe on campus is not an option so I'll have to pack a lunch.

I'm torn as to what to bring!! No access to fridge and I'd rather not carry around a cooler so that eliminate what I've gotten used to eating (salad, cottage cheese ect). I could buy a themos and make my own protein shake, but they all taste so fake and artificial-sugary to me.

Any advice or meal recommendations?

I should note, from the time I leave in the morning (at the latest point possible) to the lunch hour it will be 4 hours that food has to last.
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Old 04-15-2010, 11:37 PM   #2
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Mr Bento or Ms Bento from amazon.com

Keeps cold for 7 hrs, hot for 5

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Old 04-16-2010, 03:29 AM   #3
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You can get a smaller insulated bag that will fit into a backpack, that's what I use, with ice packs in it. A 1/2" x 6" x 3" ice pack keeps a salad, pita wrap, and cut fruit cold from 7:30 am till 2:00 pm (and maybe longer --- that's when I eat it). Target has been carrying some cute insulated bags and lunch sets lately; look in their housewares section. Dollar stores also have neat things, that's where I got mine, it's a rectangular insulated bag with a zipper on 3 sides that tupperware containers fit in nicely. Also check in the camping/picnic and paper plate aisles of Target, Walmart, dollar stores, and grocery stores for different sizes of ice packs. There are even tiny ones that you can snip from a flexible sheet as large or small as you want.

You can also freeze your water bottle (or juice box etc) or a container of frozen berries so that they act as your "ice pack" but aren't wasted space. I freeze a tiny bottle of skim milk for my thermos of coffee -- don't like powdered creamer -- and it's just thawed for when I want it after lunch.

Many foods are fine for several hours or a whole day without refrigeration. Think about all the foods in your supermarket that are sold unrefrigerated -- vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grain breads, crackers. The healthy things! In Greek open air markets, yogurt and cheese and olives and eggs are also sold from unrefrigerated stalls and people don't think of them as items requiring very cool temperatures. (I am an archaeologist and in the field we often need to carry around lunches that have NO refrigeration in 90-degree heat.) For cheeses and nuts you just have to make sure to exercise careful portion control if you are dieting.

Sealed containers of plain yogurt -- the kind with "active cultures" -- is often "alive" so are fine several hours without refrigeration; the yogurt beasties just continue in their yogurty ecosystem. Or if you like it cool and not room temp you can freeze it, but it can change the texture a bit; try it and see if you like it.

Uncut fruit and veggies; you can bring a knife along if they need prep but it can be kinda fun just chowing down on an uncut cucumber or tomato. String cheese and babybel and other individual pack cheeses, or very thin slices of good hard strong-flavored cheese like an aged cheddar or gouda, which taste best at room temp. Small cans or packs of tuna or other fish can be packed and then opened when you need them. Bean and other salads prepared with vinegar and oil (vinegar is a traditional preservative) or single-serve cans of beans if you can find them, sometimes in ethnic food aisles.

Typical archaeologist/traditional farmer lunch: hunks of good bread, whole tomato, whole cucumber, hard boiled egg, can of sardines or beans, slice of cheese, whole fruit. Packet of salt and pepper and oregano. Roll of cookies shared out among the whole team so everyone gets one.

If you wanna get more fancy, Google "lunch in a box", "bento" and "laptop lunch" for lots of ideas on unrefrigerated lunches or lunches carried with a small ice pack.

Last edited by bronzeager; 04-16-2010 at 04:37 AM.
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Old 04-16-2010, 03:51 AM   #4
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Thank you to you both!

I guess I'm hitting up the dollar store, although the Ms Bento items do look awesome the $50-60.00 price tag is a little out of my price range.

bronzeager - I'm printing our your post as I type this in case I lose the thread, thank you for all the information and thought you put into this reply! I'm off to walmart and the dollar store tomorrow the concept of using a frozen water bottle never occurred to me (I'm apparently quite dense!), after reading your post you're right, the fruit and veg in the grocery store or in markets aren't refrigerated!!


Thank you again!!
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Old 04-16-2010, 07:05 AM   #5
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My pleasure! I get lot of tips here and from bento blogs. I am a total foodie, and when I changed my eating I had to learn to re-channel my cooking and eating hobbies, and now I am a total packed lunch evangelist. And with fieldwork and living in traditional small towns in rural areas, you also learn a lot about food variety.
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Old 04-16-2010, 08:35 AM   #6
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Save up for one if you can. I bought ours when my kid was 18 months old and she's now 6 and still going strong. Totally worth it.

I've sent her to daycare/school with

juice, water, milk

fruits: grapes, cut up peach, pears, orange slices, apple with a little OJ or lemon to keep it from turning brown, banana, melon, etc.

finger Veggies: baby carrots, steamed broccoli, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, cucumber, etc. Just cut up so she can eat it with her hands if necessary.

main:
soups
rice casseroles
noodle casseroles
pb&j
cheese & turkey
veggie burger
hummus with mini pita & fruit
tacos (filling, cheese, lettuce all separate, she likes to assemble)
dinner leftovers
pancakes or french toast
pizza
bagel & cream cheese
dumplings

Lock & Lock has these tiny containers that are air tight. I use these for any dips like soy sauce, ketchup, yogurt for fruit, etc.

I also use toddler spoons and forks because they are smaller and will fit better in the lunchbox/bag

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Old 04-16-2010, 08:45 AM   #7
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I had to pack lunches this semester, my classes were all right in the middle of the day with not much of a break between. I have a little cooler thing with removable built in freezer packs that fits in my big class bag. It all stays cold for lunch time.

I am a poor college kid, and I live by myself. I've been buying the biggest fryer chickens I can find (5-6lbs), roasting them, carving them that night, and then eating the chicken meat for the next few days. You could do the same thing with buying chicken breasts or something, I've just found the roast chickens to be cheaper and it makes a ton of chicken that I can do tons of things with.

So with my roast chicken, I make chicken salads, chicken wraps with low carb tortillas (my fave), chicken sandwiches on sandwich thins, or I just pack chicken meat and a few other things on the side such as fruit, triscuits, yogurt, etc.

There are also many low fat/low cal options as far as cheese singles and lunch meat. They're higher in sodium and that junk, but a good option for variety. I put a fat free cheese single (30 cal) and a fat free turkey slice (20 cal) on each half of a sandwich thin (each half is 50 cal). A thin spread of fat free mayo and some veggies. So you have two mini open face sandwiches for less than 250 cal. You can get creative with that stuff too.

I recently discovered a microwave in this random little room in one of my buildings. So, I packed 1/2 cup oatmeal in a tupperware with cinnamon, a tablespoon of chopped pecans, and Splenda brown sugar. I also packed a banana. When it was lunch time, I put water in my oatmeal and nuked it and then mashed the banana into it. It was about 300 cal, but oh so tasty. Banana nut and cinnamon oatmeal
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Old 04-16-2010, 10:07 AM   #8
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I portion out my cottage cheese into a tupperware and add frozen blueberries. By lunchtime, the blueberries have thawed but everything is still cold.
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Old 04-16-2010, 11:08 AM   #9
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I LOVE my Mr. Bento. highly recommend it!
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Old 04-16-2010, 12:46 PM   #10
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mmm...great thread. Thank you.
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Old 04-16-2010, 12:50 PM   #11
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An easy a low-cal lunch / snack for me to pack and bring to work is hummus with mixed veggies and whole wheat pita. Yummy and super good for you!
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Old 04-16-2010, 01:53 PM   #12
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All great ideas, but this brilliant one is my fav! Thanks for the idea, Midwife!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by midwife View Post
I portion out my cottage cheese into a tupperware and add frozen blueberries. By lunchtime, the blueberries have thawed but everything is still cold.
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Old 04-16-2010, 02:06 PM   #13
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im getting a Mr/MS bento... no doubt about it!
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Old 04-17-2010, 02:53 AM   #14
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At Walmart in the lunchbox/container section they have these containers that are the Stay Fit line. They are salad containers, sandwich containers and smaller round containers for fruits and veggies. The lids and sometimes the containers are popped into the freezer and then you fill the container and put on the lid and it keeps your stuff cold. The small round containers work wonders. I just purchased two sandwich containers because my old one broke and I love them. They're well worth the $4 a piece.

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