Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas

easy healthy lunches

Whether you’re joining me for the Whole 30 plan or you’ve decided to alter your usual eating patterns in another way, you may find that lunch is a challenge.

I do fine at breakfast, mostly because I eat the same thing every day.  It’s easy and good.  And it doesn’t bother me to repeat the same breakfast each day.

But lunch is different.  It comes at a busy part of day.  Breakfast happens before the day’s activities start and dinner is carved out as a bit of a slow down time for us, usually anyway.  But lunch comes smack dab in the middle of trying to do homeschool and work and laundry and kitchen cleaning and….

I want to just grab something quickly and be done with it.  But the Whole 30 doesn’t allow for my favorite lunch of PB&J and chocolate milk.  Or a grilled cheese. Or sandwich with bread or so many other things that I’m used to having for lunch.

So, what have I been eating the last few days?  Here are a few things I’ve had and some more that I’m making plans for.   [Read more...]

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Menu for first half of Whole 30

Happy New Year!

Are you joining me for the Whole 30?   Yesterday I posted 31 Family Recipes that will work for Whole 30.  Today, I’ve got a meal plan for the first 15 days.

Next week, I’ll share some lunch ideas and my breakfast (along with a giveaway!).

I promise it’s not going to be all Whole 30 all the time on the blog.  I’ve got another new series that I’ll be sharing tomorrow. We’re going to spend the month focusing on meaningful meals.  More on that later.

And, of course we still have Slow Cooker Soup Fridays.  And more recipes will be coming your way, although I admit to not doing a lot of recipe creation over the holidays, so I need to get busy with that!

Whole 30 menu for first half of month

whole 30 menu first half

Most of these recipes are already on my blog.  Those that aren’t linked are either simple ideas or recipes that I’ll be creating.  Hopefully, they’ll turn out well and I’ll be sharing them with you soon.

1.  Chicken with Summer Vegetables in the Slow Cooker

2.  Beef Shwarma with cucumbers and baked sweet potatoes

3.  Italian Sausage with peppers and onions over baked acorn squash.

4.  Garlic Chicken with More Garlic in the Slow Cooker, cauliflower, salad

5.  Garlic Lime Tilapia, broccoli and baked sweet potato

6.  Hamburgers in skillet with mustard sauce, sweet potato fries, tomato and cucumber salad

7.  Dijon Pork Chops and Apples in the Slow Cooker, butternut squash skillet

8.  Chicken Curry in the Slow Cooker, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli

9.  Slow Cooker Meatballs (made with almond meal), spaghetti squash, salad

10.  Slow cooker garlic and rosemary chicken with acorn squash, broccoli or skillet greens

11.  Asian Salmon (subbing beef broth for soy sauce), Roasted Broccoli and Red Peppers, baked sweet potatoes

12.  Zesty Crockpot Chicken, cauliflower, butternut squash skillet

13.  Pan fried chicken topped with tomato and basil, skillet greens, roasted parsnips

14.  Italian Seasoned Salt Pork Roast, mashed sweet potatoes, broccoli

15.  Lemon Chicken on a Bed of Sauerkraut in the Slow Cooker, roasted carrots, broccoli or greens.

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31 Family Recipes for Whole 30

31 Family Recipes Whole 30

Before I start listing recipes, I feel the need for a few disclaimers.  First, I’m no expert on the Whole 30 or on a paleo diet.  In fact, I don’t know what the real difference is between paleo and Whole 30, only that one is stricter than the other and only lasts 30 days.

Second, from what I can tell, these recipes are “allowed” on the Whole 30 plan as long as you use the modifications stated with the recipes.  But again, I’m not an expert at all.  I’ve read through the book, It Starts with Food and that’s where my info comes from.  However, it’s a lot of info to digest, so I may be mistaken about a few things.  Feel free to educate me kindly if I’ve gotten something wrong.

And finally, my plan is to do my best during my Whole 30 (starting Jan. 2).  If somehow, soy sneaks in, or dairy disguises itself and I miss that ingredient on a product, or I forget myself and grab something I shouldn’t have, I am not going to worry about it.  I have no intentions of cheating.  But I do have the intention of being kind to myself and realizing that making big changes like this in the midst of busy family life is a challenge.  It’s okay for it not to be perfect.

Be sure to read labels when you’re shopping.  Soy sneaks into everything! I even found it in a tea I wanted to buy.

And a note on the meats: The Whole30 book suggests you buy grain fed, free range, high quality meats. I’ll probably be using a mix of meats that I buy in the grocery and some better quality.  I’m not feeling like I need to do perfect on this point.

Pineapple Chili

Pineapple Chili

No adaptation needed.

African Pulled Beef

No pita or yogurt sauce with this one, but you can easily have those available for your family.  Serve it with baked sweet potatoes.

Beef Stew

Substitute parsnips instead of white potatoes.  I think tapioca is okay for Whole 30. For me, it’s close enough. I don’t plan on downing a bunch of tapioca as a thickener, but it works so well in this stew that I’ll probably still use it.  It’s such a small amount (1/4 cup maybe) for the whole batch of stew. (update: The instant tapioca has soy lecithin in it.  I’m still going to eat this dish though. I’m not planning to have beef stew more than once or twice the whole month. You may feel differently about having that soy though.)

Chicken Veggie Soup

This is a recipe I created in preparation for Whole 30.  I’ll add more meat next time I make it though.

Chicken with Summer Vegetables in the Slow Cooker

Leave out the wine in this wine and you’re good to go.

Beef Shwarma in the Slow Cooker, Chicken Shwarma, Chicken Gyros

Again, no pita or yogurt sauce. Serve it with cucumbers, baked sweet potatoes and other veggies.

Chicken Salad

You can either make your own mayo or search for one without soy in it.  I think there are some good ones available if you’re willing to do the label reading.

Garlic Chicken with More Garlic in the Slow Cooker

This is such a flavorful recipe.  Serve it with squash or sweet potatoes or other veggies.

gazpacho-ingr

Gazpacho

You’ll have to leave out the sugar in this.  Try a bit of apple juice instead.  And serve it with roasted chicken.

Chicken Curry in the Slow Cooker

I love this recipe!  Just skip serving it over rice.  It’s really good with baked sweet potatoes.

Garlic Lime Tilapia

Use clarified butter and you’re good to go for this one!

Honey Dijon Pork Chops and Apples in the Slow Cooker

Leave out the honey.  Use a little unsweetened apple sauce or apple juice instead, or just skip the honey/substitute altogether.

Asian Salmon (on the grill or in the oven)

You’ll have to substitute good quality beef broth for the soy sauce in this.

Dijon Tarragon Tilapia

Use clarified butter.

Tony’s Tilapia

Use clarified butter and read the labels on the seasoning to double check.

Tilapia with Veggies Baked in Foil

Read the labels on the lemon pepper or your seasoning of choice.

Whole Chicken in the Crockpot

Use this for the meat and the broth.

Italian Chicken and Tomatoes in the Slow Cooker

Leave out the cheese.

Zesty Crockpot Chicken

Serve it with something other than couscous.  Try lots of veggies and a salad.

Italian Seasoned Salt Pork Roast and Italian Seasoned Salt Chicken

Skip the wine. If you use the slow cooker, you won’t need it anyway.  If you use the oven for the pork, try a bit of water or apple juice.

Crockpot Lemon Chicken baked on a bed of Sauerkraut

Lemon Chicken Baked on a Bed of Sauerkraut in the Slow Cooker

This one if just fine to fix! No adjustments needed.

Mediterranean Chicken in the Slow Cooker

Another recipe that’s good as written.

Pork Chops Topped with Onion, Green Pepper and Pineapple

No adjustments needed.

Salsa Verde Steak in the Slow Cooker

Have all the fixings for your family, but have yours on a plate or in a lettuce wrap.  Serve with lots of guacamole (keep the chips at the other end of the table!).

skillet chicken, peppers and tomatoes

Skillet Chicken, Peppers and Tomatoes

No alterations needed.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Leave out the wine.  Serve it with pasta for the family and spaghetti squash for you.

Turkey Breast in the Slow Cooker

Another good one to make meat and broth.

Virus Killing Soup

Watch the labels on the broth or use your own.  Leave out the wine.

Whole 30 Menu for First 15 Days

I’ve put together a dinner menu with main dishes and sides for the first 15 days of Whole 30.  You can find it here.

This post contains affiliate links.

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6 Ways to Make Slow Cooker Oatmeal

6 Ways to Make Slow Cooker Oatmeal

 

I’ve been doing lots of experimenting lately with slow cooker oatmeal flavors.

Some have been a huge hit.  And others weren’t blog-worthy at all.

I tried blueberry oatmeal cooked in blueberry-pomegranate juice, which turned out tasting like grape oatmeal.  Not good.

And I tried maple brown sugar, which sounded so good, but was just okay.

However, these 6 recipes are all fantastic!  I tend to like things sweet, so if your sweet tooth isn’t as big feel free to cut the sugar.

I’ve also got two tips on using your slow cooker for oatmeal, so keep scrolling after the recipes.   [Read more...]

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How to Keep Apple Slices from Turning Brown for Several Days

How to Keep Apple Slices from Turning Brown

 

Have you ever wanted to serve apple slices at a party?  Or pack them in a lunch?

The problem is that, once they’re cut apples start to turn brown.  But I’ve figured out a simple, two step method to keeping them looking fresh.  I’ve tested this method several times.  The first time, I checked the apples for several days after cutting.  They stayed looking fresh the whole time.  This time, I tested them for 24 hours.  Again, the method worked perfectly.

Keep Apple Slices from Turning Brown for over 24 hours with this two step method

 

The first step involves slicing the apples and letting them soak for 2-3 minutes in Sprite.  I pour the Sprite in a bowl, add the apples and then stir so that all surfaces of the apples are in contact with the Sprite.

I’ve used lemon juice to dip apples, but it does alter the taste a bit.  And I’ve never soaked the apples in lemon juice, just a quick dip, so the anti-browning action isn’t as good.

I’ve also heard of people using salt water to deter browning in apples.  But again, that would alter the taste of the apples.

Sprite works great though.  It doesn’t change the taste of the fruit noticeably at all.  And that means the apples can take a 2-3 minute soak, which really helps deter the browning for longer.

How to keep apples fresh

 

The second step of the method is to drain the apples and put them in zip top plastic bags.  Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags.  Then store the slices in the fridge.

I’ve held the apples in the fridge for several days with no browning happening.  This is good if you need to do some party prep ahead of time.  Slicing apples isn’t hard, but it can be time consuming if you have a lot to do.  It’s nice to know you can do it ahead and still have fresh looking apples.

I also tested the apples after coming out of the fridge and sitting on a plate at room temperature.  Here’s what they looked like immediately after I put them out.

keepapplesfresh

 

You can see I tested 3 different varieties.  The Fuji was naturally darker than Ida Red and Jonathan, but all of them still looked fresh 24 hours after the Sprite bath.

And here they are 30 minutes later:

keepapplesfresh30min

 

No noticeable change.  I’ve also tested the slices for several hours on the counter and there wasn’t any browning that I noticed.

So, if you want fresh slices to pack in a lunch or serve at a party, grab some Sprite and zip top bags.  Don’t forget the caramel sauce for dipping!

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How to Keep Guacamole from Turning Brown

You know how you have to eat all the guacamole as soon as you make it so it doesn’t go brown?

Of course, we tend to eat all the guacamole anyway, because we love it.

But if you’re fortunate enough to have some leftover, or you want to make it a little bit ahead of feasting time, here’s a great tip for you.

How to Keep Guacamole from Turning Brown

How to Keep Guacamole from turning brown

 

The main reason the guac turns brown is because of the contact with air.  So you need to try to keep any air from getting to it.  I have heard of people brushing the guacamole with oil, but I like this method better.

Put the guac in an air tight container.  Smooth the top with a spoon as best you can.  Then place a piece of plastic wrap over the top.  Be careful to get it covered snuggly, so there are as few air pockets as possible.  Then pop the lid on the container and refrigerate.

The container in the photo above is over 24 hours old.  It still looked and tasted fresh.

If you’re looking for a recipe for Homemade Guacamole, here you go.  The photo isn’t great, but the recipe is!

Happy snacking!

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Healthy Whole Grain Waffles – Freezer Friendly

Back-to-school time is upon us once again. The hustle and bustle of getting the kids out the door, looking presentable, with everything signed and packed, and a nutritious breakfast in their bellies is no easy task. Even if your kids don’t have to leave the house, or if you don’t have kids at all…breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Your body needs it to jump start the metabolism and get needed fuel to those brain cells. With that being said, it’s sometimes so much easier to grab a bowl of cereal, or a granola bar as we are running out the door. That’s where these freezer friendly waffles come in!

freezer waffles EAH

A healthy breakfast is just a few minutes away when you have a freezer stocked with homemade, whole grain waffles, that only need to be popped in the toaster. In just minutes you have a hot, filling breakfast.  The kids will enjoy deciding what toppings to put on their waffles, while moms will love knowing they are getting whole grains, along with energy from natural sugars.  Some topping ideas may be bananas and peanut butter, blueberries and walnuts (my favorite), chocolate chips (my kids’ favorite)…the possibilities are endless! You can even fold them and carry them with you for breakfast on the go. If your kids do like them plain, you could always add in some extra cinnamon, pumpkin or apple pie spice, or whatever they like. I like to think of waffles, pancakes, and muffins as a sort of “blank canvas” that you can design however you want!

healthy whole grain waffles, freezer friendly

Healthy Whole Grain Waffles – Freezer Friendly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (cow's milk, almond milk, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons oil*
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey (could also use maple syrup)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • *I like to use a combination of olive oil and canola oil, or coconut oil.

Instructions

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together.
  2. Pour onto a greased waffle iron.
  3. Cook until steam is no longer coming from waffle iron.
  4. Eat immediately or cool and freeze.
  5. This made about 6 six-inch round waffles.
  6. To prepare from frozen: These can be microwaved, but for best texture I recommend cutting them in half (or fourths) and placing in the toaster until warm and crisp.
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http://eatathomecooks.com/2013/09/healthy-whole-grain-waffles-freezer-friendly.html

This recipe does not contain eggs, and could easily be made vegan.

 

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How to Make 7+ Slow Cooker Freezer Meals in 1 Hour

A couple of weeks ago, I made over 7 slow cooker freezer meals in 1 hour.  It was easy to do and I have loved having those meals ready to go!

We’ve used several of them and they’re super convenient.

How to Make 7+ Freezer Meals in 1 Hour

Today, I’m going to get all brave and share the video I made on my cooking day.  This is the first video I’ve ever done for my blog.  For someone who can’t even stand looking at pictures of herself, putting a video out there is pretty intimidating.

I wanted to share it though, because I thought it would be helpful for others who want to do some freezer cooking in a limited amount of time.  I’ve also got some tips to share with you.

Weekly Meal Plans – All Slow Cooker Plan with Freezer Meals!

If you love having the planning done for you, check out our Weekly Meal Plans.  You’ll get menus, grocery lists and printable recipes for both Traditional and All Slow Cooker plans.  Each month of Weekly Meal Plans has one week of Slow Cooker Freezer Meals that can be assembled in about an hour!

Eat at Home Cooks Weekly Meal Plans

Tips for Making Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Quickly

1.  Choose easy recipes.

This may go without saying, but if you’re trying to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time, you need to keep it simple.  Choose recipes that don’t require a lot of chopping or pre-cooking.  You want “assembly only” type recipes.

2.  Don’t measure what you don’t have to measure.

Many times, you can just eye-ball the measurements for ingredients.  Look for recipes that will be forgiving of variances.  It’s much faster to pour approximately 1/2 cup of an ingredient in than to measure it and then pour.

3.  Do all your chopping at once.

Count the number of onions, garlic and other items that you’ll need to chop.  Cut them all at one time and set aside.

4.  Group ingredients for each recipe together.

As you open cans, chop onions or set out spices, group the ingredients for each recipe.  And don’t forget to keep your printed recipe handy so you can refer to it.

Video

Now for the video.  I hope you find it helpful!

These are the recipes I made for the September video:

And the video for October:

October recipes:

November recipes:

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5 Easy Lunch Box Meals

If you’ve got lunches to pack everyday, you know it can be a job.  Especially, if you have a child who likes a lot of variety.  It can be hard to think of new things to pack.

On the other hand, if you’re blessed with a kid who will gladly eat the same thing day in and day out, I say count your lucky stars!  You can make that same lunch everyday in your sleep, you’ll do it so often.  If your child likes variety, keep reading!

Today, I’ve got 5 quick lunches for you.  These can all be packed up ahead of time (with the exception of Friday’s).  About 30 minutes on Sunday night can get the job done for the week.  Wash all the fruit and veggies you’ll need.  Go ahead and cut carrots, celery, red pepper strips and any other veggie you’ll need.  All of these store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

5 Easy Lunch Box Meals

Post your lunch menu somewhere handy, so you’ll remember what to grab for the lunch box each day.  Or better yet, have the kids do the packing for themselves.

For Friday’s, you’ll use re-purposed leftovers.  Make a big pasta salad for dinner with grilled chicken and cheddar muffins.  Use the leftovers for lunch.  It’s one of our favorite dinners to have and it makes a fantastic lunch too.  Plus, it serves double duty.  I love cooking once and eating twice!

 To satisfy your sweet tooth, here’s a link to a coupon  to save $1 on 3 Snack Pack Pudding Snack Pack Puddings. Redeemable at Walmart.

Monday – Egg Salad, Tuna or Chicken Salad

This can be served on bread for a sandwich or with crackers.  My youngest even likes to use tortilla chips to dip hers.  Add carrot and celery sticks.  For dessert, send a piece of fruit or Snack Pack Pudding.

Tuesday – Hummus, Cheese, Crackers

This is a quick lunch to pack.  Just put the hummus in a small container with a tight fitting lid.  Send it with string cheese or Babybel  cheese and crackers to go along with it.  Red bell pepper strips or carrot sticks are also good to dip in hummus.  Vanilla Snack Pack Pudding and sliced peaches make a great dessert.

Wednesday – Bagel and Cream Cheese, Yogurt

Pack a whole grain bagel that you’ve spread with cream cheese.  Send it with a favorite flavor of yogurt and some granola to stir into it.  Don’t forget a piece of fruit.  Try grapes, apples, bananas or a nectarine.

Thursday – Sunshine Peanut Butter (or Sunbutter) Sandwiches

Grate a carrot and stir it into peanut butter or Sunbutter.  Add a little honey and spread on whole wheat bread.  Pack a juicy piece of fruit or two, such as grapes, apples or peaches.  Add a sweet/salty ending with pretzels and Chocolate Snack Pack Pudding to dip them in.

Friday – Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken – re-purposed leftovers

Make a big pasta salad for dinner and serve it with grilled chicken.  This makes a fantastic lunch for the next day.  Just slice the leftover chicken into the pasta salad.  You can find our favorite pasta salad recipe here.  Pack this with Cheddar Muffins or a roll.  Add fruit and a Snack Pack Pudding to celebrate that the weekend is almost here!

Snack Pack also has these Printable Lunchbox Notes.   You can download these free lunchbox note printables to sneak in your child’s lunchbox.

lunchboxnotes

Join Andrea from Savings Lifestyle and Briana from Bargain Briana on Twitter as they share tips for making lunch boxes better this school year. We’ll be giving away some lunch money to help make packing those lunches even easier.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

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Dinner Solutions for the Crazy Season

I’ve been in a season of “crazy” the last few weeks. I’m expecting at least another week of it. There’s something about the start of school that is the busiest, most insane season of the whole year for me. I shared that sentiment on Facebook yesterday and many of you agreed.

drive play feed

To add to all the back-to-school stuff, the hard drive on my computer crashed the other day. I didn’t expect that out of a 9 month old Mac. The good news is they got it fixed quickly and it was under warranty. The bad news is that I did lose a few documents, photos and such. And the whole event put another snag in Crazy Season.

So I thought I’d share a series that I wrote a few years ago. Each post in the series focuses on getting dinner during sports season. But it doesn’t have to be sports that have caused Crazy Season in your house. No matter what you’ve got going on, I think you’ll find some good dinner solutions in these posts.

Rock the Slow Cooker

Pack It!

Grocery Store Meals

15 Minute Meals

If you’re in Crazy Season too, hang in there!  It can’t last forever, right?

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