The Eat Pretty Formula for Easy Packed Lunches

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For some of us, the arrival of fall means a return to the lunchtime grind. For others, that lunchtime grind goes on Mon-Fri, 365 days a year, making it easy to lose steam and creativity. Whether you’re packing lunches for your school-aged children or yourself, getting confident with a basic, Eat Pretty-approved formula for the meal you assemble is a key jumping off point for (no exaggeration) thousands of lunchbox variations. Once you know the formula, you can get creative and listen to your body, knowing that there’s pretty much no way to mess up! And heads up: this is essentially the formula I use for every meal, every day, and one that has helped me to rebalance my hormones, find my healthiest weight, and enable my skin to glow. It’s also helped so many of my clients to do the same. So, here we go!

My Eat Pretty-Approved Lunch Formula

Ready to make lunch?

Here’s the formula: veggies + protein + healthy fat + bonus foods.

No question, more than half of your plate (or lunchbox) should be colorful, antioxidant-packed veggies. Roast them, steam them, eat them raw, dice them, spiralize them— it doesn't matter what form they come in. This part of your meal is super nutrient-dense, delivering fiber and phytochemicals that keep you glowing. Rotate these ingredients according to color, season, and/or cravings.

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Your lunchbox also needs protein. It can be plant-based or clean animal-based, depending on your body and your preferred diet. Aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein to help you feel full, burn food slowly for sustained energy, and deliver the building blocks of skin, hair and nails that is essential to your body.

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Now make sure that your lunchbox has some form of healthy fat. Fat nourishes strong cell membranes (locking in youthful moisture), and is an essential building block of your hormones (hello, better moods and clear skin). Think avocado, raw seeds or nuts, a drizzle of olive oil or a healthy fat-rich dressing.

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As a bonus, you can add something special that brings it all together and makes the benefits even more amazing, like fermented pickles or sauerkraut, dulse flakes, gomasio (check out the recipe in Eat Pretty Every Day), nutritional yeast, etc. If you’re packing lunch for kids or you’re going to be in a crowded place where you want to make sure your lunch doesn’t stink too much, leave out the smelly stuff. But this category can be an important bonus on days when you want to feel and look extra amazing. And if you know your goal is to eat more fermented foods every day for better skin and overall health, pack some in your lunch!

If you’ve used the Eat Pretty, Live Well journal, you already know what an Eat Pretty plate looks like. If not, here’s the visual:

eat-pretty-plate

Your Lunch Style

I find that everyone has unique preferences when it comes to lunch style (hello, bioindividuality). I prefer a salad to a sandwich. During the warmer months, I prefer greens over grains as the base of my lunch, but as fall and winter arrive I turn to grains and warm lunches that need to be reheated. What’s your style?

Foundations (start with these and then pile ingredients on top)

  • Greens

  • Quinoa, buckwheat or other GF grains

  • Shredded brussels sprouts

  • Beans

  • GF pasta— try chickpea or lentil pasta for extra protein

  • Lentils

Colorful Veggie Examples

  • Any roasted veggies you have on hand (I love broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots)

  • Cooked beets

  • Chopped raw peppers

  • Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers

  • Radishes

  • Steamed green beans

  • Cooled cooked potatoes- white or sweet potatoes

  • So many more!

Clean Protein Examples

  • Hard-cooked pastured eggs

  • Wild salmon

  • Beans- lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans are all amazing

  • Shelled hemp seeds

  • BPA-free cans of wild salmon, sardines, naturally smoked oysters (I like the Crown Prince brand for sardines and oysters)

  • Clean animal proteins that fit your diet

  • Quinoa

  • Plant-based protein powder 

Healthy Fat Examples

  • Avocado

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Hemp seeds

  • Olives

  • Dressings (see below)

Dressing and Sauce Ideas:

  • Turmeric dressing

  • Classic Balsamic

  • ACV dressing

  • Green goddess dressing

  • Romesco- red pepper and almond, parsley

  • Lemon and olive oil

  • Persillade

  • Chimichurri

  • Olive tapenade

  • Pesto

Bonus Food Examples:

  • Fermented pickles

  • Kraut

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Gomasio

  • Dulse flakes

  • Nutritional yeast

 A few past recipes that fit the bill:

Seeing Beauty Salad

Chopped Chickpea-Kraut Salad

 Miso Broccoli Lentil Salad

Notes for success:

Keep track.

Along the way, you’re going to find meal combinations that you love (and some you don’t). Make sure you write down the combinations that are winners to your body and your palate. I keep a list on my fridge of meals that I want to remember because inevitably when it’s time to grocery shop my brain draws a blank. As the seasons change, it’s also easy to forget meals that you aren’t cooking because ingredients are not in season. So next time fall rolls back around, you’ll remember exactly what meal you loved to cook with your butternut squash, figs, pumpkin, etc.

Shift your mindset: Instead of ‘I have to,’ choose ‘I get to!’

This is big- changing the way you approach making lunches can make all the difference. Instead of “Packing my lunch is exhausting. I’m too busy to do this for myself. I don’t have time.”

Vs.

Think: “Cooking is empowering, strengthening, even a rebellious act to some degree. I can make a little time. A little investment can change the way I feel day to day, and the trajectory of my health and appearance.”

So, what’s for lunch today?

Eat Pretty in College

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You know your college years require hard work and diligence to achieve the grades, and goals, that you want. But what about your college skin goals? Sometimes eating pretty from your dorm room seems to require as much effort as your studies!

Each fall, I get a new crop of clients who want to build a beauty routine that supports radiant skin from within— but they’re feeling seriously challenged by the college status quo. Cafeteria food, parties & late nights, lack of kitchen access and fresh food on hand when they want it, and stress in general present major challenges that are sometimes unique— or at least heightened— in this phase of your life.

If you’re in college, grad school, or heading there soon, I’ve assembled some of the most important items and tips that you need to boost the beauty nutrition in your life. Whether you want to clear your skin, amp up your glow, balance your hormones, or just improve your energy, mood, and overall well-being, this guide will help you focus your efforts. Wishing you a beautiful college experience!

x Jolene

Stock these basics in your dorm room:

No refrigeration needed:

  • Plant-based protein powder (great go-to when you need to make a quick smoothie)
  • Spices (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger)
  • Teas (a selection for wake up and wind down)
  • Greens powder (when you can’t get fresh greens)

Refrigerate if possible (though these can also be stored at room temperature):

  • Lemons (for AM lemon water)
  • Avocados (have 1/2 as a filling snack; add to salads, grain bowls and smoothies)
  • Shelled hemp seeds (excellent source of protein and healthy fats)
  • Raw nuts and seeds (pair with fruit for snacks)
  • Probiotics

Helpful Gadgets and Appliances:

  • Bullet blender like the Nutribullet
  • Electric kettle (to make a cup of tea, a bowl of oatmeal, warm lemon water, etc.)
  • Microfridge (it’s a college staple, great for storing fresh food)
  • Small knife and cutting board (something easy to clean and store)

— I also recommend taking your Eat Pretty, Live Well journal with you to school— journal a few days of food every now and then to keep yourself on target, and use the trackers and lists inside to set and reach your healthy skin goals. It really keeps you mindful!

Jolene's nutrition tips for gorgeous skin at school:

Don’t skip breakfast! Make a simple smoothie that includes protein, healthy fat and as much fresh food (veggies and/or a small amount of fruit). A basic example is unsweetened coconut milk with plant-based protein powder, greens powder, and organic berries.

Keep healthy snacks on hand. These are essential when you’re up studying late at night, if you missed a meal, or even to satisfy hunger in a healthy way before a party. Try to include protein and healthy fat in your snacks as much as you can— think an apple + almond butter, a wedge of avocado sprinkled with hemp seeds and spices, or chia pudding.

Make mealtime relaxed and fun. Try not to eat while you’re stressed or studying. Eat with a group of friends who make you feel relaxed, or find a quiet spot where you can enjoy your food and engage your senses so you digest well and feel yourself become full.

Don’t stress too much about Beauty Betrayers. In general, if you keep your beauty nutrition on track, you won’t be greatly affected by splurges that are a normal part of college life. But if you’re partying all the time and ignoring your body’s needs for fresh, colorful, whole foods, you’ll see the difference in the mirror. This is a great time to learn how to get yourself and your skin back in balance with nutrition and self-care if you indulge too much.

Have a cafeteria plan. I believe that there’s at least some good in every school cafeteria— you just have to find it, or ask for it. Maybe there’s a great salad bar, a smoothie station that lets you customize your blend, or an epic selection of fresh fruit. If it’s not obvious, go out of your way and ask, politely, if your cafeteria can provide some staples like a varied selection of grains (quinoa, millet, buckwheat) instead of just white rice; or ask if the taco bar can be stocked with collard greens and lettuce leaves in addition to processed flour tortillas. There are always healthy upgrades to be made, most of them are simple, and there are probably lots of other students who will benefit from them too!

Don't depend too much on caffeine. Try and energize your body in other ways— with a good night's sleep, meals that burn slowly and keep your blood sugar stable, and adaptogens that improve your stress response and boost your energy naturally (like maca, ashwaganda and tulsi). Caffeine takes a toll on your skin and robs your body of essential nutrients, so try to make it a tool you use strategically, rather than an everyday essential.

Drink smart. The truth is that alcohol affects your skin— and not in a good way. If you’re going to drink and you want to prevent skin issues, moderation is the key, the same way you would moderate sugar. Here’s how to support healthy skin when you’re drinking—

  1. Before drinking, have a balanced meal with protein, healthy fats, and veggies. This will lessen the glycemic response of the sugar in your body.
  2. While you’re drinking, drink plenty of water and eat something if you can (again, lowering that glycemic response).
  3. After drinking (later that day or the next morning), take a multivitamin, drink coconut water or electrolyte water to replenish fluids and nutrients lost, and have another balanced, antioxidant-rich meal. A green smoothie is a great way to replenish lost nutrients!

Establish a self-care routine now. College is super fun, but at times, it’s also super stressful. This is a great time in your life to practice managing stress in a healthy way. Make a list of beautifying practices that help you relax— think meditation, your favorite workout, a long walk, dancing to music you love, an evening of movies and facials with your roommates; whatever chills you out in a healthy way— and put them on repeat.

What strategies have kept your skin glowing at college? I'd love to hear what's working best for you and how you've adapted your beauty nutrition essentials to fit your dorm room!

Comment or email me at jolene@beautyiswellness.com.

Books background image by Abhi Sharma. Used with Creative Commons permission.

Make this 5-Minute Energizing Lunch for Gorgeous Skin

Lunch is the time of day when your body is primed and ready to digest a really nutrient-dense meal. You can make this your biggest meal of the day, packed with skin nutrition! Only, lunch also seems to be the time when we reach for packaged, processed, fast food options, in the name of convenience. To help break that trend, this recipe was also created in the name of convenience— and energy, and glowing skin. If you have 5 minutes and 4 ingredients (plus your leafy green of choice, which you ALWAYS have around, right??), you have this protein-packed beauty lunch that also adds a probiotic boost. Feel free to add more veggies to this salad, as your tastes desire and your refrigerators allow.

Chopped Chickpea-Kraut Salad

Here's a super-quick lunch I love to make when I have an empty fridge or a lack of leftovers. I always have a can of chickpeas on hand, as well as some sauerkraut (I used the Gingered Purple Kraut from Eat Pretty Every Day for this recipe— it adds the perfect flavor and color!), which is more than half the recipe. It checks off your protein, healthy fats, and your probiotic foods, and if you add greens you have an even more beautifying masterpiece that takes—seriously—5 minutes to assemble. This serves 2, or just me if I'm extra-hungry. Enjoy!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15-oz BPA-free can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped raw sauerkraut 
  • 1 heaping tbsp vegan mayo (you can sub ripe avocado here too)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • sprinkle of shelled hemp seeds (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Add chickpeas to a bowl and mash, using the back of a fork. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve wrapped in, or over a bed of, your favorite leafy greens!

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