Fitness with Finesse: Brown Bagging It

 

Remember when our moms dutifully packed our lunches everyday, making us wholesome meals with the staple sandwich, fruit, chips, and maybe even a cookie if we were lucky?

I miss those days. This semester, I can hardly catch a break between my blocked classes to even eat a granola bar. There are only so many granola bars I can fit into my backpack without looking a little too excited about chocolate chunks. And let’s not talk about the number of times I bend to the temptation of Freshens or Starbucks. Oh, and those vending machines? I never thought trail mix could look so good.

But this needs to stop. Waiting to eat all day decreases metabolism levels as well as exhausting the body by cutting off its energy, and attacking the vending machines only fills us up with unhealthy, fattening foods. For the record, that trail mix has almost 1000 calories. Although I can never hope to reach my mom’s level of sandwiches cut into shapes and pretty napkins with notes on them (you know that was your favorite part, too), I can try to pack some of my own healthy and nutritious food to take on the go.

The easiest thing to bring is fruit – apples, bananas, and grapes are filling and easy to pack. Plus, they won’t interrupt class with unnecessary unwrapping or crinkling! Just make sure to eat them early on in the day so they don’t get bruised or mushed at the bottom of your bag. It takes five minutes to cut up fruit for an entire week and pre-bag it so you are ready to go in the morning, not to mention the one second it takes to throw a banana into your bag or shine up that apple!

Alright, I guess we can bring a granola bar or two. As the number one easiest food to eat on the go, it’s no surprise why we are drawn to the pantry staple. The important part is to pick out varieties that are more than just chocolate – Special K has a great line of snack bars with protein in them to keep you full (don’t worry, these are nothing like your boyfriend’s protein bars!). Focus on whole grains, nuts, and fruits to find the best kind of granola bars that are actually good for you and your busy schedule.

Sandwich fanatic? Watch out for those carbs – instead of grabbing two hefty pieces of bread, try sandwich thins (only 100 calories) or a whole-wheat pita bread to hold together your lunchtime staple. And inside? Skip the fatty peanut butter and go for a little lunchmeat. Exchange lettuce for nutrient-filled spinach. Be bold and try hummus, or go for a vegetarian creation.  My personal favorite is a protein-filled, low-calorie soy chicken burger – take one out of your freezer before you leave home. By lunch, it will have thawed into a delicious meal. Trust me when I say there is no sacrifice for taste here!

Got a case of the munchies on your busy day? Those delicious carb-filled crackers and chips can clog up your digestive system when you are just sitting in class; restrict carbs as much as possible before or after working out, when you actually need them for energy! While you are in class, go for almonds, yogurt-covered raisins, baby carrots, veggie sticks, or turkey pepperoni (weird but delicious).

By keeping nutrition in mind, we can all brown bag it to school and save money while preventing empty calories – it’s almost as good as Mom’s!