By The Rawtarian

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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian shares tips and tricks for setting up your life to make sure you pack yourself an easy, healthy lunch option for work or school - every day.

Topics include: planning the evening before for psychological super powers, the effectiveness of repetition, ideas for lunch in an office setting, lunch ideas for school or on-the-road.

Here's a summary of the psychological study mentioned in this episode about it being psychologically easier to choose healthy foods when planning in advance. In short, participants were asked to choose a snack to eat now (they chose the cookie, of course) and to choose their snack for later (most chose an apple as their snack for later).

"When the participants were asked to plan their future snack in advance [...] they chose an apple over a cookie. 35% of the participants chose an apple on Day 1, but 65% of the participants did so for Day 2."
-- From "Mining Behavioural Economics to Design Persuasive Technology for Healthy Choices"
Study by Lee, Kiesler and Forlizzi
Carnegie Mellon University

Other recipes mentioned in this episode include:

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to episode number forty-seven of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host Laura-Jane the Rawtarian, and in today’s episode we are talking about quick and easy lunches. Particularly for those of you who are on the go, trying to get kids out the door or getting yourself out the door. So the bulk of this episode is actually be talking about trying to get it together, to propel yourself to prepare a healthy quick and easy lunch. We know that actually taking the time to do that is one of the biggest challenges and that’s what I’ll be talking about most. So stay tune and we’re going to talk all about it shortly.

Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the Raw Food podcast. Of course, today we are talking about quick and easy lunches! And to give you an overview of what I'm planning on talking about, I am going to give you ideas for what to bring, particularly for lunch at work, or if you have access to a lunch room at your office. So that's the subject of this episode!

However what I’m really going to be focusing on is all those environmental things that are going to help you actually get your quick and easy healthy lunch in the morning. I have confidence in you and know you have your own good ideas for a great lunch, so it’s just a matter of getting it together!

Some examples of what we’re going to talk about will be mental preparation, especially planning the night before, repetition and how you can maybe bring the same lunch a few days in a row, then we will talk about making lunches in an office lunch room and on the go lunches for the hungry traveler.

Ultimately I just really want to stress, and this is not only for your healthy lunch but every meal of the day, if you can be mentally prepared and know what you are going to eat for the following meal that will help you out so much. A “mind hack” if you would, because one of my passions is sharing information with you not just about recipes, but about life surrounding food as well.

As an example, I want to share an interesting psychology study that I recently looked into about apples versus cookies. In a 2011 study done at Carnegie Mellon University, a group of researchers brought a bunch of people into a room and posed them this question: “We’re going to be here a couple of days, so we want you to decide upon a snack for tomorrow. Do you want an apple or a cookie for tomorrow’s snack?” This was of course what the study was about, but the participants didn’t know that.

What they discovered was the majority of participants said they wanted an apple for a snack tomorrow, because they were preparing for something they would eat tomorrow as opposed to an impulse decision whether or not to have the apple or cookie in that moment. The idea is that it’s so much easier for us to make healthy decisions when the choice was made a long time ago, even as short as a day!

The idea is if we can mentally decide what we’ll be eating tomorrow, whether it’s packing your own lunch or going to your favorite grocery store and buying a delicious salad with red onions and mandarin oranges, the act of making that decision ahead of time will make it easier for you to commit to it. The act of preparing ahead of time helps in making healthier decisions for yourself. Not to mention preparing your lunch the night before means more time in the morning to get ready for the day, without worrying about what you’ll be eating a few hours later.

Often it’s hard in the moment to go have something healthy compared to fast food. If you’re with your co-workers and someone says “Hey let’s get pizza for lunch” and you already planned your meal, it’s easy to say “No thanks, I got this delicious healthy meal.” If you don’t have that set-up ahead of time, you’re more like to go “Oh well, I didn’t make any plans anyway, so sure let’s get pizza!

Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza, but my point is that these everyday routines, the grooves you get into, will help make a difference in your eating habits. Ideally this groove involves making lunch the night before, but the most important part is constantly preparing for what you will eat. It also helps you avoid snacks that will ruin your appetite, because you got a delicious raw vegan lasagna already in your head. This preparation is the key to healthy eating.

So that’s the first thing I wanted to talk about. Now the second thing, which is the idea of repetition, it kind of goes hand in hand with the first subject of planning.

We don’t want to be obsessing about food all day and planning our meals and spending too much of our time. Life is short, days are short and there’s so many fun exciting things we could be doing instead! So consider that it might be okay to repeat the same couple lunches over the week to cut down the stress, especially if you’re packing for yourself and not your kids (who may be fussier about eating the same thing every day.) It’s about allowing yourself to have the same meal a few times in the week to make life simpler.

At the last office job I had my go to meal was a simple avocado-tomato-carrot salad, which I would eat all the time because of how easy it was to make. I worked near a grocery store on my way to work, so I would drop in, get what I need and make it in my lunch room. If that sounds good to you, the recipe is on my site at therawtarian.com if you search “salad for lunch” or “lunch salad.”

I mention repetition because the more you repeat and the more you get used to it, the less the poor gray cells in your head get used up making all these different choices. Our brains on average make 35,000 decisions a day and so giving them a break and putting them on auto-pilot is helpful. It becomes innate and natural, making the process in your mind simpler. Even a simple green salad can be perfect, if you want to put just a couple handfuls of spinach, some chopped carrots and snap peas into a Ziploc bag and then have your dressing in a Tupperware container.

If you want to hear more about this then I suggest giving a listen to episode thirty-two, “Decision Free Living”, which is all about the importance of mental processing. Creating a few go-to recipes and using them over and over will cut back on time and produce less headaches about lunch.

So I’m going to give you some ideas, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s quick, easy and healthy for you. After all, your idea may be a salad with sauerkraut, chopped cabbage and pine nuts, with homemade pesto and I would never think of that in my own routine!

With those key points said and done, I’m going to first focus on the lunch room crowd and then go into lunch ideas for those of you always on the go – not just to work, but even to school or university.

Now I was a bit of a slacker and never really got organized before when making my lunch salad, so I had an easy back-up plan for those days. I would just pop into the store on my way to work, buy a big tomato and avocado, have a fresh carrot from home with me, and then just carry that all to work. Of course I’d also bring along a snack that’s easy to carry and doesn’t require much effort to pack, like a couple oranges or bananas. I’d prepare it all in the lunch room and that worked fine for me – it doesn’t sound very sexy, but it is convenient.

Additionally keeping snacks at the office is essential too. I would normally keep a bag of apples or oranges in the lunch room fridge, while keeping almonds or Lärabars at my desk and so it made it easy not to worry about getting hungry because there was something already to snack on. Just that small planning can make your hectic mornings so much easier to get through!

If I had more time then ideally I’d make the salad at home and bring it in a big Tupperware. I’d throw in the dry-ish things, like chopped celery, chopped carrots, spinach, etcetera, and keep my dressing on the side in a separate container. Any other topping should definitely be on the side because no one likes a soggy salad, but you still want something exciting on all that green.

Another thing that worked very well for me was access to raw vegan crackers, mostly because they’re so portable. I don’t tend to eat them a lot, but I normally just keep them in the freezer and use a food processor to dehydrate the nuts and veggies. The higher fat content means they freeze beautifully and you can practically eat it right there and then, making them super handy! You can even use an avocado as spread for the cracker, making them even tastier for a quick snack.

For more ideas I highly recommend checking out my easy entrée recipes at therawtarian.com, just by going under the Recipes section. There are simple ideas, like a five minute spaghetti dish, and more advanced ones that require using a food processer – all these things can make a great lunch room experience.

The practical gist is you want to make a quick and easy healthy meal that doesn’t require a lot of time to prepare, but also still fills you up. Nobody can really exist and perform well when they’re hungry, so making sure your green salad has some substance and nutrition to it is in equal parts important. We want to make healthy decisions, while not getting abnormally hungry at the same time.

Now one thing that could be a good idea, but that you need to consider if viable for you, are smoothies in the lunch room. For starters you need to make sure you have access to a blender during the lunch hour, but also keep in mind that you may have co-workers who won’t appreciate the loud noise while they’re eating their own meals. Leftover smoothies from the morning rush could work, but personally I always found that they don’t taste as good when they aren’t fresh.

However that is a nice segue to talking about those of you who are on the go, or on the road, and don’t have access to that lunch room.

When it comes to smoothies in that scenario, I definitely consider it a great option. The important thing is to keep is as fresh as possible if you don’t plan on having it until later in the day. Maybe a couple hours after you make it will be fine, but if you’re working some crazy 16 hour day then that smoothie will get funky fast in your car. This similarly applies to those in university, who might make double what you normally drink in the morning.

I have heard of Tupperware drink containers that have a small ball in the middle, which would help you to shake and stir the smoothie if it separates or settles. I’ve never used one myself, but I’d love to hear if anyone has positive experiences with those. There are also small blenders that have screw top containers, like the NurtiBullet or Ninja, so those are good for anyone on the go as well.

Again I’ve never been in those situations so I haven’t explored it much, but these are just general common sense tips that could make healthy eating a lot easier. Having a Ziploc bag of nuts, or even an apple or banana, is also a smart idea because of the simplicity involved. I wouldn’t recommend oranges however, just because they could get messy and juicy with the peeling. Not very ideal if you’re driving around for sure. Raw soups can be great too if you put them into a container.

So I think that’s all I really wanted to say. I know I haven’t really gone over the quick and easy lunches too much for the road, but I’m confident that you know both what you like and what works for your routine. There are so many recipes you can adapt to your lunch needs easily, so it’s a matter of thinking about what works best for you.

Ultimately I think the most important part is to get into the routine and ritual of actually packing your meal the night before, or mentally preparing yourself for your next meal ahead of time. Once you create that routine, you’ll find it’s very easy to stick to and change up to whatever you feel you may need.

Before I go let me leave you with a few extra tips here. Keeping healthy food available and close by is key, especially with snacks. Again, just a few bars at your desk or some fruits in the lunch room fridge will do wonders for your lunch time. Try to see if you have a grocery store you can stop by during lunch or the night before and just plan what you would like to have tomorrow.

With getting into my own routines and preparation, one of my goals for this year was to be more organized and I found some great help for that online with the FlyLady. She has all these house-cleaning tips and one of the things I really liked, that I think lends itself to all areas of your life, was the suggestion of a morning and bed time routine. Even if you need to write it down, committing your memory to that will help you maintain a flow you can just keep going with.

This doesn’t have to just involve writing down what you plan to eat, but even if you have things you know you have to do before you go to bed or leave in the morning. I definitely encourage you to give it a try with the lunches – write down whatever you need to make your quick and easy lunch, make sure you get those things and you’ll find these routines will be incredibly helpful to regular healthy lunches.

So I am Laura-Jane The Rawtarian, thank you so much for being here with me. I am always interested to hear what you would like to have me talk about on the podcast. I hope to have some more interviews as well coming up this year on the podcast with some of your favorite raw-foodies, so watch out for that. And, as always, thank you so much for being here with me and I will talk to you soon.

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