Sometimes, it seems things that should be easy become somewhat tricky business. Like packed-lunches….
Well, there are a lot of balls to juggle here. Ideally, we’d love for the lunch to be easy and convenient to prepare, delicious and satisfying to eat while also being nutritious. The hallelujah lunch…..
And whether we’re talking about packing for yourself, your kids or your spouse, the truth often comes closer to something uninspiring-ly thrown together at the last minute. That packed-lunch certainly does not leave anyone longing all morning to tuck-in with delight come lunch-time. And more often than not, that packed-lunch shows back up later in the day, soggy and mostly ignored.
Life can be challenging enough without having that which should bring comfort and nourishment, cause frustration and strain.
What to do….?
Well, let’s look to the time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda for some ease and simplicity.
Ayurveda literally translated is Ayus (life) and Veda (knowledge), so surely somewhere in the Wisdom of Life should be some tips and strategies to get a good simple packed-lunch put together….
“But wait Shankari”, you think, “this is not my first Ayurveda rodeo and I know that Ayurveda 101 states that our Main Meal Should Be at Mid-Day!”
Ah, well played…. But even before Ayurveda 101, there is a more simplistic and practical take on Ayurveda that we strive to share in our teachings and practice.
“Ayurveda; Wisdom of Nature” should be more aptly defined as *the appropriate use of Nature’s Wisdom based on the situation*. The words appropriate and situation are implied in the modern-day definition and often become overlooked. And this can cause us to feel obligated to uphold a framework of ideals that are not currently practical to our actual life situation. Oooopsie…..
So applying Ayurveda to packed-lunches when we don’t have the entire morning to prepare like some Italian Grandmother or the time to sit and enjoy our meal like it is Thanksgiving dinner, requires that we must creatively adapt. Isn’t that one of the most enduring and common-sense messages of Nature; adapt, evolve, make the best with what you have in the current situation.
Wait for it. There is no perfect packed-lunch, and in a culture of busy and busier, there may be no ideal circumstances to eat and enjoy that lunch. So the natural wisdom would be when given lemons to make lemonade….
So, it is our pleasure to share our top 3 Packed-Lunch Hacks, helping to apply some Ayurvedic wisdom, creativity and adaptability to increase ease, yumminess and true nutrition into the situation.
1. The Thermos
Yes, likely you’ve tried this one before. Somewhere in the back of the cupboard above the fridge or in that crazy “grave-yard of hopeful kitchen-ware” corner cupboard you already have a thermos. Great, let’s give it another shot. (And if you don’t have one, a good one is easy to find.)
Why the thermos? Well the theory of eating our main meal at noon is true and sound nutritional advice. As the earth is closest to the Sun (fire) during mid-day, we have the greatest digestive capacity (fire) during that time. And so preventative health is supported by this consideration. BUT if it is not reasonable to your current situation to eat your main meal at mid-day, then how can we creatively adapt such wisdom?
By ensuring that what we do eat is warm (generally :).
Why? Warm is easier to digest (bolstering immunity). And warm food is more comforting with a down-homey feeling. So even if you are eating at a desk, partaking in at least some warm food is going to be a somewhat more satisfying.
Try it for yourself? Think right now about chomping on a pile of carrot sticks, and then visualize cracking open a thermos of warm flavourful carrot soup (add some cheese, bread and butter on the side and it’s getting close to heavenly….)
What to put in the thermos?
- Leftovers from dinner is the easiest. It doesn’t take much additional effort to make a bit more when you do cook. And simply warming up pasta, soups, stews, whatever you enjoy and popping it into a thermos in the morning takes little time and provides an easy, warm and comforting meal.
- Make a big batch of your famous / favourite homemade soup, stew, chilli, crock-pot wonders and freeze it in individual containers. In the morning warm up one of those containers and pop it into a thermos. Voila!
- Buy the best quality soup, stews, thermos-fare that you can afford from your local market, grocery or health food store. In the morning, warm-up and pop into a thermos. Tah daaa…!
“Wait a minute Shankari, Ayurveda 101 says you shouldn’t eat leftovers, or frozen, canned or packaged food.”
Yes, true! Fresh cooked meals are ideal! But remember, “appropriate to the situation Ayurveda” shares doing the best in the current moment at hand. If you are able, willing, delighted to stay at home and prepare 3 home-made meals for you / your family, then great. But if that is not your reality, then you take that concept and weave it with common sense into your actual daily life. And if you are too busy, too tired, to uninspired to make and serve each and every meal fresh, then what is your next best choice? Wisdom starts with that question!
- Warm Milk or Herbal Tea are also a great on-the-go consideration for a thermos. Our son is currently too cool at school to trudge a spoonful at a time through a thermos of mom’s soup, but he certainly never says no to enthusiastically slurping down a thermos full of hot chocolate. This serves him with a warm and satisfying feel of comfort along with a boost of protein during his day.
A good quality thermos should keep food hot until lunch. And if you are confident that what you put in the thermos is liked, then when lunch time arrives, the thermos and it’s contents should be approached with anticipation and delight.
2. But what about Picky-Eaters?
Well I would start by saying that picky-eaters may be a parenting issue (don’t shoot the messenger). And eventually, with some determination, patience and perseverance a healthy child (or spouse) is likely to eventually eat what is available to them. They will not starve by missing a meal or two….
That being said, when we tried the thermos full of lovely home-made soup or all the healthy, nutritious lunch options we thought our son would enjoy, they always came back, still in the lunch-bag, barely nibbled. So we made a choice that took all the stress and strain out of trying to get him to eat the packed lunch.
We just stopped worrying about it…..
And instead, here’s what we do. We supply “just enough” lunch to get through the day.
- We make sure our son has a good, nourishing breakfast.
- And then we fill his lunch with all the bits and pieces that we are confident he will eat; hard boiled eggs, veggies sticks, crackers, muffins, cookies, cheese strings, hot chocolate in a thermos. Knowing that this is “just enough” to get him through the day and the school principal won’t be calling wondering why we don’t feed our child.
- We have our main meal upon his returning home from school. This works for our family schedule to have a large dinner at this time.
- If you cannot have dinner right after school, then have a good satisfying snack waiting. Fruit, milk, baked goods…..
Try to see if something like this can work for you. It’s a #gamechanger for sure.
Though our child’s main meal is not at mid-day, right after school is as close as possible. And this Ayurvedically prevents us from eating late into the evening, which makes food more difficult to digest becoming a main factor in digestive, elimination, skin and sleep complaints.
3. It does not matter how nutritious the food you eat, if it is prepared or eaten with a negative attitude.
How you prepare and eat is just as important as what you eat. If you worry about eating the best quality food, if you stress and strain to provide many options, if you are anxious, frustrated, indifferent or resentful while you are preparing or eating the food, it will not be as nourishing. It will create tension in your digestion and elimination systems and contribute to imbalance. And you may notice suffering from low immunity, digestive complaints and/or elimination struggles.
- Food is a delight. Yet when seasoned with feelings of discontent, perfectionism and strain it turns sour in the belly. This often leads to addictions, allergies and intolerance experienced around food.
- Strive to incorporate easy and stress-free ways to provide simple and delicious packed-lunches that causes minimal strain or tension and you will find they will be the most “nutritious”.
Take ruthless, honest stock of what you can change and what you cannot change in your daily routine and then find peace and comfort in doing the BEST YOU CAN to make change where possible and accept the rest.
Choose one consideration that resonates or seems the most accessible for your current lifestyle and try it for 2 weeks. You will be amazed by what you begin to notice. And we have no doubt you will benefit from a lessening of tension around packed-lunches.
Shankari shares more PACKED-LUNCH HACKS and a special offer for The Well Nourished Life
And if you would like to further explore The Well Nourished Life including ayurvedic recipes, the art of how and when to eat, the science of food cravings and recruiting help in the kitchen you can find all the details HERE. The Well Nourished Life promises an increase of confidence, creativity and organization in the kitchen even if you are too busy, uninspired or just exhausted!