This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and recipes are mine alone. #NourishWhatMatters #CollectiveBias
Every day, I make a point to feed my boys a balanced lunch. Sometimes that lunch is a bunch of random individual items in each of the food categories, but nonetheless I make an effort to feed them the whole food pyramid. Most of these days I am so overwhelmed by this task that I forget to do much for me. I find myself standing in the pantry or at the refrigerator thinking I have no food to eat or wishing I could reward myself with a hot meal but just don’t feel like cooking. Often I will completely forget that I haven’t eaten lunch and just snack throughout the day. Mamas, it is so important that you take care of your own health and wellness too! One product I rely on for these busy days is LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE frozen dinners.
Have you heard that saying that’s going around…that one that says, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Try as I might, taking care of my kids and the house never goes quite as planned if I’m running on an empty stomach. I have a tendency to put my children first, as most moms do, so I prepare their lunch and forget about mine. Quick, simple, and delicious are my best friends, so I’ve compiled a list of lunch ideas for parents. LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese is one of my go-to meals from LEAN CUISINE®. They have so many options to “feed your food mood” with protein packed options, gluten-free options, and organic ingredient options all full of flavor! I also picked up the Ranchero Braised Beef and Orange Chicken.
What I love about LEAN CUISINE® frozen dinners is that they allow you to enjoy a delicious, warm meal that would have taken you some time to prepare yourself. It’s something you can balance during your busy day. All you need to do is stick it in the microwave and add the rest of the food groups needed to complete your meal. Yes, I know. Completing your meal is another step and I know I don’t always have the brains to deal with this at lunch time, so I wanted to come up with a list of quick foods you can pre-prepare or are already grab-and-go ready. I want to help you eat better (and I will probably reference this list myself quite often.)
You are probably familiar with the food pyramid or MyPlate. This is what you need to consider when planning your meals to make sure you get enough dairy, grains, proteins, vegetables, and fruits. If you need direction when it comes to portioning your foods, check out the MyPlate website.
First, I want to share with you what I paired with my LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE meals.
The mac & cheese is pretty much just grains and dairy, so I needed to add some fruits, vegetables, and proteins. I paired this with some red pepper (you can use baby carrots, pre-cut vegetables, whatever works for you) for the vegetable and pre-prepared hummus to dip it in. Hummus is made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), so it is categorized as a protein. I topped that all off with some “lazy chocolate-covered strawberries” which are just fresh strawberries with chocolate drizzled over top. The great thing about this is that the chocolate is supposed to harden so you can get it ready at one point and refrigerate until you need to eat it later. Use dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet or milk for a more nutritious option.
The braised beef dish has mostly proteins and vegetables so I added a whole apple for the fruit, cheese for the dairy, and crackers for the grains.
Orange Chicken is a great dish because it already touches most all of the food groups. You will not get a full serving of each, so I recommend adding a little extra fruit on the side (maybe some strawberries with greek yogurt) and some quick vegetables (like cucumbers with creamy dip.) Sure, these don’t necessarily go with the asian-style flavors of the main course, but they are a great way to add some fresh nutrients.
When you look at the list below, try to think of things you can combine with each to make it “fancier” while getting foods from two food groups.
So here it is–a quick list of foods by nutrition categorization:
- String cheese
- Chunks or slices of cheese (combine with crackers for grains and ham or summer sausage for protein)
- Yogurt (combine with granola for grains, nuts for protein, or fruits–greek yogurt can also give you protein)
- Ice cream (yep! I’d just steer clear of the especially sugary varieties)
- Kale (try this salad)
- Calcium-fortified products (cereals, milks, juices, etc.)
- LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
- Bread sticks or crackers (try these with cheeses and meats)
- Oats (granola mix, cereal…combine with milk or yogurt for dairy or add fruits)
- Granola bars
- Cookies (try varieties with oats, fruits, hidden vegetables, proteins, reduced sugar)
- Muffins (pre-make these Cinnamon Apple Zucchini Muffins for fruits and veggies or these Strawberry Yogurt & Rhubarb Muffins for dairy and fruit)
- Bagel (try with a peanut butter or egg for protein, little cream cheese or slice cheese, or fruits)
- Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs (toss with green leafy veggies, carrots, and some cheese to make a salad)
- Hummus (use as a dip with vegetables or bread sticks/pita bread)
- Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach)
- Tofu (I usually eat this in miso soup….but I’m not sure how fast that is to make)
- Quinoa (you can get chocolate bars with this in it! ‘Nough said)
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, etc.)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, cashew butter, etc.)
- Deli meats
- Sausage/summer sausage
- Chicken nuggets (“kid food”, I know, but try these recipes–find the simple ones)
- Crab meat
- Shrimp (eat it cold with some cocktail sauce for a little vegetable)
- Kidney beans (try on a salad, or with some tomato juice and chili mix)
- Black beans (pre-prep this Black Bean and Corn Salsa)
- Chickpeas/beans (try on a salad)
- Bean dip (pair with chips or vegetables)
- Sunflower seeds
- Protein shake
- Protein bars
- Peanut butter cookies (here I go giving you dessert options again!)
- Avocado (try plain or as guacamole!)
- Ranchero Braised Beef
- Orange Chicken
- Carrots (purchase organic baby carrots if you need convenience)
- Peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, corn…this list goes on (pre-prep and eat fresh or eat from a quick-steam bag)
- Celery sticks (try with peanut butter for protein or creamy dip/cream cheese for a little dairy)
- Veggie chips (choose the varieties with lots of real vegetables and high nutrients)
- Salad (bagged spinach, dried fruits, some feta cheese, cucumber…yum. Try this recipe–you can make ahead)
- Cherry/grape tomatoes with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese (I use string cheese), and a drizzle of balsamic–easy and elegant
- Beans (yep, these are a vegetable too! See proteins for more specific ideas)
- Avocado (plain or as guacamole)
- Potato–baked, fries, chips (technically this is a “starchy vegetable” which means it is more so for the “Grains” category)
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip (great with chips or other vegetables)
- Pumpkin/sweet potato pie
- LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE Ranchero Braised Beef
- Orange Chicken
- Strawberries (try with yogurt)
- Apples (try with yogurt or peanut butter)
- Apple sauce
- Orange juice (or other juices–I recommend 100%, no sugar added varieties)
- Frozen grapes
- Canned fruits (fruit cocktail, peaches, etc.)
- Dried/dehydrated fruits (try in salads, trail mix, and baked goods)
- Freeze-dried fruits (these are fun!)
- Lemon (squeeze some on a salad or chicken)
- Fruit juice ice pops
- Real fruit sorbet
- Gelatin with fruit (pre-make it)
- Smoothie (great way to add some vegetables, proteins, and dairy then just blend it all up!)
- Fruity pies (strawberry, apple, cherry, blueberry)
- Cobbler (peach, apple, etc.–this is a great way to get grains and fruits AND something sweet)
- Other recipes above (parfaits, muffins, on a salad, etc.)
- LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE Orange Chicken
(Yes, I am adding this food group, because it will inevitably be added anyway)
- Add chocolate to fruits (high-quality dark chocolate is nutritious and high in antioxidants)
- Chocolate bars (just a couple chunks of dark chocolate bars containing nuts, fruits, or quinoa)
- Fruit or vegetable (pumpkin/sweet potato) pies, pre-made
- Parfait (yogurt, fruit, granola)
- Cookies with added fruits, vegetables, proteins and lower sugar (try these Shortbread Cookies made with mashed potatoes!)
- Muffins made with fruits, vegetables, and dairy products
- Banana bread/zucchini bread/apple bread (try with peanut butter, dark chocolate, or nuts)
- Smoothie or shake (blend in lots of fruits, proteins, dairy, maybe even vegetables)
(Different foods contain different amounts of nutrients; this list will not give you the full recommended amounts, but will help guide you in the right direction so that you can at least eat something and eat something good for you!)
Don’t forget to bookmark this for reference later!
The great thing about a lot of these foods above is that they are either grab-and-go ready, easy to prepare, or can be prepared ahead of time and stored (I use these fun Fuel food storage containers from Target!) Try different combinations within the food groups you are needing to fill. I always find that having foods that feel “more complete”, not just handfuls of random foods, helps me to feel fuller.
As a busy parent, it is often difficult got me to remember to eat lunch so I wrote a list of quick, easy, and delicious foods so you (and I) can eat a balanced meal. #NourishWhatMatters ad @leancuisine More at goo.gl/rMWNhR #artscrackers #instafood #foodpics #healthyfood #balancedmeal #lunchideas #reference #busymom #quickmeals #foodpyramid #myplate #momblogger #kbnmoms #linkinprofile #linkinbio #ontheblog #eatingright #food #foodblogger #parenting #nutrition #foodgroups #advice #busy #healthandwellness
Do you often forget to take care of yourself? Which LEAN CUISINE® MARKETPLACE are you most excited to try? Tell me in the comment section below.
Know someone who could use this? Hit the “share” buttons below! Be sure to follow Arts & Crackers on social media (buttons at the top right of the page.)
You May Also Like
- Top 5 Family Meals (and How to Stretch Your Ingredients)
- Why I Clean the House Every Night (Even When I Don’t Want To)
- 10 Simple Ways for Mom to Pamper Herself
Thanks for this wonderful, comprehensive post. I’m going to pin it so I can refer back to it often. Now I have lots of great ideas for lunch.
You’re welcome, Brenda! I hope it helps you get more ideas quickly!
Pingback: How I Tidy Up My Email Inbox | Plus How to Mass Delete Emails on Gmail