No matter how much we try to avoid it, there are days when your family will need to eat “on the run”—whether it’s a snack while heading to soccer practice or dinner between said soccer practice and the school open house that immediately follows. Rather than resorting to junky fast food or expensive take-out, you can easily pack healthy, whole foods that satisfy hungry tummies and nourish active bodies away from home. All it takes is a little planning and creativity.
When packing to-go snacks and meals, here are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind:
Use the right containers
Having a variety of sizes of snap-top storage containers (with and without divided compartments) is ideal. This lets you customize meals and portion sizes according to the occasion. You can purchase new ones—or I like to use recycled containers whenever possible.
Make food “finger friendly”
I always make sure the foods I pack are easy to eat with fingers or a spoon, although my hubby’s meals require chopsticks.
Keep it colorful & varied
I know I prefer colorful foods—don’t you? The more color and variety, the greater the chances your kids will be interested. I always raise an eyebrow when I hear, “My child will only eat tan foods.” When I ask if colorful foods have been introduced, the answer is usually “No, they’ll only eat the tan stuff.” Can you see the problem here? You can’t like something that’s not even offered!
Stay true to your family’s needs
If your family is anything like mine, there are many days (and nights) when eating a healthy snack or meal is a must. Sure, sitting down at the table together is ideal—but sometimes it’s just not realistic. If you try to enforce a sit-down meal, it can end up being rushed and unpleasant, especially if everyone is exhausted and really hungry. Snack packs can come in handy—plan them to be small, quick meals. If you can sit together and eat—great!
Plan ahead (including for the weekend)
I get together with my family on Saturday and look at their schedules for the upcoming week. This allows me to plan out the days when days we’ll need pre-packed snacks and meals. I often cook extra food on Sundays to accommodate.
Stock your pantry
It’s easy to pack to-go meals when your pantry is properly stocked. Our pantry includes both purchased items and snacks and staples I make from scratch ahead of time. Below is a list of what I keep on my shelves—but customize your pantry according to your family’s needs, and switch it up to keep things fun!
- Fresh bread and/or a variety of crackers (we love Doctor Kracker Klassic 3 Seed Crispbreads)
- Organic almonds
- Organic cashews
- Almond butter
- Jelly beans (just because they’re fun!)
Other foods I like to have on-hand:
- Boiled shrimp
- Chicken legs (I bake them with buttermilk to keep moist.)
- Cubed cheese (We like raw goat and sheep milk cheese.)
- Sliced meats (Buy local or cook extra to use.)
- Homemade hummus
- Wrap sandwiches (Use your family’s favorite ingredients! I make an awesome wrap that everyone loves—they have no idea I just doubled our weekend tofu scramble breakfast and used it for the week’s wraps. Shhhh….!)
- Marinated tofu (Try a variety of marinades, and toss lightly in a hot pan, great in salads or alone.
Now for the boxes! Here are the packed snacks and meals I prepared last week:
- Fresh berries
- Cubed cheeses + sliced salami and ham (we had ham for a previous night’s dinner)
- Apples with almond butter
- A yummy mix of my pantry items
- Smoothie with OJ, yogurt, ice and fresh strawberries
- Whole wheat wrap with cream cheese, lettuce and apples
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Leftover tofu scramble, pasta sauce and cheese
- Homemade strawberry square (Recipe coming soon!)
- Fresh blueberries and mango
- Dried apricots
- Cashews and almonds
- Strawberries and apple slices
- Homemade granola
- Homemade nutmeg snickerdoodles
- Wheat bread slice with ghee
- Buttermilk chicken leg
- Homemade hummus with sliced veggies
Dana Zucker is a home cook that likes to do it her way! She gets creative with nutritious ingredients to keep her active family—teenage twins and a vegan, triathlete husband—healthy and happy. Cooking with organic, local and whole food ingredients is key, whether she’s whipping up an early-morning breakfast, prepping afterschool snacks or getting dinner on the table at 10 p.m. Dana says, “We do eat out sometimes, and even cheat with some pre-made foods. But I try to balance making delicious foods with the reality of a busy schedule.” Dana’s recipes are a great starting point to find a style of cooking that works for your family. Her advice? Keep it real—and keep it easy!