Build a Better Lunch: Make it Ahead

This is part four of the Build a Better Lunch Series. Read about the framework, sandwiches, and salads!

There is something so awesome about being able to pull an awesome meal out the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and be off.

Last year, my go to was Trader Joe’s  Fusilli with Vegetables and Basil Pesto (let me tell you, it was tops). But at $2 a pop, I could make two weeks’ worth of lunches at  the cost of a week of the pre-made Trader Joe’s lunches. All it took was an hour on Sunday after dinner to whip up eight meals (since I just go to school four days a week, that’s two weeks!). Well, an hour, a small squash, an onion, a bell pepper, pasta (I came to like bow ties the best), and pesto.

It was quick and easy–in the time it took to boil the water and make the pasta,  I had the veggies sautéed and had sauce portioned out into the little baggies. All that was left was to measure out a cup of pasta per meal (baggy) and

But from there, I became more adventurous: I went the curry and stir-fry route. But you can make casseroles, Latin-inspired fare (I bet homemade burritos would freeze well–now that I think about it, I should probably try it!), or even fancier things, like chicken thighs with steamed veggies and rice pilaf.

Just package it up in a mason jar or a baggy*, freeze it, and you’re good to go.

Build a Better Lunch with Pretty  Healthy by making it ahead

Pick a Protein, Select a Starch

When I meal plan, I like to think in terms of the starch and the protein. When I make my take on the Trader Joe’s fusilli, I always have a hard-boiled egg with it–otherwise, I fall asleep and end up hungry by 3 in the afternoon.

You can think of the starch and protein as your base. The starch offers volume and the protein keeps you full longer, as I mentioned last week. Think chicken and pasta, eggs on toast, rice and beans. For instance, my curry counts on rice and chickpeas for the complete protein and starch.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s base our example meal on a small chicken breast or thigh (your preference) and a cup of pasta.

Veggie Variation

The next step is getting your plant foods. In case you missed it, fruits and veggies are awesome for you. They provide you with all sorts of necessary micronutrients (think vitamins and minerals) and in the process, give you that glow of health. So pack ’em in!

The average young woman needs about two and half cups of veggies per day and two cups of fruit. At lunch, that might mean a cup of each. Try carrots, onions, and celery together for a classic flavor combination. Or go for bell pepper, spinach, and tomatoes for a rainbow of color.

Let’s say our example meal includes a cup of roasted summer squash, tomatoes, bell pepper, and onions. When the meal comes out of the freezer, a cup of strawberries added  on the side helps to round out the meal as a serving of fruit.

 Don’t Forget Calcium

According to the USDA, the dairy food group consists of the “calcium” foods. Don’t forget that if dairy disagrees with you, you can opt for lots of green veggies or calcium-enriched foods (anything from soy yogurt to nut milks to orange juice–in moderation, of course).

In this example lunch we are building, there are two options that spring immediately to my mind: freeze it or add it later. We could choose to a bit of cheese to go with our pasta, chicken, and veggies or we could opt for yogurt to packed with the strawberries. In this case, I vote…both. A sprinkle of Parmesan will be nice on the pasta, and will account for the rest of the dairy serving not provided by a 6 ounce cup of yogurt.

 Savor Sundry

Now, we get to fats and flavor-enhancers. Things like fresh ginger or rosemary. Olive oil. Salsa. Pesto. The works. Of course, it’s important to check portion size, either because it is highly caloric (pesto and oil, I’m looking at you!) or sometimes overly flavorful (rosemary can be strong).

To finish off our sample lunch, let’s add just enough olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary  to just coat the pasta.

All Together Now!

When it’s time to eat our homemade frozen entrée, I have found that microwaving between 3 and 4 minutes is enough for a frozen meal typically. If you choose to defrost your meal in the freezer overnight, 30 seconds to a minute long zap should be enough. I highly recommend playing around with reheating times to find what works best with your meals.

Now, our sample meal plan looks like frozen entrée made up of a cup of pasta, a 2 or 3 ounce chicken breast, a cup of roasted veggies, some olive oil and seasoning, and a bit of shredded cheese, in a jar or a baggy* all together. In the morning, it’s defrosted, reheated, and packed with a cup of strawberries and 6 ounces of yogurt. This hits on all the food groups outlined when we developed our framework.


*Since mason jars can break in the freezer and because they take up more space than I currently have, I have been using BPA-free plastic baggies. In case there is an issue with other chemicals beyond BPA, I try to minimize chemical leaching by never putting hot food in the baggies. This means letting pasta, rice, cooked veggies, sauces, and the like cool down before packaging it up. I also plop the frozen meal into a microwave safe bowl before cooking it so that the plastic isn’t microwaved.


Build a Better Lunch: The Keep-Me-Full Salad

Romaine lettuce, hardboiled egg, cucumber, red bell pepper, celery, and peanut dressing. Not pictured: pearl couscous at the bottom.

Romaine lettuce, hardboiled egg, cucumber, red bell pepper, celery, and peanut butter dressing (recipe below). Not pictured: pearl couscous at the bottom.

This is part three of the Build a Better Lunch series. Here are the links for parts one and two.

We’ve all heard enough about salads to make our heads turn like a salad spinner. They’re your best bet at weight loss. They’re the healthiest thing you can eat. Or they’re the one thing you should avoid on a diet–they’ll leave you hungry or make you fat.

I’m here to say that those generalizations are definitely on the silly side. Weight-loss is achieved by eating fewer calories than you burn (for heat or energy) for the most part–and three ice burg lettuce salads (hold the dressing) a day can probably do that. But ice burg lettuce and a cherry tomato are hardly the picture of health. But on the flip side, salads don’t have to leave you starving. And, if you are careful about the dressings, they won’t wind up being unhealthy.

So, let’s get down to business. Order is important. If you are making, for instance, a chef salad for dinner, you’ll probably start with your greens, then other veggies, cheese, protein, grain, and top it off with dressing. If you are making a mason jar salad for lunches, you start with dressing, then grains, protein, cheese, and other veggies, topping it all off with the lettuce.

This is because the dressing makes the lettuce wilt, so it must be dressed at the last moment. With a make-and-serve salad, you dress it, toss it, and serve it in quick succession. With a mason jar, when you are ready to eat, you just turn it over and shake to toss it. Presto! No wilted salad greens.

Enjoy the Greenery

The greens–the base of your salad. It doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t have to be lettuce. Trade in your boring lettuce for red cabbage, or mixed greens–you might like it better. I have personally found that my favorite greens are butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, and thin sliced cabbage. As much as I like spinach steamed, I don’t love it raw, and that’s okay. The trick is to try things out and find what you like.

If you are looking to get a full serving of vegetables out of your leafy greens, plan to get two cups of ’em. For the sake of our example, let’s go with some romaine lettuce–about a cup of it. Adeline from our first example plans to balance out that veggie serving with other veggies.

Crunch Factor

But a salad of plain lettuce would be really boring. So, we as other things for texture, taste, and heartiness. First up: extra veggies. While two cups of raw salad greens is just one serving, a cup of other vegetables raw is a serving.

Not to mention fruit options: sliced apples and grapes. I hear that pineapple + feta + orange vinaigrette is good. Cuties (clementines) and melon and strawberries–though not crunchy–can round out the flavors in your salad. One fresh fruit serving is about a cup. One dried fruit serving is a half cup–and one of my favorite salads has dried currants in it.

There are other ways of adding crispy, crunchy goodness. One is the crouton-esque option. Croutons, those fried noodles, crunched up tortilla chips. All of them are grains (and none are whole grain) and prepared with a hefty dose of fats, so be careful with them.

The final crunch-boosters are nuts. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews. Full of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E to keep them from oxidizing, nuts are nutrient-dense sources of protein in more ways than one. This non-medical professional would recommend sticking to one ounce of these for your serving of protein.

Let’s add some bell pepper, cucumber, and mushrooms to Adeline’s example salad.

Pick a Protein

Nuts aren’t the only protein options. There’s chicken, steak, shrimp, tuna, eggs, even peanut butter dressing. It’s with protein that we begin to really get into “keep me full” aspect. Protein is connected to satiety (which just means a sense of being full) [1].  Basically, protein leads to long-term satiety. This is how you get through the afternoon without endless snacking. I have found that adding a hard-boiled egg to veggie- and grain-rich lunches also helped me to stay awake through my  afternoon classes.

Another addition is cheese. If you are looking to get your dairy serving in via salad, stick to one to two ounces of cheese (depending on the type) or about a third cup of the shredded kinds. Of course, you don’t have to get all the food group servings in your salad. Having yogurt and fruit on the side can be a nice addition.

Let’s add two ounces of chicken breast leftovers to our example salad, and some fresh mozzarella, too.

Get Your Grains

Grains offer substance. The proverbial potatoes of your meat and potatoes. Rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa and other carbs offer the right-now kind of fullness that leaves you satisfied on your lunch break. Between grains and protein, you are covered now and later.

Adeline likes itty-bitty bow tie pasta in her salad, so let’s add about a cup of it (or 2 ounces of grain)

Dress Up

Dressings really make the salad. And there are so many options: peanut butter based, olive oil and vinegar, honey mustard, orange juice and oil. The list goes on ad infinitum. The trick with them, though, is not to overdo it. Few things are grosser than an overdressed salad. Besides: dressings tend to be the key source of fat

There are thousands of recipes that you can find but here are a two of my favorites. Both involve adding all the ingredients and stirring vigorously to mix.

Peanut Butter Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoons lime juice (lemon is an acceptable substitute)
  • freshly grated ginger
  • a dash of white wine vinegar
  • black pepper to taste
  • a pinch of curry powder

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar, depending on tastes
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Adeline tosses her example salad with some honey mustard vinaigrette. Served with an apple and some water, it’s a full meal.

Remember: salads can be delicious, filling lunches to keep you going for the rest of the day, just as long as you include the right food groups in proper proportion.

What kinds of salad will you build?

Sweets and Smiles: Salads and Celebrations

lunch by canopic/Flickr Creative commons

A much more photogenic salad than my chopped creations. (lunch by canopic/Flickr Creative commons)

Hello everyone!

It’s been a good week. I am finally on spring break–and I totally need it. Half way through the semester and I am exhausted. Cue easy days of slower paced studying and lazy mornings!

But this week was good in its own right. I got to hang out with my lovely friends. Ice cream, chai, hikes. It was great to catch up with friends back on their spring breaks and to meet new people 🙂

I’ve also continued with my barre and salad regimen. I’ve never made mason jar salads before–surprisingly effective. And to think that I have been using Tupperware to keep dressing separate. Tisk. So inefficient. After last week’s sandwiches, salads are this week’s Build a Better Lunch item.

Also, yesterday was pie day. I had quiche and apple pie for lunch. Did you celebrate?

How was your week?

Build A Better Lunch: The Perfect Sandwich

Build a Better Sandwich with Pretty Healthy

This beaut is turkey, avocado, bell pepper, and just a little mayo.

 This is part of the Build a Better Lunch Series. Read the first post here.

The sandwich, that quintessential lunch food. From comfort foods like grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly, to  the All-American burger, sandwiches are everywhere.

And for good reason–they’re typically easy, no-cook, no-fuss, on the go finger food. Everybody can make a PB&J in their dorm room. Plus, two slices of bread can make a great delivery system for foods from every food group (brie and pears with honey or a patty melt with caramelized onions and mushrooms, anyone?)

Choose the Grain

First, temperature! There are two main domains of sandwiches: hot and cold. There are three phyla divisions* of sandwich in each domain based on the bread/grain. The first is the most classic  The Sliced Bread Division–think: classic PB&J–can be served cold or hot (a classic grilled cheese, for instance). You can also think about these as having crusts on the sides.

Then we have the Submarine Division, with classes Roll (subclass Croissant is categorized here) and Baguette. The unifying characteristic of this clade is that the crust is on the face of this sandwich. Enjoy one  cold, or make a warm pressed panini or toasted croissant sandwich. The last division is Wraps. These are made using flat breads, including tortillas, Lavash, and pita breads. Found in both domains, they can be eaten cold or hot (hello, quesadillas!).

Each option has different strengths–I like sliced bread for peanut butter and jelly and breads with satisfyingly crackling crusts for variations on the turkey-avocado club.

There is a final, oft-forgotten domain of sandwiches stands out from the rest. This is the Open-face Sandwich. With only one slice of bread, it is a good option for those who aren’t crazy about getting too much bread. Remember, building a better lunch comes down to what is better for you, and for some that will take experimentation. For instance, Emmaleigh might find that two servings of grains (also known as two slices of bread) in the middle of the day makes her sleepy during her 2:00 Organic Chemistry lecture. So, she might opt for a single-slice sandwich.

Pick a Protein

After the grain and temperature, classification becomes too tedious, so let’s just talk about things generally. The next part of the sandwich is the protein, and there are tons of options. From hard-boiled (or scrambled) eggs, to tuna, to chicken, to peanut butter, there is something for everyone.

Now, we want to use the correct portion size, which the USDA measures in ounces. One ounce equivalent of protein is one ounce of meat, one egg, a quarter cup of beans  (in your bean and cheese quesadilla), or a tablespoon of peanut butter. We also want eat the correct number of servings. If you recall our example with Adeline, she planned on getting two ounces of protein at lunch. That means she can have two hard-boiled eggs for egg salad, two ounces of turkey breast, or two tablespoons of a nut butter (or a ton of other things, in the correct portions).

Fruit and Vegetable Variety

Fruits and vegetables are super nutritious and can add crunch to your sandwich. You could try adding a corresponding fruit to your jammy sandwiches (for instance, if you are having a nut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, try adding sliced strawberries for more texture, a double-dose of strawberry, and some additional nutrients). Also, sliced pears and apples add a sweet crunch to your sandwich (I recommend broiling ham and brie on one slice of French bread and ultra-thinly sliced apples on the other until the cheese is melty and the apples are just a little soft). For vegetables, a leaf or two of lettuce doesn’t quite do it. You can try adding bell pepper, cucumber, or tomatoes to make up about a cup of veggies. Or you can go the grilled sandwich route and use sautéed vegetables!

Of course, you don’t have to have both fruits and veggies in the sandwich–you could choose to have one of them on the side! Or a little of both–fitting a cup of either on a properly proportioned sandwich can be difficult.

Dairy Decisions

Our last food group is dairy and for most sandwiches, that means cheese. But peanut butter, jelly, and cheese isn’t always a winning combination. And sometimes, you only have cheddar, which wouldn’t be quite as good as mozzarella on this sandwich, so you nix the cheese. That’s okay.

That’s the beauty of the side dish. You can add a cheese stick to your lunch, or a cup of yogurt. A milk box or a pudding snack (in moderation, of course!). You can pair that cheese stick with apple or with carrots (or anything you like). You can bring fruit salad to go with your yogurt. There are a myriad of ways to add build a complete meal starting with a sandwich.

Some Assembly Required

Now that you’ve figured out the building blocks and the kind of sandwich you want to make, it’s time to talk condiments! Honey mustard, mayo, ranch dressing, herb spread–it can all add flavor to your basic sandwich. Some of them can pack quite the caloric punch, but that just means it’s important to account for your splurges. Eat what you like, but aim for healthy moderation.


*Please indulge this silly attempt at biological classification–the Bio student in me knows that there are grievous errors in the cladistics.

Sweets and Smiles: Back to Basics

Allison Wopata/Unsplash

Allison Wopata/Unsplash

Hello, ladies!

This week has been lovely–the weather’s been good, my buses came on time, and I got a good grade on my Art History test. I finally started posting the Build a Better Lunch series! Look for more tomorrow!

More importantly, I got to hang out with friends. Particularly, I got to enjoy some Whole Foods salads (if you’re looking for something in the deli there, try the Pad Thai Kale Salad–it’s quite yummy 🙂 ) and an orange poppy-seed croissant from a local bakery with a dear friend.

I’ve also started to get back to doing barre workouts. This summer, I started out with them, just finding workouts I liked on YouTube. Then Yosemite. And Germany. And then laziness as school started. I liked barre, though. It was my kind of workout: isometrics, being ridiculously sore the next day (is it weird that I like being sore? I mean, it shows that at least the workout did something, right?) But I miss the definition I started to get everywhere while I was doing barre at home, so it’s about time that I get back at it.

This week, I’ve got lots to look forward to: friends are back in town! That means get-togethers! I’m stoked! And, I just have to get through a couple of tests before spring break and some long-awaited relaxation.

What made smile this week? Share in the comments!

Ingredient of the Month: Rosemary

(Rosemary by rosmary/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Rosemary by rosmary/Flickr Creative Commons)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody herb that can be used year round. It’s native to the Mediterranean and thrives in full sun environments (according to my Botany professor and the Old Farmer’s Almanac). It’s also a delicious addition to your seasoning collection (especially the fresh kind!).

Rosemary has powerful antioxidant effects and has been shown to fight AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products) in a clinical study done in vitro (that means in a test tube, folks! So, we do have to take this with a grain of salt) [1].This is important  not only because AGEs (as implied) lead to older-looking skin, but also because they are associated with diabetes.

We’ve talked about AGEs before, but for those needing a quick refresher: they are made when a carbohydrate is added to a protein without an enzyme. In diabetes, hemoglobin is glycated, and in skin, it’s often collagen. AGEs can be ingested (with our food–for instance, fried foods have more AGEs than boiled foods) or made in our bodies, and they are reactive molecules. This means that they are involved in inflammation and other damage. As one study put it, “Aging is the progressive accumulation of damage to an organism over time leading to disease and death” [2].

Rosemary’s antioxidant and anti-AGE properties are impressive and well-worth adding to your cooking (off-setting some AGE production, maybe?). Rosemary is delicious on all things roasted, from chicken to root vegetables. It’s great as a flavor agent in marinades. My favorite way to use it is to chop up fresh rosemary nice and fine, mince some garlic, add in olive oil, and add it to shrimp or scallops as a marinade or over some veggies I plan on baking or sauteing.

Additional Works Cited

[1] Btissam, Ramdan, et al. “In Vitro Study Of Anti-Glycation And Radical Scavenging Activities Of The Essential Oils Of Three Plants From Morocco: Origanum Compactum, Rosmarinus Officinalis And Pelargonium Asperum.” Pharmacognosy Journal 7.2 (2015): 124-135.

Building a Better Lunch: The Framework

Making lunches was the bane of my nine-year-old existence. Everyone else’s parents still packed their lunch–a bag of chips, an apple, PB&J with the crusts cut off. The luckybutts. Me, on the other hand, I had pull something together that involved a fruit, some protein, and a sweet only once in a while.

In the intervening decade, I’ve gotten better at making lunches. I’ve mastered batch cooking and freezing. I’ve figured out my go-to ways of adding fruits and veggies. So many veggies, nine-year-old me would probably gag (but then she didn’t know about sautéing or the magic of beta-carotene with your skin).

Figure Out What You Need

Building a healthy lunch is not a science as much as a basic pattern that you jazz up with different combinations and flavors. But before we can figure out that pattern, we need to answer a seemingly-simple question: How much food should you bring?

It depends on your eating patterns, height, weight, and activity level. And a bunch of other things, besides. But to keep it simple, we’ll just focus on those.

Basal Metabolic Rate

It starts with figuring out just how many calories your body needs to do all of the amazing things it does each day–starting with breathing, pumping blood, and keeping your brain running. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the amount of energy your body requires just to keep functioning. It can be easily calculated here. For the example, we’ll use a twenty-year-old, five foot five, 125 pound female called Adeline.

This site offers two ways of calculating BMR and thus gives the hypothetical  Adeline a range of at least 1339 to 1409 calories needed, per day, just to keep her vital organs running happily. But this is not the end of the story, oh no! Because BMR is calculated based on the assumption that you never got out of bed–essentially, that you just laid still all day, and I am pretty sure you didn’t.

For each of these calculations, there is range of possible amounts of activity, from low to very high. We’ll say Adeline is your standard non-athlete student and she is lightly active, walking 10 minutes to and from campus everyday and doing some yoga on the weekends. That gives her a range of about 1841 to 1938 calories needed per day to maintain her current weight.

Pick Your Pattern

Now, we can get down to figuring out meal patterns. Maybe you only eat three meals a day, or three and a snack. Maybe you eat a light breakfast since eating doesn’t sound so appealing when you wake up, so  you want a bigger lunch. In this example, we’re going to say that Adeline eats three equal meals per day, meaning she’ll need about 600 to 650 calories for her lunch. But how does she make sure that she gets a good balance of nutrients?

Here we can turn to a modified version of MyPlate. MyPlate suggests that young women who are lightly active need about 5.5 ounces of protein, 6 ounces of grains, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, and 3 cups of dairy per day. There are a bunch of ounce and cup equivalents (one slice of bread is one ounce of grain, a third cup of shredded cheese is a cup of milk, etc.). Some people, of course, can’t partake in dairy, and the focus on milk (and soy-milk) products as the only source of calcium (the whole reason dairy is a ‘food group’ is because of the calcium therein) strikes me as silly–lots of vegetables are high in calcium!

The modification comes in with your own dietary needs and preferences (to a point): you might be vegan or lactose intolerant, knocking out most of the “dairy” category. That means you need to find a different way of getting your calcium, like eating more vegetables, or even fortified foods, like soy milk or cereals. Perhaps you are a Paleo Person afraid of grains (you probably don’t need to be!) or you need to avoid grains for medical reasons, so you don’t have much of a grain option, and need to make up those calories and volume some other way. But for the most part, these guidelines are pretty solid and almost universally applicable.

Make Your Framework

Now that we know her meal pattern and how to get a good balance of food groups, let’s figure out Adeline’s lunch framework. Since she needs three meals a day, let’s break lunch down into 1-2 ounces of protein, 2 ounces of grains, a cup of dairy (we’ll say she’s not vegan and not lactose intolerant), a cup of fruit (she’ll eat the other at breakfast), and a cup of vegetables (she’ll eat the rest at dinner).

 Build Your Lunch

What do these meals look like based on this pattern? They can be Mediterranean inspired or take a cue from Southeast Asia. They could take the form of single entrée or two smaller courses. They can like the quintessential “health conscience” meal or comfort food. All this while still hitting daily requirements and remaining healthy. Here are some ideas:

  • A cup of yogurt and a cup of mixed berries; a cup of pasta with tomato sauce and a cup of steamed veggies; and a hard-boiled egg
  • A turkey sandwich (two slices of bread, two ounces of turkey, two slices of cheddar cheese), an apple, and carrot sticks
  • A hearty salad with a cup of lettuce, a half cup of assorted veggies (cucumbers, carrots, bell pepper, etc.), a cup of Israeli couscous, an ounce of chopped chicken, an ounce of pecans, Parmesan cheese, a quarter cup of dried currants (equivalent to half a cup of fruit) and a sweet basil dressing served with half a grapefruit (the remainder of the fruit serving).
  • About a cup and a half of veggie-chicken (or veggie-chickpea, or veggie-tofu) curry with a cup of rice, followed by a cup of just-sweet-enough vanilla pudding and sliced banana with cinnamon.
  • A slice of homemade cheese pizza (for the two grains and dairy), a salad with an ounce of chicken and an ounce of walnuts, and on orange.

And that’s just one school week of lunches!

In the comments, share your meal framework and some lunches you are excited to build!

*Note that I am NOT a Registered Dietitian or other medical professional. This information is only meant for illustrative and illustrative purposes–not as a diagnostic tool. Therefore, please talk to your physician or nutrition professional before making any changes to your diet.

Sweets and Smiles: Pseudo-Spring

These beauties are growing everywhere you look! (Untitled by BrittanyBush/Flickr Creative Commons)

These beauties are growing everywhere you look! (Untitled by BrittanyBush/Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy Sunday, ladies!

The weather, while brisk, has been gorgeous! Bright clear days, golden sunlight–it’s almost like it’s spring! Right now, the flowering quince that grow everywhere around here (and I never noticed till this year when I started my botany class) are the biggest splash of color. I can’t wait for the wildflowers to start popping up everywhere!

This week, I finally broke out some fresh ginger and it was delicious–in stir-fries and soups. I even found this lovely smoothie recipe that I am looking forward to trying with some frozen fruit–I could kill for a fresh, ripe peach, but for now frozen will do (until we leave this pseudo-spring). Don’t forget how great ginger is for you!

I’m also super stoked for this week: I’m launching a series I’ve been playing with for months! Ready for Build a Better Lunch Month?

Don’t forget to subscribe for Build a Better Lunch updates!

Announcing: Building A Better Lunch

build a better lunch yellow 1

Hello, ladies!

Nationally, March is Nutrition Month, but here at Pretty Healthy, it’s Build a Better Lunch Month.

Making the most of that midday meal is major. It recharges you after a long morning and it gives you energy for the rest of the day–whether it’s a grueling lecture or finalizing something before that looming deadline.

This month, we’re going to talk about making lunches that help to keep you full and focused through the afternoon–whether you are at school, work, or that internship that keeps you on your feet all day. We’ll also talk about sandwiches, salads, and the magic of freeze-ahead lunches.

Even if you don’t need to brown bag it–at work, at school, at play, whatever–you might need a quick dinner after work or a speedy breakfast before hitting the books, and this series will help you create great, nutritious options for food on the fly.

Are you ready for this revamp?

Update: Read the series!

1. The Framework

Excited? Looking for specific pointers? Leave a comment!

Study: Sleep Restriction Makes Sweets Look Even Yummier

unsplash asleep

We have all heard–endlessly, I would guess–about how important it is to get your eight hours in. Which is great and all, but how many high school and college students actually get enough sleep? Between busy work masquerading as homework, ten-page papers we like to put off for later, and early class times, it might seem impossible to get enough sleep.

One group of researchers studied the effects of sleep restriction on hunger and how appealing sweets looked (compared to fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs) on a group of students, fourteen to seventeen years old.

The results weren’t exactly surprising…

Though the sample size was small (31 high school aged students), this randomized clinical trial showed that the appeal of sweets was higher in sleep deprived students (p-value=0.045). Not only that, but caloric intake increased by 11% (if we are looking at a 2000 calorie daily diet, that’s 220 extra calories per day or 23 pounds in weight gain in a year). The number of servings of sweet foods that the students ate when sleep restricted increased by over 50 percent when compared to sweets eaten when adequately rested.

While this study wasn’t perfect–it was kind of small and pretty short–it does raise some interesting points. As adolescents and young adults, we are becoming more independent. We’re making our own choices about food; choices that begin to create a pattern for our futures. Since sleep can have such a profound effect on our food choices, we should make getting adequate sleep a priority–not just for now, but for our health futures.