I have never been a great on-the-go meal toter. In college, I’d rush to class with a sloppily-packed salad and throw a peach, nectarine, or apple from the back of the fridge into my backpack. By lunchtime, my already-dressed salad had turned into sad, slimy pieces of soggy lettuce. My nectarine had Plinko-ed its way to the bottom of my backpack, taking advantage of the cool, dark environment to ripen at mega-speeds and cover any pens, pencils, and notebook corners in red-orange goo. I’d be lucky if I even remembered the apple. In most cases, it would resurface only when my backpack began emitting a sweet-sour vinegar smell. I’d dump out the contents, wondering what the unidentifiable brown ball with a stem was on my desk. Well, with classes looming again—and in an effort to improve my overall track record of keeping my lunch edible all the way until lunchtime—I have enlisted the help of some fellow Friedman students to provide suggestions for quick and easy foods that pack well for trekking on the T, off the T, and through a day’s worth of classes. Here are some tips:
Finding the proper container to carry your goodies in is key to successful toting. Sometimes, even a good ole’ fashioned brown bag isn’t good enough. I use a neoprene bag by Built ($18-$30, builtny.com). The stretchy fabric allows for maximum storage even when using oddly-shaped food containers. The fabric keeps my lunch insulated, too, so cold stuff stays cooler and hot stuff stays warmer. If you’re going for not-your-average lunch bag, carriers like bento boxes or jubako boxes (similar to bento boxes but multi-tiered) might be good options because they are like Tupperware puzzles, fitting together into one easy-to-carry container. Incoming FPAN student Zoe Schweitzer swears by her bento box. “[It’s] perfect for keeping my apple and peanut butter separate from veggies and hummus.” These containers are typically made of plastic or stainless steel and obviate the need for plastic baggies. If you’re packing food that should be kept cool, put an ice pack in your lunch tote. For hot stuff (like the vegan fondue recipe below), use a thermos.
Snacks should provide the proper brain and body energy you’ll need to mentally and physically survive a day’s worth of classes. It’s also ideal if they can be eaten with one hand while you type class notes with the other. “Cereals, muesli, and granola are great choices,” suggests Stacy Blondin, another Friedman student. A handful of nuts or other high-protein snacks like cottage cheese or Greek yogurt are great on-the-go options, as are homemade trail mix and granola bars. Fruits and vegetables are nature’s perfect snack foods, but try to choose harder ones that won’t get too roughed up in the transportation process—oranges and apples are good choices (just don’t forget about them!). Dips for veggies pack easily, too.
Sandwiches, Salads, and Other Stuff
If you love your green salads, keep your dressing in a separate container in your lunch bag until right before you eat to prevent wilting. Salads with more hardy ingredients work better for on-the-go lunches, particularly those that get better with a little marinating—think sliced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, and feta cheese in a vinaigrette, or Friedman student Meg Keegan’s Apple and Jicama Salad below. Sandwich bread can get soggy after a few hours, especially if you like juicy ingredients like tomato slices in your sandwiches. Opting for less juicy ingredients (like peanut butter and honey), or using a whole-wheat bagel, which is sturdier and holds up to all kinds of sandwich innards, is a better choice.
Enjoy the following recipes for a great start to this semester!
From the Silver Palate Oatmeal box
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped dried fruit
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup or honey (or ½ cup of each)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Transfer onto a large baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking time*.
Cool completely on tray, then store in airtight jars or plastic bags.
*Check on granola every 5-10 minutes while cooking as it can burn quickly.
Submitted by Erin Moore Ruddy, incoming FPAN student, and adapted from recipe for Chocolate-Blueberry No-Bake Energy Bars on Yumuniverse.com
1 cup fresh dates
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup frozen blueberries (or other type of berry)
1/4 cup roasted carob powder
1/4 cup flax seeds (ground)
1/4 cup hemp protein
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
Process all ingredients in the food processor until dough forms.
Press into the bottom of a glass pan, as thick as you like.
For convenience, keep in the freezer and take out individual portions as necessary.
Apple and Jicama Salad
Submitted by Meg Keegan
1 lb. jicama
2 cups shredded carrots
2 medium apples
1 cup chopped dried fruit
Peel the jicama, cut into short thin strips and add to shredded carrots in large bowl.
Dice apples and coarsely chop one of the oranges. Add to jicama-carrot mixture.
Juice remaining orange and add to mixture.
Add dried fruit, cinnamon, and honey to taste.
For a twist, substitute ginger for the cinnamon and add walnuts for extra crunch.
Vegan Fondue Dip
From the book Vegan Lunchbox by Jennifer McCann
Makes about 2 cups
½ cup chopped baby carrots
1 12-oz. package silken tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp mellow brown or white miso
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of nutmeg
Dippers like carrots, steamed baby potatoes, apple slices, mushrooms, pretzels, etc.
Place carrots in small saucepan and cover with a scant ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Cook until carrots are completely tender.
Place the rest of the ingredients into a blender or food processor. When carrots are done, add them and their cooking liquid and puree until completely smooth.
Place fondue back into saucepan and heat on medium low heat, stirring frequently, until piping hot.
To pack for a lunch, pour hot fondue into a small thermos that has been preheated with boiling water for 10 minutes.
Garlicky White Bean Dip
1 15-oz can of white beans (cannelini, garbanzo, etc.)
2-4 garlic cloves, depending on preference
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ cup chopped parsley (optional)
Drain and rinse beans.
Place all ingredients except the parsley into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick or chunky and won’t blend, add water by the ½ teaspoon.
Place dip into bowl and garnish with chopped parsley.
Serve with vegetables, pita wedges, etc.
Michelina (Mimi) DelGizzi is an incoming Friedman student in the MS/MPH program. She lives in Medford, MA with her dog, Pico, and the Chinese international exchange high school student she is hosting this year. She makes a lot of vegan fondue.