May 26, 2006 2:41 PM   Subscribe

What should I eat?

I am always either at work or in class or running around and not being at home. I've recently realized that this leads to poor eating habits like going 12+ hours without a meal then eating too much and feeling like I can't move.

I am almost never near a microwave or refrigerator, I don't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or other overly sweet foods, I eat mainly vegetarian.

What kind of food can I just throw in my purse and eat during the day without any heating or cooling or preparing and have it still be at least vaguely healthy? I like Larabars but after a week of a mainly Larabar diet I get Larabar-ed out.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Fresh fruit -- apples, oranges and bananas travel well.

Trail mix (nuts, chocolate, dried fruit) -- can be made at home or bought in bulk, then repackaged into snack-sized zipper bags.

Granola bars -- get a wide variety of "flavors," including plain, with nuts, coated in yogurt, with chocolate chips, with dried fruit.

Yogurt -- Eat it in the first part of your day, but as long as it's not hot it should be OK out of the fridge for a while. I like to buy the baby-sized servings, which are 4 oz. and thus easier to carry around.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2006

Fresh fruit?

Cheap (compared to packaged or dried stuff), full of fiber, good for you. I buy a bag of apples, keep it in a big bowl on the dining room table, and grab one when I head out of the house. Bananas, pears, whatever is in season.

Celery and carrot sticks too.
posted by dog food sugar at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: Pasta salads taste great at room temperature. Check out Vegan Lunch Box for some ideas. This stuff gets sent to school, with no fridge and no microwave. Sometimes she uses a thermos if something must be served hot.
posted by Airhen at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2006

Also, popcorn. I think air-popped it best, followed by stove-top, with microwave a distant third for flavor qualtiy.

Make a bunch at home, then put it into sandwich bags for individual serving sizes. It's pretty good with just salt, no butter, and then it won't be greasy/messy.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2006

Carrot sticks, bananas, cheese, cheese sandwiches, peanuts, pasta, crackers, toaster waffles. I pack my lunch everyday and a lot of times its just whatever is in the kitchen. Get an insulated lunch box and some ice packs to keep things fresh. Of course, I don't mind eating things like cold soup or noodles.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2006

Loose granola is always a good bet, especially if you make it yourself. You can start off with some kind of healthy cereal if you like, and add dried fruit and nuts and seeds to it. Shredded coconut and carob bits too, if you like that sort of thing.

I always have a bag of fruit nearby - a couple of apples and oranges. Fruit leather, granola bars, veggie chips. You don't like PB & J sandwiches, but what about PB & banana? Or PB & honey?

My husband freezes regular yogurt overnight (if it has fruit on the bottom you have to stir it before you freeze it) and then puts it in my son's lunch, and in a few hours it's thawed and ready to eat. It lasts for hours like that.
posted by iconomy at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2006

I freeze yogurt too. I stick with the coffee and vanila varieties, though. You can use it to keep other foods cool at the same time.
posted by konolia at 3:15 PM on May 26, 2006

It might not be THE healthiest thing, but I tend to keep some pre-packaged snacks in my work bag. The kind of snacks that go in kids' lunches: fruit blobs, Goldfish crackers, generic chewy granola bars, etc.
I also like to have nut/seed snacks around - a small zip-lock of sunflower seeds, almonds, or pre-shelled pistachios goes a long way and is great for snacking on when you are sick of carrots.
My mother got me a peeler-corer-slicer for Christmas, and I do use it as a quick way to prep an apple - just run the apple through, squirt/rub a little lemon juice on it (to prevent browning), put the spiral slices in a zip-lock, and it's ready to travel.
I must admit that I don't freeze my yogurt; it spends 4 hours at room temperature, and so far I've survived.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2006

If you eat dairy, stick a piece of cheese in your bag along with a piece of fruit or some veggies for some protein & fat to help you feel fuller longer. You can also get juiceboxes of milk that do not require refrigeration - you can freeze them the night before so they are cold when you want to drink them the next afternoon.

Nuts are also portable and snackable and nutritious and you can get them in all sorts of crazy flavors (chipotle, wasabi, cinnamon, etc) to mix things up now & then.

Maybe a can of V-8 to round out your snack attack - I find it doesn't even have to be cold to taste good and I love it.
posted by tastybrains at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: I always keep a few Quick Stix in my bag for a fast, no-nonsense protein binge. Primal Strips are really tasty, but a bit messy. Both are high in protein, no cholesterol, and low fat.
posted by team lowkey at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2006

Airhen - I've never seen that blog before. It's incredible! Thanks.
posted by lunalaguna at 4:33 PM on May 26, 2006

Good quality low salt corn chips are very sustaining. They're what I use for hikes as alternative to trailmix. Sesame Blues or plain blue No Salt are my favorites.

Cons: careless munching can injure your mouth, and definitely avoid the junkfood kind of chips which are a fast way to get sick, high bloodpressure, etc.
posted by anadem at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2006

Hummus sandwich on whole wheat bread. Pizza bagels or mini-pizzas made with pita (whole wheat if you like). I've never had either of these go bad due to lack of refrigeration.

A chunk of cheese won't go bad that quickly either, surprisingly.

Once it gets to be tomato season, you could carry cherry tomatoes around, but only if your purse is big enough that they won't get squished...
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2006

I think laughing cow cheese can be stored at room temp. CUt up some celery, stuff it with laughing cow and put in a ziplock for healty and tasty snacking.
posted by necessitas at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2006

Veggie Booty. It's made from corn, rice, kale, spinach, cabbage, carrots, etc. I give it to my toddler instead of cookies (gasp) or even whole wheat crackers. I'm not suggesting it as a meal replacement, but it might be better than popcorn or even granola, since it is high in vitamin A, iron, vitamin C and calcium. I was very suspicious of it at first, since it was in the rice cake section of my health food store, but I've decided it's better than empty carbs.
posted by acoutu at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2006

Most cheese will be fine at room temperature for a day or so. Some hard cheeses may get oily on the surface, but just wipe it off -- the cheese itself is fine. The Laughing Cow cheese is nice for travelling because it's individually wrapped already.

Fresh fruits. Nuts. Trail mix. A ziplock bag with your favorite multigrain cereal (carry a spoon to make eating it easier, although a spoon isn't really necessary). Juice or milk boxes -- store them in the freezer if you prefer them cold, although you may want to wrap them so they don't condense on the rest of your stuff.
posted by jlkr at 5:32 PM on May 26, 2006

I'm not sure what's so healthy about laughing cow cheese compared to say, a peanut butter sandwich. It's just process cheez food.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: Tiffin are lunches that Indian people often carry unrefrigerated to work with them. Quite delish at room temp. You can invest the time to make 'em yourself, but I'm lazy and do quite like the instant varieties.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:22 PM on May 26, 2006

I'm with you, rxrfrx. I think people see the "I eat mainly vegetarian" and automatically think the poster isn't getting enough protein and needs dairy to get it. I love me some cheese, but there's nothing very healthy about it. Mostly just milk fat. Peanut butter (but not the kind with the crazy amount of sugar) would be a much better choice. Hummus is even better than that.
posted by team lowkey at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2006

I like the idea of freezing yogurt. I've never done it.

I think it's important to eat small snacks regularly. I have a bag of unroasted almonds on my desk (not as yummy as roasted, but much better for you). I count out five when I am hungry. They are very good for you, and the fat keeps you from craving more. I also eat low fat Ricotta on toast, with fruit. It keeps me going for hours.

I also eat different kinds of diet bars. I love fruit, but I crave starches. Oatmeal bars fool my body into thinking it's had a nice slice of toast/ piece of bread/ pasta, etc.

Small amounts of juice and lots of water are also great.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:01 PM on May 26, 2006

Lately I've been packing salad+chicken. The salad is always lettuce+tomato+cucumberĀ±cheese, and the dressing is balsamic+olive oil.

For the chicken I buy a couple of breasts once a week (you might have to figure out a freezing+thawing schedule to store them over a week.. it's extremely easy though). They go in a marinade (lots of decent, pre-made marinades available at the supermarket), then I grill them. One breast is enough for 2-3 salads.

The whole thing takes about 20 minutes to prepare the night before. Put the chicken on, chop up 2 days worth of vegies, turn the chicken, combine the salad with the dressing, chop up the chicken, distribute, you're done. If you want to save even more time, buy pre-packaged salad mixes and pre-made dressing.

To keep storage small I put them in wide but shallow containers, and I pack it pretty tightly. That's what fits best in my backpack, your purse might require something different (or it might be too small... in which case forget this!).

I haven't had any problems with the chicken going bad throughout the day. I put my salads in the fridge at home, then put them in my bag before I walk out the door and eat them 4-6 hours later.
posted by teem at 10:50 PM on May 26, 2006

PB+olives, PB+branston pickle
posted by lunkfish at 1:36 AM on May 27, 2006

Rather than repeat some of the great ideas that have already been said, let me just note that Larabars have many, many competitors (off the top of my head, I like Clif Bars (and Luna bars and Mojo bars, from the same company) and Bumble Bars, but there are plenty of others), and that mixing up the energy-bar routine may keep you from tiring of it so quickly.
posted by box at 6:03 AM on May 27, 2006

In addition, try to find some sources of fast food that are reasonably healthy. My grocery has sushi packed to go - the all-veg variety should last quite a bit, and it's easy to eat on the run. If there's a WholeFoods or WildOats near you, you can get some great pre-prepared foods. You could get a wholewheat baguette, and prep slices of baguette, some cheese and some grapes for a nice easy meal to grab as you go out the door. Get an insulated lunch bag to help your cold foods last a bit longer. If you freeze a bottle of water or soda, it keeps lunch cold until you drink it.
posted by theora55 at 3:13 PM on May 27, 2006

I can personally vouch for WholeFoods cheese sticks and yogurt being fine at southern US room temp for 3-4 days. Nuts are another calorie-dense food, but you have to keep them fresh.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:42 PM on May 27, 2006

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