Think inside the box

Sack lunches that pack a nutritional punch for moms- to-be (and babies, too).

Planning, prepping and packing a good-for-you lunch that you’ll actually look forward to eating is a tall order for anyone to tackle. But it’s especially difficult for working moms-to-be, who are fighting fatigue and carefully considering every ingredient to ensure that they’re noshing on foods that will benefit their growing babes. It’s enough to make any pregnant mama throw up her hands, spread some tuna salad on two slices of whole-wheat bread and call it a day.

To step up your meal-planning prowess, we chatted with Shannan Monson, RDN, mom of two and founder of Nutrition Simply in Augusta, Georgia, who put together a week’s worth of meals made with the expectant crowd in mind—and there isn’t a soggy sandwich in sight. Pull out your lunchboxes, and get packin’!

Salmon grain bowl

What you need:
1 cup tricolor quinoa, cooked
1⁄4  cup mango, chopped
1⁄4  cup cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons cashews, chopped
1 wild-caught salmon filet, grilled or steamed
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dress

Combine first four ingredients, top with salmon, and toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste. The sweet flavors will get stronger and more delicious as they set in your fridge, making this a perfect make-ahead lunch to take to the office.

Contain it: Three plastic-free and leak-proof storage options in one. ECOlunchbox container trio, $30

Monson says: You might be hesitant to eat fish during your pregnancy for fear of mercury toxicity, but most fish are actually strongly encouraged because they provide omega-3 fatty acids and DHA to help your baby’s brain develop. Fish like wild-caught salmon and tuna are low in mercury and safe to consume while expecting.

Lemon chickpea salad

What you need:
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1⁄4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 radishes, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon juice
1⁄2 cup greens (romaine, spinach, kale, etc.)

Toss all ingredients together, and chill until you’re ready to enjoy.

Contain it: The lid boasts a built-in ice pack that stays cool for hours. Gel Cool lunchbox, $26

Monson says: Chickpeas are packed with nutrients, including folate, magnesium and protein, that boost your wee one’s growth and development. Plus, the fresh herbs and garlic enhance the body’s natural detoxification process, keeping mama healthy and energized as well.

Kimchi jjigae (stew)

What you need:
2 cups kimchi, chopped
1⁄2 pound tofu,cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon gochujang (hot pepper paste), optional
1 teaspoon honey
5 cups water
2 stalks green onion, chopped

Boil all ingredients —except the green onion—together for 30 minutes. Let cool, and garnish with onion.

Contain it: A watertight locking seal makes this tiffin terrific for liquid eats. Box Appetit by black+blum lunch pot, $24

Monson says: Fermented foods like kimchi are a great source of probiotics that help prepare the body for birth. Probiotics promote good bacteria growth in mom that is passed on to baby for better immunity and health throughout life. This is a simple one-pot soup that you can prepare ahead of time for plenty of leftovers that are easy to transport.

Sausage and veggie bento box

What you need:
2-3 ounces chicken apple sausage, chopped or rolled into meatballs
1-2 ounces cheddar and mozzarella cheese, cubed
1⁄2 cup raspberries
1 packet of almond butter
Red and orange bell peppers, sliced
Peppermint protein bites (see below)

Contain it: Includes an insulated carrying case to keep contents cool. PlanetBox bento box, $50

Monson says: Getting enough magnesium from fresh fruits and veggies can help with restless leg syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps that many women struggle with during pregnancy. Plus, because magnesium is a muscle relaxant, it might even help with pain during labor.

Looking for a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without loading up on empty calories? Monson suggests making a batch of peppermint protein bites—they’ll do a lot more for your hardworking body than any cookie. Peppermint is a commonly used herb to help combat nausea, which makes these energy bites a perfect midmorning snack or lunchtime treat to ward off all-day queasiness.

What you need:
1 cup rolled oats or soft nuts (try cashews or walnuts)
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
1⁄2 cup almond butter
3-4 dates
1 tablespoon honey
2 drops peppermint extract
1-3 tablespoons almond milk, optional

Mix in a food processor until soft dough forms. Roll into balls. If dough is too dry, add 1-3 tablespoons of almond milk as needed.

Contain it: Ditch the plastic baggies for this clever alternative. Stasher reusable storage bag, $12

Chopped Cobb salad

What you need:
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1⁄2 ripe avocado,diced
2 cups Tuscan kale, massaged and chopped
1 pear, chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 small chicken breast, grilled and cut into thin strips
1 handful cherry tomatoes
Dressing of choice

Layer ingredients in a salad-friendly container with sturdier ingredients that can hold up to any juices at the bottom (think chicken, walnuts). Top with softer items (like avocado and pear), and finish it off with greens. Serve with creamy poppy seed dressing or red wine vinegar.

Contain it: There’s a separate compartment under the lid for dressing! Aladdin salad jar, $13

Monson says: Natural fats like avocados, hard-boiled eggs and walnuts are vital to the organ and brain development of your baby. Plus, they help you feel satiated throughout the day, which can keep morning sickness at bay, too.

By Chantel Newton

Images: Mayuko Deason

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