The Art of Packing Lunch

While lunch seemed so easy when we were kids, with our crustless sandwiches and brown paper bags, at EatLove we understand packing a lunch each day on top of worrying about dinner can feel like a mountain. We may often find ourselves uninspired at lunchtime, and opt for the closest fast-food restaurant or order delivery, which can become expensive and also deter us from our health goals. The good news is you can pack a lunch and continue to focus on your health goals while also saving time, money, and reducing stress. Here are a few tips which will inspire you to rush to your kitchen right now to start taking control of your lunchtime meal prep!

Keep it balanced.

It can be easy to just grab a sandwich and completely forget about a vegetable, but we’re here to help. Our plans will optimize to help you meet the balanced plate. When planning and preparing your lunch, you can use MyPlate to help guide you in building a balanced meal, to ensure you are meeting all of your nutrition needs to fuel you for your day. Aim to have at least one serving of non-starchy vegetables (though 2+ is preferred), and pair with lean protein (e.g. chicken, fish, beans, or tofu) and a fiber-rich carbohydrate (such as a whole grain, starchy vegetable, or piece of fruit). You can also pack an extra snack to help you meet your goals. Here are some tasty EatLove snacks to get you started.

Cooking dinner already? Make extra for lunch.

If you are already meal prepping and preparing for dinner, double or even triple your recipe so you have leftovers for a few days. Shorten your lunch preparation time by putting leftovers into containers after you cook so all you have to do is grab and go in the morning. EatLove allows you to adjust the number of servings for each meal, so you can ensure you will have leftovers to pack for lunch.

Batch cook one day each week.

Batch cooking is an efficient way to prepare most or all of your lunches for the entire week. There are 168 hour in each week, so in the grand scheme 1-2 hours sounds manageable, right? Preparing ahead can save you 30-60 minutes each day of on-the-spot lunch planning.

If you have a slow-cooker, it can also make preparing ahead of time easy and stress-free. Check out these EatLove slow-cooker meals, and also one-pot meals which can be made using a large soup pot and a stove. 

Salad jars for the win!

Here at EatLove, our favorite way to use our canning jars is to pack them with a salad to go. It is a quick and easy way to mix up your lunch, and you can make an entire week’s worth of salads ahead of time and they will not go bad. Grab a pint or quart-sized jar with a lid, and place your dressing at the bottom. Next, load up your jar with lean protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, leafy greens, veggies, and any other toppings you wish to include–have fun with it! When you are ready to eat the salad, simply dump the jar contents in a bowl and dig in. Here are some of our favorite salad jar recipes in a tasty meal plan.

Always have back-up staples on hand.

Sometimes planning ahead doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay! For days like these, always having lunch staples on hand which can easily be packed on-the-go. Some ideas include  hard-boiled eggs, fresh or frozen veggies and fruit, canned tuna, deli-lunch meats, whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, tofu, tempeh, canned beans, nuts, and yogurt.

Buy a lunch box which suits your needs.

Lunch boxes aren’t just for kids anymore! You can pick up a hard cooler, an insulated lunch bag, or even boxes which have different compartments for different food groups to help you portion and organize your lunch. No matter how long your day is, there is a lunchbox to help your lunch stay fresh all day. Are your mornings especially busy, causing you to forget your lunch? Leave your keys in the fridge on top of your lunch, and you will never leave without your meal again!

As you can see, packing your own lunch can be a wonderful option when you are taking the steps to improve your health. You can also save money, reduce stress, and lunch can definitely be more exciting than a crustless sandwich. Be sure to check out all the ways EatLove can make lunch your new favorite meal!

Have you prepared a lunch you are particular proud of? Share it on our Instagram or Facebook page with #findyoureatlove. We love to see your kitchen creations!

Julie Shimko, MA and Tara Linitz, MS RD

The Importance of Family Food Decisions

At EatLove, we understand the importance of sitting down for a meal with those we love, and help to make it possible to create mealtime habits and memories without all of the stress. We understand there are many decisions which are made and preferences to be considered when preparing a meal. Every good meal is comprised of so many parts, and is not just one single activity. It can be broken down into planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and then finally eating and enjoying the food. While the majority of these tasks may fall on one member of the family, if we open up the conversation, everyone can take part in shaping the important decisions around family meal time.

Regardless the size of your family or if you are cooking for yourself, each of us come to the table with different goals and preferences related to food choices, preparation, where food is purchased, how food is presented, where we eat our meals, and who cleans up afterward. So why does this matter? Understanding how we make decisions about our food and health can lead to improving our family meal experiences and eating habits.

According to Ardyth H. Gillespie and Gilbert W. Gillespie Jr., authors of the article Family Food Decision-making: An Ecological Systems Framework, our food decisions are influenced by those we live with, and with the understanding of our food decisions comes positive dietary changes. Most of our food decisions and rituals have become habitual, requiring little to no discussion. Only when we know how we arrived at our habits around food can we truly begin to change them.

Here are some questions and ideas to get you thinking about your own family food rituals. Grab a pen and paper, and sit down with your family to see what you can come up with together:

  1.      Who does the meal planning and grocery shopping?

If one person does the planning and shopping in your household, perhaps you can try doing so together. This is a great way to spend time with and help one another.

  1.      What are your favorite and least favorite foods your family eats?

Our tastes are unique, and that is what can make meal preparation fun, but also sometimes challenging. For example, you may have one family member who wants to eat more pescatarian meals, while another dislikes fish. Or perhaps one family member wants to try a new cuisine every week, while another could eat the same meal over and over again. To account for multiple food preferences and tastes, we offer several different diets, avoidances, and cuisines so you can customize just for your family. For a fun activity, each family member could take a turn planning one meal a week that they’ve personally picked out themselves. This helps everyone feel included and excited about the family mealtime.

  1.      What food and/or meal goals do you and your family have?

Just as our previous blog posts have explored, each of us has different goals when it comes to meal planning and preparation. For example, you may want to meal plan only 3 days each week, or your family may have a financial budget. EatLove allows you to set goals around preparation, budget, cooking time, and servings of fruits, vegetable, and nutrients.

  1.      What food routines are you most and least satisfied with?

Many of us wish to make changes to our current routines. For example, we hear from many families they wish to avoid last minute meal decisions. By planning ahead, for the whole week or even just one day, we can help you cut back on the stress of making food decisions on the spot.

  1.   What changes would you like to make to your current food routines, such as grocery  shopping, preparation, and clean up?

After answering the first four questions with your family, think about the changes you wish to make, set a S.M.A.R.T goal, and work toward it together. You can set any goal, such as choosing a day to meal plan together, or sharing your favorite meal ideas with one another and shopping together for the groceries.

As you can see, there are many facets to our family food and eating routines, and recognizing them can help you to make positive change. Eatlove honors your family goals and values, and we are here to help make mealtime decisions easier, more enjoyable, and fit your individual health needs. Want to try EatLove today? Check out our free 3-day plan and get started!

Julie Shimko, MA and Tara Linitz, MS RD

The Importance of Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

In the last three posts, we have shared several ideas on how to make your family mealtime easier and more enjoyable, including  key weeknight meal prep shortcuts for the busiest of weeks.  Even with support and ideas at your fingertips, we recognize coming up with a goal each week which best suits you and your family’s needs may seem overwhelming. To help alleviate the stress around setting goals and achieving them, you can set S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Goals based on this model provide structure and guidance, regardless of what you wish to achieve.

Let’s talk about each component and work together on setting a goal with the help of EatLove this week:

S-Specific

When setting a goal, be very specific about what you wish to accomplish. Instead of deciding how you are going to reach your goal in this step, you will want to focus on answering the “what, who, and why” of your goal. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Who needs to be involved? Why is this goal important to you?

Example: I wish to eat two servings of vegetables each day. This goal is important to me because I want to increase the amount of fiber in my diet. My daughter and son can help me pick out vegetables and cook them with me.

M-Measurable

When considering your goal, try to set milestones for achieving it so you know if you are on track or if you are facing some challenges (which is okay!). How will you measure your success? What metrics will you use?

Example: I will select a meal plan that averages at least two servings of vegetables each day, and will be able to measure this using the EatLove goals bar.

A-Achievable

It is normal for us to want to shoot for the stars when setting a goal, causing us to sometimes set goals which may be unattainable. In thinking about your goal, be sure it is one which you feel comfortable working towards and one in which you believe you can achieve. The point of setting a goal is to help you feel motivated, and small goals lead to big change! In thinking about your goal, does it feel realistic to you?

Example: Eating two servings of vegetables each day is realistic for me because I am making the time to shop, plan, and prepare ahead. EatLove quantifies the servings for me, to easily keep me on track.

R-Relevant

When setting a goal, try to set one which is worthwhile and meaningful to YOU. Choosing a goal which aligns with your needs and wants will help you be successful in reaching it.  In thinking about your goal, does it fit with your short and long-term plans and what you wish to achieve?

Example: My long-term goal is to improve my overall eating habits, and eating two servings of vegetables each day will help me reach that goal.

T-Time Bound

Finally, be sure your goal has a start and end date. Layout a timeline for reaching your goal; you can write it down on a piece of paper or share it with family or friends. Set a deadline, which will help you outline and plan your actions around your goal.

Example: I will begin eating two servings of vegetables on Sunday, and will continue through the following Saturday. I will evaluate my successes and challenges at the end of the week.

You can use S.M.A.R.T. to help you set clear and concise goals, and it can be a helpful tool when thinking about what you wish to achieve each week. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and spend some time thinking about a goal you wish to set, and go through each letter of the acronym. Whether your goal is to cook one meal, sit with your family for three meals, or meal prep ahead of time, take a few minutes to think about your goal.

What goal will you set this week? Let us know in the comment section below; we would love to hear from you!

Julie Shimko, MA and Tara Linitz, MS RD

Mealtime Shortcuts You’ll Want to Try This Week

Last week, we focused on involving the whole family in the meal planning process and the benefits of having support. Were you able to corral the family last week? Did you take turns picking meals or share in any of the food prep? We mentioned that Sunday Sanity Prep is an excellent starting point. However, even sometimes Sunday Sanity Prep can get away from us, and it’s important to remember that it’s okay.

Now that we’re a few weeks into January, some of us might already feel as if our New Year’s resolutions are beginning to unravel. Don’t lose hope! This week, give yourself a break. Though food prep can be therapeutic (personally, I find chopping fresh veggies can even be relaxing), we realize it takes time. This week, we’re going to offer some shortcuts to help you make mealtime more manageable.

Take these three shortcuts this week to get through your weeknight meal prep:

1. Pre-cut veggies
Sometimes pre-cut veggies are just the ticket we need to get through a busy week. Take butternut squash for example. It’s an amazing addition this time of year, to soups or stews, and even tacos. Though you’ll spend a little more money, you will save yourself the time during a busy week.
2. Frozen or pre-cooked brown rice and other whole grains
This one is a huge time saver. Instead of waiting 35+ minutes, my rice can be cooked in mere minutes just by heating up in the microwave. Just be sure to scan the nutrition label and avoid ones with added salt in the ingredients. The only ingredient you need is the grain.
3. Premade pizza dough, or pita or naan bread
Homemade pizza can be such a treat- for both children and adults alike. Luckily, premade pizza dough can really speed up the process. This kid-friendly spinach and artichoke pizza is sure to be a hit. Other ways to get creative, is to use whole wheat naan bread or pitas. We’ve got some great dishes so you can whip up a pizza midweek in no-time. Give our quick veggie pita pizza or Thai curry naan pizza a try this week.

Shortcuts like these remind us that we can still have a home-cooked meal during busy weeks. These types of meals are especially best for the nights you know you are going to work late, or when kids have late school activities. When part of the leg work is already done for you it gives you the impression that you have a head start in prep. Even if you are opening the refrigerator door at 7pm, you get the feeling that a home cooked meal is still possible. Plus, having some pre-made ingredients on hand offers a great alternative to take out on these busy nights.

Here’s a quick and easy weeknight plan that’s sure to impress:
Quick & Easy Weeknight Wins
All meals can be completed in under 30 minutes! A key shortcut you’ll find in this plan is the use of a pre-made rotisserie chicken, tossed into salads and tacos.

As we embark on new behavior change and goals around the family mealtime, it’s key to take it one step at a time, and zero in on the top one or two goals that are most important to you. Even if we initially set out to accomplish 10 goals in the new year, it’s good to be realistic, reset, and prioritize what is most important to us. This week, I challenge you to ditch the guilt about taking mealtime shortcuts, and relish in the fact that you’re still going to sit down to a delicious homemade meal together, regardless of who chopped the veggies. Bravo!

Monique Nadeau & Tara Linitz MS RD

How to Involve Your Family with Meal Planning

Congratulations! You’ve decided that you want to feel better, have more energy, and less stress surrounding meal times. Did you plan at least one meal last week? If not, that’s okay. Try again this week, this time, with the support of your family.

At EatLove, we’ve learned that in order to adopt lasting change, it’s key to have support. Having accountability keeps people on track, and you have someone taking the journey with you towards establishing lifelong behavior change. Research suggests that those involved in lifestyle behavior changes, such as weight loss programs, keep the weight off longer when provided with social support. This same technique can apply to other goals and endeavors. If you’ve resolved to cook more at home, building out a structured support system can help keep you get there.

We know that preparing good food is an investment in time. By including your family, you take an otherwise solitary exercise, and transform it into something more fun and rewarding. You get the opportunity to teach your children skills that will last a lifetime, whilst getting the benefit of sous chefs! Children yearn for responsibility and opportunities to express creativity. Partaking in family meal prep provides children with a sense of empowerment. We created EatLove with the whole family in mind. We know that when everyone chips in and we commit to automate and delegate, everyone benefits.

If you’re the primary food shopper and chef in the household, getting others involved may seem like a daunting task, but it can be done. This is a quote we read on a blog recently, humorous indeed, but highlights that we all have a role to play in planning and preparing food: “Women belong in the kitchen. Men belong in the kitchen. Everyone belongs in the kitchen. The kitchen has food.”

There are several ways to involve your family in the process. Gather round EatLove, and take turns choosing favorite cuisines or recipes you’d like to try this week. Try to include something that everyone suggests at every meal. If you are not able to do that try to rotate people’s preferences. When everyone is involved in the process they will likely be more willing and excited about what is prepared.

If trying new recipes this week and getting the family on board at the same time seems like a lofty goal, stick with some of your go-to recipes first. If you have a favorite family recipe you’d like to make each week, you can input it here right on EatLove. We’ll enter it into our system and provide you with the nutritional analysis and grocery list so you can plan each week with your own beloved family classics.

One of our other favorite ways to engage everyone is called “Sunday Sanity Prep.” Here, we provide an automated prep schedule so you can plow through your list of chopping, slicing, and dicing ahead of time. This decreases your food prep time spent during the week, enabling you to spend more time around the dinner table enjoying the meal. Not to mention, it’s a fabulous way to delegate to your kids and help them build confidence in the kitchen to last a lifetime.


Another way to share responsibilities is to pass on the task of grocery shopping to another family member or spouse. You can print or email your grocery list or take with you to the store on our mobile web version.

Finally, after you’ve successfully shared in the shopping and the food preparation, it’s now time to enjoy the meal. Take this time to focus on food, family, and conversation . Our partner, the Family Dinner Project, provides a wonderful array of conversation starters for children (and adults!) of all ages.

Some of our favorite conversation starters include:

“If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would you choose?”
“What is something you love that you would like to share with someone else?”
“If you could pack your own lunch every day, what would you pack?”

It may not happen overnight, but this week, try to take one small step towards involving the family in the kitchen. Whether it’s taking turns picking the week’s meals, or sharing in the “Sunday Sanity Prep,” everyone will feel included and empowered in the family meal time. When everyone is involved, it is easier and more fun to stay on the path of healthier and happier eating.

Cheers to building lifelong food memories together!

Monique Nadeau & Tara Linitz MS RD

2017: The year of us!

After the hustle of every holiday season, I find myself asking the question, why does the simple task of food preparation have to be so hard? Food brings us so much joy and making a meal is one of the oldest and truest expressions of love. We can all remember a simple family meal together, hear the chatter around the table and the tastes and smells of our family’s favorite dishes. Why has this become such a seemingly impossible dream?

After talking to hundreds of families over the last two years, I’ve realized that even as our lives have changed, the ‘tasks’ of meal preparation, including planning, shopping and cooking has changed so much too. The explosion of individual food preferences and health requirements in recent years has made meal planning and preparation overwhelming for the typical family. The average family has four different sets of dietary requirements to take into consideration when preparing every single meal – ranging from finding good healthy meals to eat through to dealing with food allergies, personal diets and management of a health condition. And all with less time than ever to cook.

As a result, putting nutritious food on the table has gone from a relatively simple task to a highly complex activity and we’re all crying out for more help to take control and simply enjoy our meals together again. So, let’s make 2017 the year to reclaim the family connection, starting with family meal time.

This year, I’m aspiring to do just that and setting a simple resolution to just be and eat together, as much as possible. Using a home cooked meal to connect with those I love, even if it’s just for 30 minutes in an otherwise crazy day. And I’m going to do that without spending hours planning, analyzing, calculating, shopping, and preparing it, because I don’t have that kind of time!

It’s one of the main reasons we built EatLove. We’re in the rush hours of our lives and for many of us food preparation is often a haphazard experiment based on what’s in the fridge, or even an unmanageable chore that leaves our requirements and restrictions unmet. EatLove pulls balanced meal together, where the focus is not on what you can’t eat due to any restrictions, but what delicious food you can eat that will make you feel nourished and good. That is our reason for being. We’re here to shoulder some of the hard work to make “us” a real thing around mealtimes.

Over the next 6 weeks, we will be introducing a new topic every Sunday. We’re here to meet you where you are. Let us help you start small: just add one dinner today (though if you can add three, even better!). Our meal plans are optimized to decrease food waste, so you buy and use up all your fresh ingredients. We make every ingredient count!

To get started, give this simple 3-day plan for a spin:

Researchers at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that family dinners get better with practice. And for those of us, who haven’t had a lot of family meals together for a while, it may be a little harder to get into the groove. It does get easier in time especially as you recruit those around you to help out and start using EatLove together.

Eating together is a bit like trying a new appealing recipe. First time, you’re motivated, but it’s daunting to break the mold and try something new. Second time, you become more confident, and by the fourteenth time, it’s become a family favorite.

But we’re all in this together and I, and everyone at EatLove, is here to help make meals together something to live and love in 2017!

All best wishes for a wonderful, tasty and together New Year!

Monique Nadeau & Tara Linitz MS RD