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Six Key Elements for Packing a Dabba

There is no doubt that a packed lunch from home will save the entire family from adding extra calories and is an overall healthier choice over restaurant foods.Indians are experts at packing food and we have devised the best contraptions to do so. The tiffin carrier is an excellent way to carry our Indian khana. Steel is chemical-proof, retains no odour after washing, and lasts forever. There will be times when plastic containers will also come in handy and you should by all means use them. They especially come in handy when packing snack foods or if you need to use an ice pack. Here’s a little inspiration to keep it interesting and my six rules to keep your lunch-box healthy.

  1. Invest in two good tiffins — a 4-tiered one for roti-subzi and the plastic ones, which come with their own bags for other types of foods such as sandwiches, rolls and leftovers. Our steel tiffin carriers are sturdy but not leak proof. Buy a thermos for liquids such as lassi, milkshakes and sambars. Use the Tupperware type of lunchbox. Keep a separate bottle for buttermilk. Keep these bottles and thermoses for these foods only as the smell may linger.

  2. You know that saying, “You plan to fail when you fail to plan.” Every time I forget to prep something for lunch, I find myself staring into the fridge in the morning wondering what I can make for the tiffin.

  3. Packing a decent lunch requires a little thought, and whether it is to soak some pulses, make paneer, or keep some masalas ready, it’s best not left until the last minute. Always think leftovers — especially when you are making something special for dinner. Tandoori chicken / paneer can be made into a kathi roll, veggies can be put in a paratha, leftover pasta can be made into a cold noodle salad, and any baked dish can be packed as is. So when possible, plan your evening meal with lunch in mind.

  4. Have backup staples ready to go, leftovers or freshly-made, because sometimes making the tiffin is just not possible. Keep some ready-to-go items for packing lunch on these days. Dry chutneys can be rolled into chapatis, eggs can be made into omelettes or sandwiches. With rice and moong dal you can make khichdi. Some of our snacks are filling — Besan laddoos, Rajgira laddoos, chikki, dry fruits such as almonds, cashews, dates, etc. There are plenty of enterprising ladies who make them at home and sell them at local stores. These foods also have quite a few calories, so have them for lunch only for emergencies.

  5. Try and incorporate protein in the lunch. There is not enough protein in roti-subzi, so include lassi, dahi, sprouts or dal. Protein keeps you full and it does not always mean meat, vegetarian sources work well too.

  6. Pack fruit for dessert. It’s the perfect pick up after your meal and you won’t feel tired in the afternoon post lunch. All fruits (and vegetables) are good for you, so pack a variety of seasonal fruits through the week.

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