If you’re watching your weight or trying to follow a healthy diet, lunchtime at the office can be a minefield. Instead of relying on unhealthy cafeteria food, vending machine fare or fast food from a nearby chain, you can prepare easy, healthy lunches to tote with you. A mix of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats will keep you feeling satisfied and energized and might make you more productive. Your wallet will thank you, too.
The key to healthy eating is planning all your meals, including lunch. You don’t want to get stuck, hungry and cranky, with no options in site but french fries, pastries or pizza. Make a list for your trip to the grocery store of ingredients for possible lunches. Focus on having a varied mix of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Items for your shopping list could include several flavors of hummus, plain Greek yogurt, fresh veggies and fruit, canned tuna, eggs, whole-grain crackers, bread and pasta, and assorted nut butters. In making your choices, consider whether your lunch will need refrigeration -- dairy foods, prepared hummus and tuna with mayo will need to be kept cold.
When your kitchen’s well-stocked, you can easily pull together a nutritious lunch at the last minute. Hummus with crackers, cut-up celery and carrots and whole-wheat pita wedges pack in no time and give you plenty of protein, carbs and fat. An almond butter with banana sandwich on whole-grain bread is fast, comforting and delicious, and conveniently portable. A carton of plain Greek yogurt with some berries and chopped walnuts will hold you over for hours. Cook two hard-boiled eggs while you’re getting dressed in the morning, and bring them with you with a serving of almonds and an apple or pear for a light but filling lunch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
Yesterday’s dinner is a good option for today’s lunch, especially if your office has a kitchen. Chili, soup, burritos and pasta dishes all reheat well in the microwave and will keep you satisfied throughout the afternoon. When you’re planning dinners for the week, cook more than you need for your evening meals and pack the rest in individual containers for lunch. If there’s a refrigerator but no microwave at work, try making a whole-grain salad in advance to eat over several days -- just mix leftover brown rice or quinoa with lean chicken, black beans or tofu, chopped red pepper and scallions, and dress it with some olive oil for a hearty, balanced meal. A three-bean salad made with your favorite veggies and an olive-oil dressing will keep on your desk for several hours without refrigeration.
When you’re trying to eat healthy, it’s best to carry your beverages from home, too, to avoid relying on the sodas and sweet teas usually available in vending machines and cafeterias. Water, your best option, doesn’t need refrigeration; a slice of lemon or lime will give it some zip. Make a big pot of iced tea at home sweetened with honey or agave and bring that to the office for your drink. If there’s a microwave or hot pot at work, keep herbal teabags in your desk for when you want something hot. When you’ve got a jam-packed day ahead of you, blend up a smoothie at home with soy or regular milk, a scoop of protein powder, greens, a banana and some berries, and keep it cool in the office fridge for a quick, between-meetings lunch.