Cheaper, nutritious and more delicious
A great work lunch takes work to get right. By bringing instead of buying lunch, you avoid sugary food and refined carbs that cause the post-lunch slump, and you save money. With a bit of planning, your lunch can be exciting and delicious too!
If you arrange your meal the night before, you’re more likely to pick healthy choices. Once lunch time rolls around, there are no unhealthy decisions to make. You can enjoy a relaxed lunch break without having to leave the office.
Aim to have vegetables, some protein, and go easy on sugar and highly refined carbs. Here are our top tips for the best office lunch.
- Plan for leftovers
This is the easiest lunch option: simply make extra portions of dinner. When you serve up, put those portions in storage containers and put them in the fridge right away – that way you won’t be tempted to just eat them for seconds at dinner!
- Create bulk meals and freeze in advance
This requires you to be a bit more organised and own a lot of food storage containers. Once you’ve got a few different dishes in your freezer, it becomes a versatile easy option. Here’s how. Once a week, cook a big batch of something and freeze it in portions. You could make a batch of hearty soup, a curry, stir fry or lasagne. Think about adding a healthy carb like quinoa, brown rice or millet to keep you energised all afternoon. Check out those guys on Reddit r/MealPrepSunday to get tips and ideas!
- BYO Dips
Having dips in the fridge are a great work snack option that can be fleshed out to a meal in a pinch. While you can buy dips at the supermarket, they are really simple to make at home, too. These dips are high in protein and can be eaten with veggie sticks or whole-grain bread. Just avoid crackers – they’re generally high in salt and don’t offer much in the way of nutrition.
Hummus is simply a can of drained chickpeas, roasted sesame seeds or tahini (sesame butter), a couple of cloves of garlic and olive oil whizzed in a blender. Add the brine from the chickpeas back in slowly if the mixture is too thick.
Make white bean dip using a can of drained beans blended with olive oil, parmesan cheese and black pepper. Tzatziki is thick yoghurt, mint, cucumber and garlic.
- Power-packed smoothies
If you like smoothies, this might be your perfect lunch. Fruit, yoghurt, protein powder, even vegetables can go into a smoothie. Cucumber blends smoothly and goes well with mint, ginger, apple and pear. Whizz in the morning and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. This also makes a great snack for that 3pm slump.
- Be organised
If you simply grab unhealthy foods because they’re there and your brain can’t think of anything else, be a bit organised next time you go shopping.
And if cooking is truly not your thing, don’t force yourself to do something you hate. While pre-made options are less healthy and more expensive than made-from-scratch, for some people they’re far more realistic, and still an improvement on eating out every day. Try cans or pouches of soup with toast, pre-cooked rice in pouches, pre-made salads, or wraps that only need a few fillings. Eggs or fruit, canned tuna or salmon are all great options.
Or, you can always make cooking fun with a glass of wine, cook with your significant other or friends and family. Make it a social event!
- Swap out junk for healthier food
If you’re already a practiced lunch-packer, but looking to up your game, here are some simple swaps to turn a mediocre lunch into something far healthier.
- Swap white bread for a wholegrain wrap.
- Nix the processed meats and choose lean protein like salmon or chicken.
- Chips can be exchanged for nuts and seeds (although a handful is enough – they are powerful foods!)
- Get rid of muesli bars and eat trail mix instead.
- Try eating some fruit before you dive into sweets or chocolate.
Three magic lunch ingredients
When all else fails, here are the three staples you can fall back on.
One roast chicken can be a million dishes. Whether you have leftovers from your Sunday roast or you’ve bought a cooked chook, there are endless variants to how this can be reincarnated into another meal.
Slice into sandwiches or salad. Eat it on rice, or stuff into pita bread. Just remember food safety – cool the chicken to room temperature and transfer to the fridge straight away.
Chickpeas are versatile, highly nutritious and super cheap. Buy in a can or for a really economical meal, cook some dry chickpeas (soak them overnight first). You can make:
The kids are screaming, you’re running late, and you’ve lost your car keys. The last thing you need to be worried about is lunch. The answer: a couple of slices of whole-grain bread, and then whatever you have in the fridge – peanut butter, tomatoes, cheese, avo, hummus, pesto, butter.
While lunch is important, it doesn’t have to be a huge drama. Stock the fridge with a few cheap ingredients, or spend an hour each week prepping meals, and you’ll transform your lunches. Now all you need to decide is how to spend all that money you’ll save.