How To Make Healthy Lunches For Work

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How to make healthy lunches for work can be a daunting task. Not only are you faced with choosing from a wide variety of lunches, some healthy and some not so healthy, but you also want to optimize the lunch for taste as well. Lunch does not have to a lackluster affair. With a bit of preparation and creativity, you can keep variety without sacrificing your waistline!

How To Make Healthy Lunches For Work

Even the best of us cannot survive the rigors of a workday on coffee and granola bars alone. Without a balanced midday meal, you’ll lack energy, lose concentration and your performance will inevitably suffer. Lunch is an opportunity to give your brain a break and refuel the body with what it needs to continue “killing it” for the rest of the day.

But before you grab for that ready-made deli sandwich or caesar salad, remember that these pre-packaged foods, though easy, tend to be high in fat, salt and sugar and can make you feel hungrier. Plus, they rarely meet all your nutritional needs. A balanced lunch should include all these components:

Protein
It helps to repair your body and keeps you satisfied longer, so it’s important to try to include protein in every meal. Make sure your lunch makes up a third of your daily intake. Choose lean meats, such as canned tuna, chicken breast or salmon. Or go vegetarian with a hard-boiled egg, beans or tofu or low-fat cheese. Hummus, nuts and low-fat cheeses are also great sources of protein.

Complex Carbs
Carbohydrates, including dietary fiber, provide a steady supply of energy throughout the day. Fiber also keeps you feeling full for hours afterward. The trick is to opt for complex carbs, which digest slowly and aid digestion. Sources include whole-grains, beans, sweet potatoes, fruits, pasta and brown rice.

Healthy Fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help your body synthesize fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, which you especially need if you work in an office all day. Healthy fats include nuts, olives, avocados and fish.

Fruits and Vegetables
They’re vital for a healthy immune system, provide essential vitamins and minerals, and stimulate creativity. Plus, the color and texture they add will make your meals look like art. Make sure a good portion of your daily five servings is included in your lunch.

Water
BYO-W to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Have your bottle of water do double duty by freezing it overnight and packing it with your lunch. It’ll keep your food chilled and will have defrosted into a refreshing drink by lunchtime.

The best way to ensure you’ll get all that in your lunch? You guessed it — pack it yourself!

Now, we know coming up with creative healthy lunch ideas five days a week can be a bit challenging at first, but having a plan makes meal prep that much easier. Here are 14 convenient packed lunches that provide all the nutrients you need to keep you going until dinnertime.

14 Healthy and Creative Lunch Ideas to Take to Work

1. Taco Tuesday

Make the most of Monday dinner leftovers by turning them into a Taco Tuesday lunch. Shred up whatever meat was had last night and pack it along with corn tortillas, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo and pepitas for a complete meal.

2. Tuna Salad Protein Box

For those looking to really pack in the protein, look no further. Tuna salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo is already plenty of healthy, lean protein, but an added egg and unsalted almonds make sure you’ll meet whatever protein minimum you set for yourself. Two servings of fruit and veg make this lunch an all-star choice.

3. Packed Like Sardines

Oily fish are good for your heart and full of healthy fats. Sliced portobellos and cucumbers compliment the saltiness of the sardines and give them some bite. The double dose of fruit offers just the right about of carbs and pairing them with almonds (and almonds butter) adds a pop of protein

4. Meatless Mexican Lunch Box

No meat needed! Beans and brown rice make for a complete protein while satisfying fiber and carbohydrate requirements, too. Fresh greens, tomatoes and homemade guacamole pack in the veggies and salsa verde dressing makes it a party.

5. Spicy Chicken with Rice and Beans

This Instant Pot meal hits all the notes: quick, easy, delicious and healthy! The recipe is versatile, too. Use rice or quinoa or tofu or whatever you have on hand. As long as you use the cilantro “sunshine sauce,” this lunch will be out of this world.

6. Tofu Sushi Bento Box

Eat your hearts out, sushi lovers! These vegan rolls are filled with baked teriyaki tofu and miso-marinated kale and bok choy. If that’s not enough veg for you, the rest of the beautiful bento is stuffed with Asian pear, persimmon and carrots.

7. Egg Salad & Veggie Box

We love that the large compartment of this lunch box is filled with fresh, raw vegetables. The egg salad is just the right amount of protein and the whole-grain crackers act as perfect little scoops. Dried fruits and a square of dark chocolate will help you avoid the vending machine later.

8. Tofu Taco Salad

It’s amazing how healthy a taco salad can be when it’s not served in a giant fried tortilla bowl. Bonus points for using crumbled tofu instead of ground beef to help keep saturated fat and calories down.

9. Avocado Chicken Salad Bento

The more slots your lunchbox has, the more variety you can pack in. This grazer’s dream has three different veggies, dried strawberries (they’re always in season), a flavorful chicken salad and healthy fats from avocado and walnuts, which are full of stress-busting nutrients.

10. Curried Chickpeas and Spinach Bowl

Once serving of flavorful curried chickpeas is a light and nutritious protein. Pair them with vitamin-packed spinach and brown rice and you’ll be energized for the rest of the day.

  • Ramen Noodle Bowls

    Ramen Noodle Bowl

    And no, we’re not referring to those instant cups of ramen that got you through college. We’re talking the kind you’d get in a really good ramen shop—noodles and broth topped with colorful veggies and a protein or two. In other words, we mean the kind of ramen that’ll give your co-workers serious lunch envy.

    Just carve out 10 to 15 minutes on Sunday, and you can make enough ramen noodle bowls to take you through the week. Putting these together couldn’t be easier (in fact, you don’t even need a recipe). Just get a big pot of ramen noodles going on the stove. Then cook up your proteins and veggies while you’re waiting. Try chicken, pork, shrimp, or soft-boiled eggs for your protein. Or make a batch of flavorful kimchi eggs and use them throughout the week. Try carrots, cabbage, mushrooms and spinach for your veggies. Once everything is done, divide your noodles between a bunch of bowls or lidded containers. Then, layer in your veggies and proteins; cover with your favorite style of ramen broth—shio, miso, shoyu, or tonkotsu.

    Savings Tip: Treat meat as a condiment in your noodle bowls, and one or two servings of meat can stretch across the whole week.

    Salad in a Jar

    Salad in a Jar

    Chop up a bunch of fresh vegetables, like lettuce, peppers, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli. Then use them to assemble a week’s worth of jar salads. Use the same combination each day or vary things to keep your lunches interesting throughout the week. Add cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, beans, and meats to make your salads more filling. This is a great way to use up all those leftovers in your fridge, so get creative with what you have on hand.

    To keep your salads from getting soggy, put your salad dressing at the bottom of the jar. Then, layer in the hard veggies, soft veggies, proteins, and your salad greens. Bring croutons, corn chips, and other toppers in a separate container so they don’t lose their crunch.

    Savings Tip: Keep your produce costs down by using vegetables that are in season.

    Pasta Salad

    Pasta Salad in white bowl

    This is another dish that you can prep at the start of the week, for easy grab-and-go lunches. Experiment with a variation of the classic mayonnaise-based pasta salad—BLT, Jalapeno popper, Mexican street corn—or take a lighter approach with pesto, taco, or Asian pasta salad. Since these use herbs, sauces, or a small amount of olive oil in place of the mayo, they’re lower in fat but still just as satisfying.

    Divide your pasta salad into lunch-size portions, so it’s ready to eat when you are.

    Savings Tip: Use frozen veggies in your pasta salad. They’re usually cheaper than fresh veggies; if you have leftovers, they can go right back in the freezer. No waste!

    Bagel Sandwiches

    Bagel Sandwiches

    Tired of eating the same old sandwiches day in and day out? Shake things up by trading in your regular sandwich bread for a bag of bagels. Just slather on your favorite condiments, add some meat, and then pile your sandwich high with fresh veggies and herbs. Things like chicken breasts and bacon can be cooked ahead of time to cut down on your prep time.

    Prefer a vegetarian option? Then try egg salad or a sandwich spread, like pimento cheese. A bagel won’t get soggy like sliced bread, so it’s a good option if you’re using wetter ingredients or if you prefer to make your sandwiches ahead of time.

    Savings Tip: Buy your bagels at a bakery outlet store, and you’ll pay half as much. Your grocery store probably also has a rack where they sell day-old bread at a substantial discount.

    Chicken or Tuna Salad

    Curried Chicken Salad in blue bowl

    Whip up a big bowl of chicken or tuna salad. Then divvy it up between several 4-oz. jelly jars. Add crackers and you have the perfect main course to build your lunch around. Just add a couple of sides–like fruit or chips–and you’re all set.

    Tip: If you plan to take this in your lunchbox, be sure to include a knife so you’ll have a way to spread the salad on your crackers.

    Savings Tip: Buy a whole chicken and roast it. Use the meat to make chicken salad. Make broth from the bones.

    Pita Pizza

    Pita Pizza

    Keep pita bread, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings on hand, and you can have pizza for lunch whenever a craving hits. This one couldn’t be easier. Just spread some tomato sauce on a pita, sprinkle on some cheese, add your favorite toppings, and pop the whole thing in the microwave or oven long enough for the cheese to melt. We’re talking 30 seconds to a minute in the microwave tops. That’s a lot sooner than you’d be eating if you were to order a pizza, and there’s no tip required.

    Want to take this in your lunchbox? Just pack the individual ingredients, and assemble your pizza when you’re ready to eat it. This will keep the crust from getting soggy and make it easier to transport.

    Savings Tip: Pita bread freezes beautifully. Tuck a bag in the freezer to preserve its freshness. It doesn’t need to be thawed before you make your pizza.

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