Healthy Lunch Ideas for Busy Work Days

Cooking up a Healthy Lunch during a corporate wellness offsite at Cavallo Point in Sausalito

Cooking up a Healthy Lunch during a corporate wellness offsite at Cavallo Point in Sausalito

My client walked into her evening workout drained. “They brought lunch into the office today. I had a full meal, but I don’t think it was that healthy. Even though I ate all of those calories, I’m still so hungry!”  Another client recently admitted she often skips lunch. “I get so busy during the day I honestly forget. Then its 4pm and I crash.”  And another one has gained 10 pounds from all-day grazing. “I don’t have the time to sit down to lunch so I end up munching on snacks throughout the day. I’m not sure how much I’m eating, but I never really feel full or satisfied. Not having a real meal makes me feel like I can afford to graze…but clearly the weight scale says differently.”

Many of my friends and corporate wellness clients struggle with the lunch time dilemma. Food options in the office aren’t always the healthiest and it’s hard to find the extra time to prepare nutritious options in advance. Some skip the mid-day meal only to backfire into an energy crash, unhealthy snacking, or bingeing later in the day. Having a healthy lunch on a consistent basis can feel to hard to stay motivated and organized for, especially during busy work days. But on average, eating out for lunch adds 158 calories to a person’s daily caloric intake. That equates to an additional 7,900 extra calories, or 2 1/4 pounds, each year if you dine out one day per week. Going out to lunch every work day calculates out to an extra 39,500 calories or a gain of approximately 11 pounds. Not great numbers when it comes to your health goals. 

So should you give up and settle for unheathier options and low energy levels? No! With a few quick life hacks, lunch time challenges do not need to get in the way of you and your health goals. Finding the right strategy to eat a healthy lunch can keep you focused, prevent energy slumps, boost your mood, and sustain your power till dinner. Not only that, but taking your lunch to work can save you money and keep your health goals in focus. You will have more control over accomplishing any of your wellness goals (eating more fruits and veggies, lowering calories, eating less fat, improving energy, boosting performance) by preparing your own lunch. With just a little organization and a few supplies, your lunch box options will be invitingly inspired. Here are a few of my suggestions to help you ensure brown bagging success every time. Are you ready to feel AMAZING?

1. Plan and prep ahead of time. Set aside a time each week to pre plan your meals, shop for ingredients, and prepare simple recipes. Sundays typically work best for most people. You can prep easy recipes (like the ones below) and have pre-portioned lunches ready to go.  The best way to save time during the week is to prepare some versatile ingredients, like quinoa and chicken to throw into recipes throughout the week. Many people get overwhelmed at the thought of meal planning or make it overly complicated. Don’t overthink it! Just write out when where and what you plan to eat, and schedule a time to grocery shop (or use a service) so that you have what you need. Hungry for a place to start? Try Eatingwell.com . They have free diet and meal plans, weekly menus, healthy recipes, and grocery shopping lists for every dietary preference and calorie budget. This content rich website is full of information and inspiration to fuel your healthy lifestyle. I love their weekly menus and use their clean recipes often.

2. Keep it separate. To prevent soggy food, pack items separately in zip-lock bags, tupperware, or bento boxes. Similarly, don’t dress leafy salads until you are ready to eat. Salt will draw moisture out of watery ingredients, so add items such as tomatoes and cucumbers to a grain salad at the last minute for the best results. Here are a few winning product finds to help you keep things in good shape:

  • Available in several shapes and sizes, Wean Green [1] (from $23; weangreen.com) and Kinetic Go Green GlassLock Food Storage [5] ($35 for set of 3; surlatable.com) locking tubs are super-reliable and microwave-safe.
  • Got soup? The screw tops on Ziploc Twist ‘n Loc Containers [2] ($4 for set of 2; amazon.com) make them good for packing liquids safely.
  • If you don’t like your rice touching your tomatoes, try a tiffin like this three-tier metal lunch box [3] ($9.50;pearlriver.com) or the sleek LunchBots Bento Trio [6] ($28; lunchbots.com), which has compartments.
  • And for the serious lunch aficionado, there’s no choice but the Zojirushi Classic Stainless Lunch Jar [4]($69; amazon.com), an insulated cylinder with three microwavable bowls, chopsticks, and a strap for transport.
3. Put leftovers to good use. The quickest way to prepare a healthy lunch, is to make more of your healthy dinner. When dishing out your nighttime meal, put your dinner leftovers in the lunchbox or lunch container right after dinner, before you wash up. That way you can portion out leftovers (if there are any) into lunch containers rather than putting things away and taking them out again.
4. Stay safe. Keep cold food cold (below 40°) and hot food hot (above 140°) as it travels. Use insulated lunch bags, coolers, thermoses, ice bags, and frozen gel packs to help with temperature control. If reheating items in a microwave, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends they reach 165° and are served steaming hot.

To make sure your lunch is balanced, look to include a whole grain, lean protein like beans or chicken, and fruits or vegetables. Here are a few of my personal favorite lunch choices that take less than 10 minutes to prepare: 

  • Quinoa Veggie Bowl. Toss together to combine your choice of fresh or cooked vegetables with cooked quinoa, fresh herbs, and a dressing such as tahini, apple cider vinegar, or mashed avocado. Here are a few quinoa veggie bowl recipes that have been inspiring me lately. 
  • Nourish Bowl. There are so many different combinations you can come up with, so it’s like your own version of the Whole Foods salad bar. Hummus for days. Recipe here.
  • Roasted sweet potato + quinoa + veggies.
  • Edamame Salad Bowl. Shelled edamame (from the frozen food section, thawed according to package instructions), mixed greens, shredded carrots, green onions, and red bell pepper. Add any light salad dressing.
  • Chicken, rice, with mixed veggies. You can add almonds and fruit along with this.
  • Black beans with lime & avocado plus a banana. Just mix a few fresh things together with black beans, and take to work in tupperware along with an avocado and a banana.
  • Dirty Rice with Roasted Carrots and Steamed Broccoli
  • Party Potato. Slice a pre-baked sweet potato and fill with your choice of toppings like beans, fresh salsa, guacamole or greens.
  • Healthy Wrap. Use large leafy green lettuce leaves as a nutrient-rich alternative to a regular wrap. Simply add your favorite fillings. Try vegetables with fish/egg, curried lentils, chilli beans, or falafels.
  • Salad. Healthy salads are packed full of everything your body needs to get through the day, full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. But if you arent careful, a salad can become a calorie bomb and hurt you more than help you. Here are my tips to making salads that are easy AND good for you. I believe a salad a day keeps you happy and healthy. I have a meal sized salad for lunch 3-4 times a week.
Ready for a rejuvenating mid-day meal at Cavalllo Point corporate wellness team building offsite in Sausalito, CA

Ready for a rejuvenating mid-day meal at Cavallo Point corporate wellness team building offsite in Sausalito, CA

Ready to get inspired? I’ve rounded up lunch lists from around the web just for you! Click on the links below for hundreds of easy work lunch ideas to keep you fueled and fabulous. 

Motivation is the first ingredient in packing a lunch. Pair that with having helpful resources like the ones above and you’ll be the most energetic lunch lover in the office. Are you ready to feel fabulously fueled all day? Make having a healthy lunch a priority. I know you can do it! You deserve to feel good. Remind yourself of why you want to make the commitment to be healthy and eat healthy. Your health is priceless and I can guarantee eating a nutritious lunch will help you feel your very best.

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Lunch is served! Team building corporate wellness offsite at Cavallo Point in Sausalito

What is your #1 healthy, fast, and easy work lunch? Leave your favorite afternoon meal as a comment below, Id love to hear from you! And as always, if you liked this post, please share it with your friends on Facebooktwitter, or email. More great content is headed your way every week to help you live a happy, healthy life! 

Heres to you feeling good,

Caroline

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