Healthy work lunches (or school lunches) are so important in sticking to a healthy eating plan.
And I have some tips and recipe ideas to keep you on track this fall.
What To Think About When Making Healthy Work Lunches
Portable. Unless you work/study from home, you’ll need to take your lunch with you.
Grain or bean salads are my favorites for packing up to go, and they have a chance to absorb the flavors of the dressing all morning.
Soup can also travel well, if you take it frozen solid or hot in a tightly-sealed container or thermos.
Low-Smell. If you eat in a lunch room or class, you don’t want something that others will wrinkle their noses at.
Peanut butter smells good to me, but it does carry pretty far and also has the potential of being a dangerous allergen.
You also might want to be conscious of not having foods that will carry on your breath all day, like garlic and onions.
Looks Delicious. If you’re eating healthy foods for lunch, you want to make everyone jealous rather than feeling sorry for you.
Veggie burgers, wraps, leftover soup or pasta – these are all things that will have your coworkers or fellow students drooling.
Not Gassy. It’s always terrible if you have to hold in gas after a meal until you get home from work or class.
Beans can be a problem if they make up too much of your meal, but are fine if you have them in smaller portions.
Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and onions can be disastrous if you have too many in one sitting – especially when they’re raw.
Tofu, soy milk and dried fruits are some others that always give me gas. Do you find that, too?
Why You Should Take Healthy Lunches For Work Or School
Weight Loss. If you’re trying to lose weight, lunch out with friends or coworkers is such an easy way to stray off course.
Healthy lunch choices are so important to reaching your goals. It might not seem like a big deal, but a bad choice at lunch can make a huge difference.
You don’t have to eat perfectly healthy all the time to lose weight, but the trouble with lunch is that it very easily becomes a habit to eat out.
Gain Energy. If you eat healthy food for lunch, you’re giving your body fuel and energy for the rest of your afternoon.
If you’re prone to the 3 o’clock slump, try having healthy lunch meals and see what it difference it makes.
I used to crash on my desk mid-afternoon – literally could not keep my head up or my eyes open – when I ate crappy food for lunch.
Now I stay alert and productive through the afternoon, and that’s even when I feel most energized to do my strength workouts.
Save Money. As cheap as fast food seems, it’s always cheaper to make your own lunch from healthy whole foods.
You might pay more up front when you go grocery shopping, but when you average out the number of meals you make it’s much more affordable.
What I mean by whole foods, by the way, is fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Stick to that stuff and your food costs will go down.
Feel Awesome. When you eat healthy work lunches, your body gets the nutrients and energy it needs so you feel fantastic.
You also start feeling good about yourself because you’re doing something beneficial for your body.
It’s a positive feedback cycle that just keeps getting better – something pretty rare in our world of so many negative feedback loops.
6 Healthy Lunch Ideas For Work
I had trouble narrowing down this list to just 6 easy healthy lunch ideas because once you get in the habit, there are so many options…
- Edamame Avocado Spread in a sandwich/pita/wrap with cucumber slices, red pepper, grated carrot and lettuce/spinach/sprouts.
- Black Bean Salad With Corn.
- Mushroom Burgers.
- Red Pepper and Spicy Chickpeas.
- Mint Lime Avocado Pasta.
- Curry-Tamari Seasoned Tempeh Salad.
Those are some specific healthy lunch recipes for work or school, but you can also think of them in broad categories:
- Grain/Bean Salad (can put in a wrap/pita or on greens)
- Steamed/Stir-Fried Veggies (with grains, beans and/or greens)
- Veggie Burgers (can put in a bun or on greens)
- Bean Dip (can put in a wrap or sandwich with veggies)
- Pasta (easy when leftovers)
Finding Time To Make Easy Healthy Lunches
If you get yourself in the habit of making the same types of meals, it gets faster to put together easy healthy lunches.
Take a can of beans, chop up three types of veggies, put a dressing on it and then separate it in three lunch-size containers and you have three days worth of lunches ready.
Variety’s important, though, so taking leftovers from last night’s dinner is a really popular way to always have quick healthy work lunches.
I always get questions about reheating food. My favorite way is to put it in a toaster oven. But I also love eating leftovers cold, so you might want to ask yourself if you really need to heat your lunch.
Making Healthy Lunch Foods Fun
I’m the kind of girl who finds fresh veggies with a yummy dressing just about the most fun thing to eat, and I could have that every single day without getting sick of it.
However, I know that not everyone is as crazy as I am, so to make your lunch more fun and exciting for you to eat it instead of being lured to fast food, put your favorite foods in your lunch.
If you love pineapple, put a few tidbits in your salad. If you would die for peanut butter, make a dressing with peanut butter. If you have an addiction to avocado, put some in there.
If you really like fun lunch bags or boxes, there are tons of great ones. And there are more cool options for food containers (glass, stainless steel) and portable cutlery (bamboo) – or try chopsticks!
A lot of times, I like to have a little lunch dessert, because I never want dessert after dinner. A bit of fruit, a couple of dates, a bite of chocolate…
Some little treat after a healthy lunch can make you feel totally decadent and special.
Try to get outside! I feel so much happier when I eat lunch outside rather than inside. Not possible in the winter, but at least see if you can eat somewhere with a window.
Making Healthy Lunch Foods Appetizing
Another important thing to keep in mind is how your lunch is going to look when you get to the point of eating it…
I love having salad for lunch, but lettuce will wilt if it sits with dressing for too long.
I like to toss the veggies and beans or grains with dressing to marinate, and then bring greens in a separate bag or container to add when I eat.
Or, if you use kale, spinach, chard or some other sturdy green they’ll hold up and be deliciously soft and flavored by lunch time.
The same thing goes if you take a pita, wrap or bread with your lunch. Veggies that are too moist can leave your bread a soggy mess, so take it on the side and assemble at work.
I try to think about making my lunch easy to eat, especially if I’m going to be eating with other people. I don’t want to have to stuff my face and make a mess – unless the others are into that.
My choices tend to be bean or grain salads with veggies chopped to small-ish pieces to fit in my mouth on a fork.
What are your favorite healthy lunch meals? Let me know below.