Lunch is sometimes just something to get you from breakfast to dinner. There are days when you have to eat something, and just about anything will do. I had one of those days this week with our kitchen at home under construction. Bringing lunch has been an extra challenge and has NOT been happening!
I went out for a day or two, but by Thursday, I didn’t want to go anywhere, I just wanted to eat. And had almost nothing. So… I ate peanut butter on bread (we had some in the office). And then I had a ‘dessert’ of frozen berries that I microwaved. Unfortunately, I had put them in the work freezer about a year ago. They weren’t bad… but they weren’t good either! At least I had something.
Then I got this email from a friend-
“One of my ‘resolutions’ for February is to bring my lunch to work more often (or ya know.. at all…) but I hate frozen lean cuisine-type lunches, and am not sure what would be easy besides sandwiches… I would love any ideas you have, for good, easy, healthyish lunches!”
And what did I think? HEY! That would be a great article for the website! And then… I wrote her back. : )
Don’t Miss Out on Cancer Fighting Lunches!
First off, remember that in order to get at least 4 cups of fruits and vegetables (combined) each day, you need to include them at EVERY MEAL. That means that you should aim to get 1 cup of vegetables and a fruit at lunch. That’s a good starting point for your meal planning.
If you don’t plan to get some fruits and veggies at lunch, then you probably won’t get them. And it will be hard to make up for that after you get home at night. My ‘last-minute-ditch-effort-lunch’ wasn’t too bad after all. I probably had a cup of berries (freezer burn and all) but I was lacking vegetables. On the positive side, at least it wasn’t 6 cookies, a bowl of pretzels and a milkshake!
Healthy ‘Bring Your Own’ Lunch Ideas
lunch-2007-04-03a (Photo credit: flakyredhead)
Here are the things I suggested to my friend plus some extra that I have come up with since doing a little more thinking and research:
- Leftovers – this is my FAVORITE! It’s pretty easy to put food away after you cook in the evenings and store them into lunch size containers. If you have a lot of leftovers, you can even freeze them in lunch size portions. This is also good for your budget! The most common leftovers that I take to work are soups (try the minestrone soup recipe) (I freeze it in pint size jars), chili (toppings optional if you have time to grab some – cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes), and casserole or curry (get a recipe here for chickpea curry)
- Sandwich – Egg Salad (recipe here) PB&J (or PB & banana) with veggies leftover from night before, or carrots and peppers
- Carrots and crackers dipped in hummus with some fresh fruit
- Beans and rice topped with roasted peanuts.
- Veggie Burger on sandwich thin, wrapped in tortilla or on a bagel
- Trail mix, salad, 1% milk
- Burrito – bean, cheese, salsa, chopped lettuce, guacamole or avocado wrapped in a tortilla – can be made in bulk and frozen. They are great reheated in the microwave!
I came up with a few other ideas, including the following recipe, from Fitness Magazine’s article on 20 lunches under 400 calories.
I really like this recipe idea because I think it’s so easy. Most of the things you can buy ready to eat and you just have to throw it together. You can even skip the dressing and just use oil and vinegar. Voila!
Greek Chopped Pita Salad
- 2 cups romaine lettuce
- 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
- 1 whole wheat pita, chopped
- 2 tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette
Emergency Lunch Back Up
Another important aspect to bringing your lunch is the back up plan for when you forget it at home, or don’t have time to pack. Hence… why I had frozen berries in the fridge from one year prior. My suggestion though… eat them up sooner!
Here are the things I keep at work:
- cans of Annie’s soups (Costco had sold some in packs of 8)
- fruit (dried, fresh or frozen)
- individual packs of flavored oatmeal
- 100 calorie packs of popcorn
- peanut butter
- tea bags (not necessarily a lunch item, but great to have around!)
You can even bring some things in on Mondays to last for the whole week. Or get together with your co-workers for who is going to bring what and then the office can share!
Share your lunch ideas on the my facebook page, or comment here!