Why is lunch great? Because it's food! Food fuels us with the energy we need to be AWESOME and change the world! It can also be yummy.
But, great as lunch is as a much-needed food break in the middle of the day, figuring out how to optimize lunch for nutrition and flavor can be tricky.
After all, you need enough energy and nutrition to replenish your stores for the second half of your work day, but you also usually don't have access to a full kitchen to prepare your food in - much less the hour or more that you may ordinarily need to both cook and enjoy a healthy meal.
So how do you squeeze every last bit of energy, nutrition, and flavor possible out of a thirty to forty-five minute lunch break? Read on for some handy tips!
1) Prep as much as you can the night before.
Unless you're a morning person if you have really great lunch options at your workplace, leaving lunch preparation for the morning of isn't the best idea.
It can be hard enough to pry yourself from the soft, warm comfort of your bed to face a busy workday, so do you really think that you'll choose preparing something nutritious over investing that extra five minutes into your pillow?
That's what I thought.
Chop veggies, wash fruit, bag trail mix, pick out your snacks and sides, etc. the night before. Not only will you have an easier morning, but you're also much less likely to open your lunchbox come breaktime and be disappointed to realize that in your half-asleep stupor you packed two forks but no spoon for your a lunch featuring soup or yogurt!
2) Head to the frozen foods aisle.
I know what you're thinking - 'but I thought we said we wanted a *nutritious* lunch - why is she directing us towards the frozen foods aisle?' Frozen convenience foods have come a looong way from the sugar, salt, and fat bombs that they were back in the 1950s.
Just like you wouldn't expect a young woman to don an apron and frolic around cooking and cleaning all day (unless she so chooses), don't expect your frozen food to be bland and nutritionally void! Things change and progress is made. Go progress!
Frozen foods now can be just as nutritious (and delicious) as their freshly prepared counterparts. It's all about reading the labels and making smart choices. Healthy foods are out there!
A recent favorite lunch hack that I found in the freezer section of my local Whole Foods is the Hilary's Eat Well shelf. After I got over the fact that they spell Hillary with only one l as 'Hilary' (who does that) I was really impressed with the amazing quality of their veggie burgers!
My personal favorite is the Adzuki Bean burger. Featuring millet, adzuki beans, cumin, and coconut oil, it's anything but cardboard!
I love it when you can see the goodness in your veggie burger. A veggie burger shouldn't try to look like a boring brown meat patty - that implies that a veggie burger is inherently inferior to a beef burger and I completely disagree! These burgers own their veggie-ness and they do it well!
The burgers are large and filling, so they're perfect to pair with salad and the dressing or condiments of your choice for a quick, delicious, super healthy lunch that tastes good and that you can feel good about.
They aren't recommended for the microwave, but I tried microwaving one anyway (if you work in an office, it's unlikely that you can heat up a burger on a stove or in an oven to add to your salad for protein and fiber to make it the kind of hearty lunch that keeps you going strong until dinner). Just two minutes on medium-high, flip and heat for one more minute, and it was perfectly delicious!
These are definitely office approved on going on my list of freezer staples.
3) Respect the leftovers.
Following from #2, don't scoff at your leftovers. If you get in the habit of intentionally making leftovers (ie: making a little extra at every dinner) you'll always have a healthy, easy, and fast microwave lunch that requires just the tiniest extra bit of effort the night before.
Be careful about how you pack your leftovers if you plan on heating them. You want a healthy lunch, not a lasagna with a side of melted plastic! Go for glass dishes.
|Unless this is you...then step away from the glass dishes.|
There are surprisingly many out there and, while you're unlikely to find them at your local dollar store, they can actually be quite cheap. I've gotten a large, solid, lunch sized container for under $5 before that lasted me years of microwave lunches. You save much more than that by not eating out for every lunch, not to mention that you know what is in (and what isn't in) your food.
What are your healthy lunch hacks?
What is your favorite meal of the day?