Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein during the day. Most meals packed at home are healthier than foods at restaurants. When we eat out, we're often faced with large portions and fattening foods, but when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.
To start, make sure your lunch is balanced. Lunches that include some lean or low-fat protein along with carbohydrates will keep your body fueled for the afternoon and stave off hunger. The combination of protein and fiber from whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables and fruit will give you the most satisfying and nutritious combination of foods that will keep you feeling full until dinner. However, be aware of cues your body sends to warn you of being full. This will prevent overeating and the mid afternoon slump that follows.
Use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas, and wraps for your sandwiches. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, reduced-fat cheeses or lean meats. Then fill your sandwich with assorted greens, fresh herbs, sprouts, sliced cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes.
Leftovers are great to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious. Try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a large pot of chili, soup, or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.
10 Easy Lunch Ideas Planning ahead is a must for quick lunch assembly. A week of planned meals with all the ingredients in the kitchen will make it easy to put together tomorrow's lunch after dinner.
This grocery list is a week's worth of lunches costing $5 or less a day (assuming you already have salad dressings on hand):
- Whole wheat pita bread
- Romaine lettuce
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 bag baby carrots
- 1 bag of apples & oranges
- 1 can of light tuna in water
- 1 can of salmon (split for two meals)
- 1 cooked rotisserie chicken
- 3 cans of low-sodium, broth-based soup
With this list of foods, you can prepare:
- 1 pita with lettuce and grilled chicken with light Caesar dressing; baby carrots; and an apple.
- Salmon lettuce wraps with light sesame Asian dressing; 1 can of broth-based soup; and an orange.
- Tomato & cucumber salad with olive oil and vinegar; tuna salad on pita; baby carrots; and an apple.
- 1 can of soup, low-fat, low-sodium; and grilled chicken on a bed of romaine with sliced apple and light vinaigrette.
- Garden salad with salmon, tomato, cucumber, and baby carrots; an orange; and 1 can of soup.
Here are 5 more lunch options that are also simple to prepare:
- Whole-wheat tortilla wrap of hummus, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and black olives; plus a cup of fat-free vanilla yogurt, and berries.
- Whole wheat pita stuffed with vegetarian refried beans, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese; and apple slices with peanut butter.
- A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread; a piece of fresh fruit; and low fat yogurt.
- Whole-wheat tortilla roll with sliced turkey, sliced low-fat mozzarella cheese, red pepper strips, and lettuce leaf (chill and slice into bite size pieces); with fruit salad and a glass of skim milk.