There are two great reasons to bring your lunch to the office: it’ll save you money and calories. And as an added bonus, it can also save you a little time and stress (no need to fight the lunch traffic rush!).
So why do so many of us resort to ordering out? Maybe it’s because the idea of a bag lunch conjures up memories of soggy sandwiches and tasteless snacks. We’re here to tell you to throw those memories to the curb, there are plenty of delicious, healthy and grown-up options you can prepare in just as much time as it takes to order lunch.
Put A Lid On It
Toss out your worn out containers and invest in new pieces. Look for storage containers that will keep air out and withstand being tossed around. Good Housekeeping rates Rubbermaid Lock-Its as the best in plastic and Snapware tops in the glass category.
Don’t let a lack of a refrigerator keep you from bringing lunch to the office. Purchase an insulated container with a removable ice pouch to keep food chilled.
Planning ahead is the most important step in packing a good lunch. Each week, purchase what you’ll need for the majority of your lunches and add in a little wiggle room for leftovers and an occasional lunch out. Strive to include at least one item from each of these categories: protein, fruit/vegetables and dairy. Sunday through Thursday, prepare your lunch at the same time you’re making dinner.
Eat Your Veggies
Alternate veggies to avoid baby carrot boredom. Look for vegetables that can be eaten raw and accompany your favorite soup and/or sandwiches. Try brightly colored bell peppers, tomatoes, edamame, cucumbers, jicama, radishes, cauliflower or snap peas. You can also pair them with store-bought hummus, low-fat dressing, plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a quick and easy meal.
Get in the habit of cooking a little extra for dinner so you can bring the leftovers in for a delicious and easy lunch. And no one says you have to enjoy it the same way, either. Chop up that chicken breast for a salad topper, put that fish fillet between two pieces of crusty bread for an artisan sandwich or roll leftover rice and beans into a tasty wrap.
Lighten Up An Old Favorite
Chicken salad, a traditional lunchtime favorite, can be loaded with fat and calories thanks to heavy doses of mayo. But chicken salad can be healthy and take on a variety of flavors. Make your own up version with a can of chicken breast and a low-fat dressing or balsamic vinegar/olive oil. Try it sweet, savory, Asian or Southwestern by experimenting with grapes, celery, nuts, apples, beans, corn or onions.
Sometimes we simply don’t have time to prepare lunch. It happens to the best of us. For those days, keep a healthy pre-prepared item on standby in your freezer. Look for low-sodium, low-calories frozen meals. Take it out of its plastic container and transfer it to a plate when you sit down to enjoy it.
Keep a small bowl or basket of fruit on your desk and refill it once a week. Use one piece a day as a side item to whatever you bring in.