It’s almost time to leave for work, and making a lunch to take with you just does not cross your mind. This happens to so many of the clients and friends that I talk to. They want to eat healthy, but time and other commitments can get in the way. My number one rule for healthy eating in general is planning ahead, whether its having snacks on hand, having some meal options for the week and preparing lunches ahead of time, especially when we are experiencing those rushed mornings. Here are some helpful tips to build a healthy lunch to-go!
Prepare Whole Grains a Day or Two Before. To help make lunch prep easier, trying buying whole grains from the market, such as brown rice or quinoa, and cook a good amount ahead of time. A lot of these whole grains only take a few minutes to cook, and can easily be made as you’re finishing up with dinner or a late night snack the night before. To spice your grains up a bit, you can quickly sauté a variety of vegetables or other legumes and add it to the mix.
Pre-Cut Your Vegetables. To help speed up the sautéing process, you can pre-cut your vegetables and store them in the freezer or refrigerator for easy access during meal prep. Many grocery stores sell vegetables already cut, which makes it even easier for storing! Chop up bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and celery and reserve for sautéing or cut some cucumbers, green beans, spring peas and carrots to use for salads. It is best to store these items in either air-tight containers or freezer bags.
Don’t Forget Your Proteins. Have your favorite proteins on hand and ready to be added to any grain bowl or salad. This can include sliced deli turkey, pre-cooked chicken or fish, or hard boiled eggs. If you prefer not to eat an animal protein, try out tofu or beans! These are loaded in protein and are perfect to give you that energy boost at lunchtime. They are also super fast to cook.
Or Your Spices! Forgo the salt, and add in a nice variety of spices! Spices have been known to have many health benefits, especially helping with balancing the digestive system. Turmeric, cumin and red pepper have anti-inflammatory effects while garlic contains protective phytochemicals that can fight bad bacteria in your body. Spices can easily be added to your salad dressings or sautéed veggies to take a regular meal to the next level!
Have Simple Toppings Available. Sometimes simple ingredients can take your meal up a notch. Some options to have on hand include avocado, hummus, seeds/nuts, low fat cheese, Greek yogurt, to light dressings. These can be added to sandwiches, salads, chilis and more. Greek yogurt is great as a mayo substitute and feta or cheddar cheese can be added to pretty much anything!
So now that you know what to prep ahead of time, what can you bring to work? Some of my favorite options include sandwiches loaded with veggies, soups and stews, salads with the works and rice or quinoa bowls. Think of some of your favorite meals that you eat out and try to recreate them, and use the plate method to guide your nutrient intake. You'd be surprised at what you can do!
You can get as creative as you want with these meals. There is no wrong or right combination of ingredients. Choose the ones you like best and start experimenting. Happy eating!