A busy work schedule means that lunchtime can get hectic. Resist the urge to abandon your healthy diet and head to the nearest restaurant or pop an instant meal in the microwave. With a little creativity, planning, and organization, you can put together a variety of quick, healthy lunches that are easy to transport, re-heat, prepare, and clean up. Here is a list of our five favorite healthy lunches that are less of a strain on your lifestyle and your wallet.
Quinoa and Grilled Veggies
Quinoa is an ancient grain high in protein and fiber. Think of it as a healthier alternative to rice or pasta–and you can use it in many of the same ways. A veggie/quinoa combo is a double delight because it tastes great both hot and cold. Cook your quinoa in a rice cooker for the perfect consistency (rinse the quinoa in fresh water before cooking to reduce the slightly bitter taste), then sizzle up some red peppers, onions, zucchini, garlic, or any of your other favorite vegetables. Toss your veggies together with the quinoa and add an oil/vinegar and lemon dressing and refrigerate (for a cold alternative to pasta salad) or serve warm with a side of pita bread. Add soy sauce or cilantro and lime to give your quinoa totally different cultural flavors.
Fun with Salads
Too many people write off salads simply because they simply forget to be creative. Think of a salad like a blank slate upon which any flavor combo can be added. Since you can never really eat too much salad, pile it on during lunch to fill up. Add protein with meat, including high quality, pastured, and organic meats, organic bacon, wild salmon or tuna. Chop up a hardboiled egg and sprinkle it on your salad. Another protein option that can change the entire tone and flavor of your salad are beans or other legumes. Garbanzos add fiber, white beans add protein and fiber, and black beans add protein and give your meal a Latin flair.
Skip the thick high-fat dressings and go for simple oil and vinegars (try different flavored vinegars for a new twist) or add a spritz of lemon or orange juice for a zesty citrus kick.
Get Creative with Sandwiches
With so many new types of bread on the market, sandwiches are the working person’s culinary playground. Get creative while using high-quality greens and whole sprouted grain bread, or sourdough. Try a “thanksgiving dinner” with turkey, a ‘fruit only’ cranberry spread, and spinach leaves. Or go non-traditional and try a hummus spread with avocado and any of the vast array of enzyme packed sprouts. If you’re trying to reduce your processed carb intake, use large Romaine lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce leaves (the bigger the better) and convert your sandwich to an ultra-healthy wrap.
Save time during the week by preparing fresh and hearty soups on Sunday night, then portioning out and freeze in portable glass containers. A quick simmer in on the stove (or microwave if you have to) in the employee lounge will fill you up with a customizable meal that contains your favorite ingredients–without all the salt, sugars and other additives that can come with store-bought soup.
Moderation is the key to eating healthy when it comes to a meat and cheese spread. Cut limited quantities of meat and cheese (try 1-2 oz of meats and about the same for cheese) to control portioning. Try to get locally-produced organic cheese from nearby farms and lean meats like turkey instead of traditional salami. Add olives and fresh vegetables to your spread. If you fear not getting filled up, supplement your charcuterie plate with a side salad from above.
Get out of your lunchtime rut by thinking ahead when planning your weekly lunches. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new twists on classic ideas or try something totally new. Bon appétit!