There are many ways to skin the office-lunch cat: wake up at 5am to make a full blown meal; ignore the issue completely and get by on caffeine and grit; keep crackers in drawers and steal old cheese from the fridge; make someone back home pack you Bovril sarmies; find tips and tricks online and live happily ever after…
Here are our ten tips for the brave souls looking to eat healthily three times a day.
1. Gear up
You’re far more likely to stick to a healthy lunch routine if you have the necessary equipment. Assembling your lunch will be a breeze if you invest in top quality plastic containers in various sizes, foil-lined lunch containers for keeping warm foods warm and cold foods cool, zip-lock sandwich bags and flasks or double-walled cups for liquid lunches. Not only will this save you time, but it will also avoid the unhappy experience of discovering a squashed sandwich at the bottom of your handbag.
Add your work lunch menu onto your weekly shopping list. You’re less likely to pack your own lunch if a special trip to the shop is required, so plan your week’s lunches and stock up in advance. If you need help or inspiration for lunch planning, do a quick search online and you’ll be amazed at the amount of websites dedicated to healthy lunchbox combinations, ideas and recipes.
Once you have everything you need for a week of healthy lunches, keep it separate from everything else in your fridge or grocery cupboard by neatly packing supplies into two large trays – one for fresh refrigerated foods and one for dry goods. Not only will this make it easy to quickly see what your lunch options are and to pack a balanced meal, but it will also help you to identify what needs to be replenished so that you never run out.
To pack a balanced lunchbox and sustain energy levels, include a portion of each of the following: lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy. Don’t forget that healthy fats and oils are also part of a balanced diet, so snack on something like nuts or add avo to a sandwich or salad.
5. Be creative (and nice)
Don’t get stuck in what I refer to as the ‘sandwich spread rut’. There’s nothing worse than dreading your lunch hour, because the contents of your lunchbox bores you to death. Be creative and make sure that you have something different and tasty everyday. Also don’t forget to treat yourself – there’s nothing wrong with a few blocks of quality dark chocolate from time to time!
When cooking, double up on dinner portions or parts thereof and reinvent the ingredients for a tasty and wholesome lunch. Great ideas include tossing roast veggies into a salad or shredding roast chicken and adding it to a tasty wrap.
As important as lunch planning is, the snacks that you’ll undoubtedly need during the course of the day to keep you going are just as essential to a healthy diet. Plan for them by buying large quantities and divide into daily portions in advance, which will be easy to grab on your way out the front door as well as prevent a trip to the vending machine – saving you time, money and calories.
8. Refreshing drinks
Having a healthy lunch doesn’t only refer to what you eat, but also to what you drink. Avoid soft drinks or juices that are high in sugar or caffeine, which may cause your energy levels to crash later in the afternoon. Not everyone is a fan of plain old still water, so add a splash of lemon or lime for a refreshing and healthy drink. Sugar-free ice tea and green tea with a touch of honey are also perfect for a lunchtime drink.
9. Team up
The fact of the matter is that everyone would like to have a nutritious lunch rather than a quick and unhealthy one. Gather together a few colleagues and agree on something that each person will contribute to one large dish such as a big mixed salad with fresh bread or wraps with various fillings. It doesn’t have to be everyday (we have ‘salad-Fridays’ in my office), but it will allow a nice way to get to know your colleagues and truly break away from a stressful day through preparing and enjoying a meal with others.
The biggest mistake that we all make is to eat our lunch in a hurry in front of our computers, sandwich clutched in the one hand and emails being typed with the other. Step away from your desk, relax and pay attention to what you’re eating. You’ve saved yourself time, money and put together a healthy and guilt-free meal – now enjoy it! It’s the least you can do to reward yourself.
And there you have it. What kind of a luncher, are you?