It's easy to grab something from the vending machine or go through a drive-through during your lunch break. Deadlines, phone calls and meetings can beckon when you're at work, making lunch seem fairly low on the priority list. Yet eating a filling, nutritious lunch can help you sustain the energy you need to get through those busy workdays. Instead of paying for high-calorie, unhealthy foods, pack your own lunch at home. It's better for your body -- and likely your wallet.
Sandwiches are a classic lunch choice, but don't limit yourself to just peanut butter and jelly. Get creative using different varieties of bread, veggies and lean meats like turkey. Go for whole-grain breads as these contain fiber and are more filling than white. Try whole-wheat pitas or tortillas as an alternative to sliced bread. Leftovers from last night's dinner can also make a good sandwich. Grilled chicken breasts and roasted veggies, for example, pair up nicely.
Salads are a common choice for lunch -- and for good reason. Assembling ingredients is fast and they're also easy to pack up in the morning before work. Healthy salads are also loaded with vegetables that provide your body with a variety of vitamins and other nutrients. Dark, leafy greens, including spinach, watercress and romaine lettuce, are particularly good choices because they contain vitamin C, potassium, fiber and vitamin A. Toppings can add flavor and interest, but make wise choices, as many options are high-calorie, fattening or loaded with salt. Choose low-fat cheeses, skinless chicken or turkey slices, and light dressings. Toss your veggies together and store in an airtight container. Store your toppings in separate small containers because leaving the dressing on the salad can make your veggies soggy.
Soups and Chili
Preparing a homemade soup or chili is an ideal way to get servings of vegetables and protein all in a one-pot meal. Turkey or vegetarian chilies, for instance, typically contain tomatoes, peppers, onions and fiber-rich beans. Soups can also be a source of whole grains if you add in whole-wheat pasta or brown rice. Prepare your soup or chili at the beginning of the week so you can enjoy a home-cooked lunch for up to four days. Store your meal in an airtight container to warm up on the office microwave.
Keeping Food Safe
Keeping foods at the right temperature is key to avoid bacterial growth. You should not leave lunches with perishable foods, such as meat and dairy products, unrefrigerated for more than two hours, according to the American Dietetic Association. Immediately store your lunch in the office refrigerator or keep in an insulated bag. Try using an ice pack or frozen water bottle in the bag to keep food cold. If your office doesn't have a microwave, using a thermos is an option. Before work, preheat the thermos by filling it with hot water while heating up your meal. Pour out the water and fill the container with the hot food. Unopened packages of fruit, unpeeled fruit, breads, nuts and peanut butter do not need refrigeration.