What do I pack for lunch? What should I prepare for dinner? A big part of our adult lives is spent answering these pertinent questions as we juggle our professional, social and personal spheres. Hence, meal planning with healthy and good food is no more a choice, but a necessity.
No matter how busy our work hours are, ordering in every day can take a toll on our gut health. Packed lunches are a sustainable and pocket-friendly alternative. But just because you are on a healthy detox or cleanse routine, doesn’t mean your lunchbox has to be boring. Here are a few fuss-free, easy-to-prep work meal ideas that would satiate your appetite as well as tastebuds.
Tips and tricks to packing a healthy lunch box
The key to packing a healthy yet tasty lunch with a decent shelf life is to make sure that the meal is nutritionally balanced. The first rule of the game is that your meal should be colourful and include a dose of healthy fats, essential carbohydrates, a good portion of lean protein and course, fibre, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
For vegetarians, it is important to include whole foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds with a helping of yoghurt (Greek or regular). One important factor to consider for individuals opting for vegan and vegetarian food is that the portions of your meal will vary from those of non-vegetarians as meat tends to fill one’s stomach up quickly.
A single serving of any seasonal fruit, a mix of vegetables (two or more), one item containing whole grain and a portion of any dairy food item accounts for a healthy full meal for lunch.
For non-vegetarians, chicken slices, turkey, beef, fish or hardboiled egg are the best choices whilst complementing it with vegetables and carbs of your choice.
Additionally, you must remember to keep some fortified snacking options ready in case you need to beat those mid-day cravings.
The benefits of packing your lunch are many. Apart from the most obvious ones like helping you maintain your optimum weight and saving unnecessary expenses, it also gives you a feeling of being organised and keeps you full throughout the day. Your energy levels are maintained too, increasing your productivity at work while also preventing you from getting exhausted at the end of a workday.
Tiffin ideas consisting good foods for a better diet
Sweet and sour chicken with rice
- Six teaspoons of low-sodium dark soy sauce
- One teaspoon of hoisin sauce
- Two teaspoons of honey
- One teaspoon of sesame oil
- Two big cloves of garlic
- Half a teaspoon of minced ginger
- A three-quarter teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- Two tablespoons of cornstarch
- Marinated chicken cuts as per preference
- A bowl of cut mixed vegetables
- Cashews for garnish
Whisk together low-sodium dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil, garlic, minced ginger, apple cider vinegar, and cornstarch, and add some water. Heat this on medium flame till you are satisfied with the consistency. Remove from heat and let it cool. This sauce could be refrigerated and stored for the week.
Take the chicken cuts and marinate them with salt, and pepper. Pour a few spoonfuls of the prepared sauce over the chicken and toss the same in the preheated oven (400°F.) for about eight minutes. Add your preferred vegetables and cashews to the same pan. Season them and pour over the remaining sauce. Bake for another eight to 10 minutes. Viola, delicious chicken is done.
This could be eaten with any type of rice or noodles.
Loaded quinoa salad
- A packet of quinoa (50 g approximately)
- A bowl of mixed-cut vegetables of your choice
- One-fourth cup of coconut sauce
- Two teaspoons of hoisin sauce
- Half a cup of peanut butter
- Two teaspoons of soy sauce
- Rice powder
- One teaspoon of honey
- One teaspoon of sesame oil
- One teaspoon of rice vinegar
- Ginger and garlic powder
This Asian twist on this popular vegan health food will surely titillate your taste buds.
Cook the packet of quinoa as per usual and set aside. Blanch your broccoli florets to al-dente and rinse with cold water to retain their colour. Blanch your other veggies if required. Then, for the magic sauce, you need to combine the peanut butter, thick coconut sauce, soy sauce and hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, a pinch of ground ginger and garlic powder. Give it a good whisk and microwave for about 30 seconds.
The quinoa and vegetables could be carried separately along with the sauce in another container to be poured and relished at the time of your lunch hour.
Caesar salad wraps
- One bowl of mixed vegetables
- One bowl of diced chicken or tofu
- Mayonnaise as per preference
- Mustard sauce as per preference
- Slices of pita bread or whole-grain wraps
These yummy and healthy vegetable roll-ups can be prepped in a jiffy. All you need is grated vegetables of your choice, some cooked cottage cheese, tofu, bacon or chicken strips as per your choice and some mayonnaise and mustard sauce for the extra kick.
Vegetable multigrain sandwich
- Multi-grain bread
- One bowl of diced vegetables
- Some hung curd
- Greek yoghurt or low-fat mayonnaise
Categorised as a healthy food option, this meal is wholesome, filling and can be rustled up in just a few moments if you have prepped for it. All you need is diced or sliced vegetables of your choice, some hung curd, yoghurt, Greek yoghurt, low-fat mayonnaise or any spread or dip of your liking along with some protein. Slather everything on fresh multi-grain bread slices and toast it crisp.
Pasta chicken salad
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Farfalle pasta
- Shredded chicken
- Boiled potatoes
- Hard-boiled eggs
This one-pot meal is sure to be an easy hit amongst your work pals! All you need is some chicken broth or some readymade vegetable stock, cooked and seasoned shredded chicken, some cooked pasta (preferably, farfalle), boiled potatoes, asparagus, mustard and some cheese and hard-boiled eggs for garnish.
For the sauce, just blend the stock, potatoes, asparagus, olive oil, mustard sauce, lemon juice, and salt. This could be pre-made and stored as per the quantity you need. Assemble the dish by pouring it over cooked pasta and garnishing this healthy food with hard-boiled eggs and cheese.
Vegetable stir fry
- A bowl of cut vegetables of choice
- A teaspoon of ground pepper
- Soy sauce
- A cup of vegetable broth
- Ground garlic
This recipe is sure to leave you feeling full and fresh! Super easy to make and straightforward to prep, vegetable stir fry can be taken as a standalone dish or even paired with rice or noodles. You need to chop and store the vegetables of your choice in advance. Loads of ginger and garlic and a generous helping of freshly ground black pepper will add an extra punch to this meal.
For the sauce, vegetarians can opt for coconut sauce or soy sauce along with vegetable broth. Any bone broth also tastes good, in case you are a non-vegetarian. You can add shredded tofu, cottage cheese or cooked chicken to get your protein in.
Check these lip-smacking and healthy food-on-the-go ideas for your hectic workweek
Still, looking for some tasty inspiration to pack the most innovative and tasty meals consistently for work? Some of these recipe videos should help you.
It can be a daunting task to plan and prep for all the lunches for the week in advance when focusing on healthy foods. But it is easy to conquer this if you take it one meal at a time. Recycling leftovers from dinner for the next day’s lunch can also save some time and effort.
Another aspect you must keep in mind is investing in suitable, durable and compact containers to keep your lunch fresh for longer hours. Additionally, do keep in mind that the meal you’re preparing for your next work lunch should be prepped in a way that it tastes just as good even if there is no provision to reheat it or you need to have it on the go.
Hero and featured image: Courtesy Ella Olsson/Pexels
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: A good meal balanced with fibre, protein, good fats and some carbohydrate is a good meal to pack for your work lunch.
Answer: Organisation and preparation can go a long way. You can also recycle leftover food to manage time and carry homemade lunch every day to work.
Answer: Salads with added protein, salad wraps or sandwiches, burrito bowl, easy-to-make chicken gravy with rice or noodles are some lunch meals you must try for a healthy diet.