Lunch can be a deceptively tricky meal for those of us committed to eating healthy. If you don’t live close enough to work or have a long enough lunch break to go home and prepare a proper meal, it gets even trickier. When you have a busy day and you’re trying to get a million things done, sometimes fast food or take out seem like your only options. Or maybe your co-workers invite you out to lunch with them, but it’s hard to find a place you all agree on because they aren’t as committed to proper nutrition as you are. Every bodybuilder knows that lunch can make you or break you. That is why meal prep is essential.
Start getting to know your way around the work kitchen and figure out what equipment is available there for you to use—microwave, fridge, blender, hot plate, etc. This will help you know how much prep you have to do at home and how much you can do once you get to the office. Once you figure this out, prep for lunch the same way you do for every other meal, taking into account how much activity you do during your work and your nutritional requirements. This is hard enough if you have a predictable office job; it gets even tougher if your job requires you to constantly move throughout the day or travel frequently. If you don’t know where you’re going to be for lunch, it can be hard to plan ahead and stay healthy.
Also, it is important to have a backup plan. Make sure you know what the closest restaurant to you that offers nutritional carry-out options is. Look through their menu online (many online menus these days have calorie and ingredient breakdowns so you have a better idea of how healthy that Greek salad really is) and pick one or two things that you know you can order if you need to. Or, if you’ve found a frozen meal that’s actually not terrible for you, make sure to keep a couple in the freezer at work so you don’t have to go into panic mode when you realize you forgot your lunch at home.
We know meal prep is tough and takes a lot of time, but it really will pay off in the end. Here are a few suggestions for easy, healthy lunches that don’t take much time to prep:
Monday: Bento Box
The great thing about a bento box is that you can put just about anything inside. You can have a wrap and a salad, a smorgasbord of veggies with homemade hummus to dip in and some yogurt, chicken and rice with a side of broccoli…whatever you have on hand to make quickly and easily. You can also use leftovers. Did you prep a little extra chicken? Toss it in there with some vegetables, hummus and salad fixings.
Tuesday: Chicken Wrap
This is super easy to assemble in the morning before you head to work—even if you’re in a rush. Combine 4-6 oz. of pre-cooked chicken, mayo, sliced onions, red pepper, pickle and cucumber, then spread them inside a tortilla. Roll it up and you’re good to go. You can add some healthy fats with half an avocado (in the wrap or on its own).
Wednesday: Loaded Baked Potato
Yep. You can make a baked potato at lunch, on your work break. All you need is a potato, a microwave and your favorite toppings—we recommend low-fat cheese, green onions, Greek yogurt, fresh herbs and maybe some avocado and salsa if you’re feeling spicy. Bake the potato in the microwave (about five minutes) and then split open, load up with your favorite toppings and eat.
Thursday: Green Smoothie
If your office has a blender, you can just bring all the ingredients and make this whenever you’re ready to eat…or drink. Otherwise, mix it up before you leave home and keep it in the office fridge until lunch. Blend up a scoop of your favorite protein powder, half an avocado, half a banana, one cup of leafy greens (we’d recommend kale or spinach, depending on your taste preferences), one small kiwi, half a cup of your favorite berries, a quarter cup uncooked oatmeal and a splash of water.
Friday: Tuna Salad
This is especially great for Friday mornings because it’s easy to throw together in a rush and if you don’t have time to grab everything before you leave for work, you can always run to the nearest grocery store on your lunch break and get whatever you’re missing. All you need is a mixture of lettuce, your favorite vegetables for salad (chopped), a can of tuna and some oil and vinegar or homemade salad dressing to top it off. You can also throw in some pumpkin or flax seeds for an extra nutrient boost. Keep the veggies, tuna and dressing in separate containers and then assemble before eating so that the lettuce will still be crisp.
We hope this will help you as you meal prep and try to stay on track with your nutritional goals throughout the week.