Make Your Lunch More Often
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
- Orson Welles
“I love this Challenge. When I did this Challenge it really made me think about my lunch choices and what I was eating, and I saved money.” -JadeDaRu
What’s In & What’s Out
- Making your lunch means cooking it or assembling it.
- Packing a Lunchable or frozen meal like Lean Cuisine does not count.
- Canned soup doesn’t count, unfortunately. It’s easy to cook your own—black beans, a handful of kale, and some seasoning makes a delicious soup!
- Assembling ingredients you buy at the farmer’s market or grocery store is fine, as long as it’s not an entire pre-made dish, like farmers market pizza (which we love too, but doesn’t count as something your make yourself).
- If you are short on time, making a salad at the Whole Foods salad bar on your way into work counts, but buying a pre-made reheatable lasagna or a deli sandwich does not count. The idea is to prepare the food yourself, so you know what’s in it, and have taken a few minutes to think about what you’re putting into your body.
- If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track tomorrow.
Why This Is A Good Idea
Use lunch as your healthy secret weapon—prepping lunch at home saves time, protects your wallet, and lets you take control of what’s in your food. It also protects your waistline, as those who eat out even four times per week gain an additional eight pounds every year according to the CDC.
Basic Tips & Useful Hints
- Be sure to check in at lunch time each day. Draw a check mark if you made your lunch that day and use a free pass if you ate out or ordered in.
- Keep it simple. Make extra dinner so that you have leftovers to pack for lunch. That way you don’t have to prepare an additional meal. Roasted veggies and a piece of chicken or grilled tofu, soup, stir-fry, and pasta salad are all great as leftovers.
- Cook extra meat, fish, or grilled portobello mushroom, and make a sandwich for lunch. The trick is good whole grain or sourdough bread and a delicious condiment like (good) mayonnaise or aioli, mustard, tapenade or pesto (yes, these all can be purchased in a jar at the grocery store!).
- Lunch doesn’t have to be hot. Make a salad, and bring your dressing in a separate container so the lettuce doesn’t get soggy (unless it’s a kale salad, which only gets better the longer it’s dressed.)
- Try an assembled antipasto lunch with hummus, carrots and cucumbers, cheese, olives, artichoke hearts (from a jar is great), rice crackers, sliced tomato, roasted nuts and a piece of fruit. No cooking involved, and everything can be eaten cold.
- Freeze meals on Sundays for the week ahead, as you would for dinner. Soups, stews, casseroles, chili, spaghetti sauces with fresh veggies, and grains all freeze and reheat incredibly well. Simply freeze your meals in individual serving containers, and put one serving in the fridge the night before to defrost. Bring it to work, and by lunch time it will be ready to heat.
- Canned fish is a great staple to have on hand because it doesn’t have to be cooked, isn’t perishable, and it makes for a delicious, fast, and inexpensive lunch when combined with lettuce and olives and tossed with a vinaigrette.
- If you want something nutritious and warm, simply cut up some carrots and broccoli and put them in a glass Pyrex. Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper in a jar. At work, steam the veggies in the microwave, then toss with the vinaigrette. There’s no reason why technology can’t help you out in the kitchen.
- Keep nutritious snacks on hand like nuts and fresh or dried fruit so that you don’t get too hungry and cave when your coworkers suggest going to sushi.
- Get a work buddy to pack their lunch as well! You get a lunch date and someone to keep you on track, too.
- Bring your book to work. If you’re in the middle of a page turner, having some built-in reading time over your packed lunch will help inspire you to stay on track.
- Start in the produce section or at the farmer’s market to see what looks good. Veggies that can be eaten raw as a snack, dipped in something, or cooked are great lunch options—try broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers and carrots.
- Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, spinach, sweet potato, asparagus and onions all cook quickly and are delicious leftover—chilled or room temperature with a vinaigrette.
- Don’t forget your lettuce! Tossing greens with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper takes 20 seconds and makes for a delicious salad. Feel free to buy boxed, pre-washed greens. Fast and easy.
- Fruit. A must-have in any packed lunch.
- If you are an omnivore, get organic meats from your butcher counter like chicken and pork. They are lean and protein-packed, and great leftover. Try boneless, skinless chicken thighs or a boneless pork chop (boneless cuts cook more quickly). Avoid processed meats like salami.
- A wild-caught, low-mercury fish like Alaskan salmon is delicious and quite good for you. If you’re in a pinch or need help in the flavor department, feel free to get the pre-seasoned/marinated kind, but make sure to ask about the ingredients in the seasoning.
- Don’t forget the bulk section—look for lentils and brown rice that can be cooked plain and used in a few different lunches. Nuts in bulk too, for a snack or on salads.
- Canned tuna and beans keep well, have great protein, and can be added to any salad.
- Cheese! A firm cheese like manchego, goat, or gouda is a perfect make-your-lunch addition. If you’re vegan, grab a delicious nut cheese to top a salad.
- Hummus—pre-made, or make your own from canned garbanzo beans.
- Venture into the middle of the grocery store for nut butter (for eating with fruit for a snack), dried fruit, condiments (tapenade, pesto, mayonnaise, and mustard for sandwiches) and rice crackers (your cheese might need a vehicle).
Smart Things To Read And Watch
- Go Light When You Grab a Bite
- Bento Box Lunch Ideas
- 4 reasons you should really learn to cook
- Michael Pollan’s Cooking FAQs
- What the World’s Top Health Experts Pack for Lunch
Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.