Lunch on the Run: Easy Ideas for Nutritious Meals
It’s an all-too-familiar scenario. Noon rolls around and you’re distracted by a growling stomach withno plans for lunch. Sure, you want to eat healthy and stay budget-friendly, but you’re in a time crunch, with less than an hour to spare. Giving over to hunger, you make a quick run to the nearest fast-food spot or order in to the office. By afternoon, you feel sluggish, full, and regretful about spending $15 on a single meal.
Over time, this lack of planning not only takes a toll on your wallet, but it also affects your overall wellness. According to the CDC, 84.8 million adults in America consume fast food on a given day. Regularly consuming meals loaded with fat and calories, and low in fiber can lead to many health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
So what can you do about it? How do you break the cycle of poor planning and make your lunch break a time to refuel your body with healthy foods? It’s simpler than you might think. Consider these easy, healthy lunch tips for busy professionals on the go.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Perhaps the easiest way to meal plan for lunch is by making extra food at dinnertime to pack for the next day. Leftovers don’t have to be boring; by trying some new and exciting recipes, you’ll be counting down the hours until you can have another helping. Consider adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen to make cooking after work more manageable. These handy appliances allow for one-pot meals and significantly cut down on cooking time while retaining nutrients. Try these meal ideas:
- Chicken and rice with carrots and broccoli
- Taco salad with fresh greens and tomatoes
- Butternut squash soup
- Barley bowls with chicken and veggies
- Mediterranian style wraps with roasted chickpeas
Upgrade Your Lunch Box
Lunch boxes are no longer a vessel for sandwiches and chips. Today’s compartmentalized boxes are perfect for giving yourself a variety of options and organizing your meal in an aesthetically appealing way. Bento boxes are great for kids and adults — just search Bento Box meals on Pinterest and you’ll find tons of inspiration. Making a meal of foods you’d typically consider snacks can be just as protein-rich and satisfying as a heavy meal. Consider adding these to your box:
- Sugar snap peas
- Cubed cheese
- Whole wheat crackers
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cashews or other nuts
- Greek yogurt
Think Outside the Bowl
Salads often get a bad reputation for being boring and not very filling. Furthermore, people tend to shy away from salads during the winter months when it’s harder to find quality fresh produce. We say get adventurous and give them another chance. If you tend to have to force yourself to eat a bowl of leafy greens, there are tons of lettuce-free salads that are healthy, exciting, and satisfying. By expanding your horizons and trying some new ingredients, you can rediscover a love for salads and pack a ton of vitamins into your lunch break. A few lettuce-free ideas include:
- Curried chicken salad
- Cucumber salad
- Quinoa salad
- Pasta salad
- Corn and avocado salad
- Edamame and black bean salad
Drink Your Lunch
For extra busy days, it’s nice to have a lunch option that doesn’t even require a fork. Smoothies can pack a powerful protein punch and be a quick and easy way to consume your daily servings of fruit and veggies. Smoothies can be made the night before and packed in a thermos, or, if you prefer that freshly blended taste, consider keeping a small blender, such as a Vitamix or Nutribullet at your desk. Pre-portion your ingredients in small containers or plastic bags so you can blend up lunch without fuss. Try these or vary up ingredients to fit your taste:
- Green power smoothie
- Raspberry almond chia smoothie
- Peanut butter oatmeal smoothie
- Blueberry banana smoothie
- Strawberry greek yogurt smoothie
On a Mission to Get Healthy?
Primary care providers can help you figure out a nutritional plan for your specific needs. Find a partner to help reach your health goals at one of LeBauer’s nine locations in the Triad area. It’s easy to request an appointment with our online form.