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It's In The Bag: 10 Healthy Lunch Options for the Office

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Jan 20, 2014 10:32 AM
lunch-bag.jpg

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Jazz up your boring brown bag lunches with these ideas.

Every day is the same routine: we wake up, get dressed, work, go to bed and repeat. The hustle and bustle of our busy lives leaves little room for taking the time to prepare a healthy lunch to maintain our energy and brainpower. Instead, we often turn to frozen microwave entrees and takeout leftovers as an "easy way" to get ready to greet the day.

However, in considering our long-term health, these processed foods can actually negatively affect our performance at work. We could become hungry sooner and not absorb the necessary nutrients to give us natural, sustained energy.

Try these healthy, portable meals on for size. Your taste buds will be reeling, while your stomach will be full and satisfied.

The Main Course

1. Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Think outside the box with this delectable dish. Wash some crisp romaine hearts, being careful not to rip the leaves into shreds. Instead, lay the hearts face up on a plate so they look like little boats. Layer the hearts with low-sodium turkey lunch meat, provolone cheese and top your creation with mustard. Add any veggies for filler and roll your wrap up. This lunch is easy to pack and digest without all the unwanted carbs. You'll be happy to know the extra crunch from the lettuce does the trick.

2. Party Platter

We've all been to work meetings and parties where there is a plethora of munchies readily available to pop in your mouth. Using this same concept, create your own personal party platter that you can graze on throughout your day. With some seasoned hummus as your center, cut up cubes of cheese, rolls of lunch meat, chopped veggies and wheat crackers. This is the perfect meal for when you have to work through lunch. Just remember that portion control is everything.

3. Ricotta Cheese and Honey

Believe it or not, this dish almost seems like a well-kept secret. While we traditionally associate ricotta cheese with pizza and Italian cuisine, this base can serve as a hearty, protein-packed lunch that will keep your stomach from grumbling. Look for 2% or skim milk ricotta cheese and pack about one cup in a container. Since it's a great staple, you can add your favorite toppings. Honey is a wonderful option as is adding some cocoa powder into the mix. Incorporate fruit for some tropical flavor.

lunch-celery.jpg

Photo by Josh Kenzer

Ants on a log is a super healthy lunch option for young and old alike.

4. Peanut Butter and Celery

If you have difficulty getting in your vegetables each day, use them as bases for your lunch. For example, cutting up stalks of celery and adding peanut butter is a great way to get your full servings of vegetables and protein. It may feel a bit nostalgic, but try adding some raisins to the top and you've got "ants on a log." Your mother would be proud.

5. Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Pear

Enjoy a lunch that sounds like it's been taking right off of a 5-star menu. Pack a container full of vibrant green spinach leaves. Then, add some chicken or turkey and feta cheese. Slice one pear and sprinkle some raisins into your dish. With the juxtaposition of sweet and savory flavor, you will have no reason to add dressing or croutons, thus, nixing any unwanted calories.

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Photo by Nora Kuby

Kale is a healthy dark green vegetable to get into your diet.

6. Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Explore your greens and try something new. Raw kale is an excellent source of nutrients and sustained energy. Serve it up cold with pecans and dried cranberries. Bursting with flavor, you will replenish your body with some great antioxidants, so you can stay healthy and work hard. Or, use your great brainpower to transport yourself to a beautiful pool enclosure, relaxing in the golden sun.

7. Tuna Pasta Salad

For a high source of protein and lower calories, put a new spin on the traditional pasta salad. Mix tuna, whole grain pasta, Greek yogurt and mayo with your favorite vegetables to get your Omega 3's in your body. Add some paprika for a playful punch. The great thing about this pasta salad is it keeps well in the refrigerator so you can have it for a couple of days. Substitute for chicken or other meat for an even bigger twist.

lunch-cottage-honey.jpg

Photo by Tomomi Sasaki

Cottage cheese is a great way to get your dairy fix without too much fat.

8. Cottage Cheese

Often times, cottage cheese is viewed as an acquired taste. However, since it has a plain, milky base, many healthy additions can really add some great flavor to this dish. Find 2% or fat-free cottage cheese and add fresh-cut fruit for a seasonal meal. If you're feeling brave, drizzle honey or a light chocolate syrup on top for a sinfully delicious dish.

9. Oatmeal and Peanut Butter

Feeling brave? Try mixing two fun breakfast foods for lunch. Make your oatmeal with plain oats and a little water. After cooking, make sure your oatmeal is dry without any excess water. Add two tablespoons of peanut butter and mix. This thick, protein-filled combination will give you good energy and brainpower.

10. Sandwich Thins

Instead of going for the white bread or sub rolls, reach for a sandwich thin instead. Around 100 calories per set of two thins, you can cut your carbohydrates and caloric intake in half. Make whatever sandwich combination your heart desires, but make sure to keep it lean and green. Try making a turkey "Cuban sandwich." Add layers of turkey, pickles, cheese and hot mustard for a sandwich that says, "I didn't skimp on flavor today."

Healthy Side Options

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Photo by AllanThinks on Flickr

Pretzels are a healthy snack, just remember to pack a reasonably-sized portion, not the whole bag!

Even though the entrees above can stand alone, it is important to add some key foods to every lunch for sustained energy and flavor. Try some of these healthy options to boost your lunch. Don't worry, they're quick and easy to pack.

  • cheese stick
  • Greek yogurt
  • sugar-free jello
  • fat-free pudding
  • baby carrots
  • cucumbers
  • green peppers
  • pretzels
  • water, water, water (8 glasses)

What to Avoid

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Photo by Matt Marshall

All that sugar makes for some empty, unsatisfying calories.

Just remember, when packing a healthy lunch, stay away from the following items:

  • soda
  • processed foods
  • starches
  • sugars
  • high-sodium anything

Make your day a great one by starting off on the right foot. Choose wisely and try to pack the night before. A little planning can go a long way. Eating healthy can be just as easy as grabbing a frozen meal, and you'll be healthier in the long-run. Make your lunch routine a lifestyle choice, not a diet.

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Comments: 2

  • claudzilla5 img 2014-01-29 12:44

    These are great ideas - I often get bored with my frozen meals, but these are simple enough to throw together even when I sleep in a bit too long.
    One addition to the spinach and feta salad - a handful of craisins. Tart-sweet and pretty, too!

    • Adrienne Wolter img 2014-01-29 13:06

      Thanks for the comment! Thanks for the idea, that sounds delicious! :)

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