Healthy Lunches for on the Go or at Your Desk
Move over sandwiches and chips, stay back fast food, and don’t even think about it processed frozen meals. Your days as lunchtime staples for busy women are numbered. As someone who has eaten my fair share of all of the above for lunch because I thought those were my main options for eating at my desk, I get it. I also get being at a sporting event for entire weekend days and feeling like fast food or concession stand offerings were all there was. The fact is though, nothing could be further from the truth. Healthy lunches can be made right at home with just a little bit of planning, minimum effort and much more affordably than you might expect. In fact, I’ve put together a list of five healthy lunch ideas for busy women to get you started. These are lunches that can be eaten on the go or at your desk, and they’ll work toward your health goals, not derail them.
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Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad
This recipe from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen is my lunchtime staple. I absolutely love it, and it’s one of the first things I tried when I really started getting healthy in earnest. Best yet, it travels easily and takes no time to make if you’ve already cooked the Quinoa ahead of time. I usually keep a container of cooked Quinoa in my fridge at all times so that I can have this as an option whenever I need it. Yes, the name of the recipe does say “warm,” but here’s how I do it. In the morning, I’ll warm up ½ cup of Quinoa and then add everything else to it (clearly you’ll want to adjust the amounts of each ingredient if it’s just for one person, although I do 2 cups of kale in my one serving). I mix it all up, and then put it in a container that I can take with me. It tastes great at room temperature. No heating needed.
I would say this one recipe alone is worth buying the book. As I mentioned, it was this recipe that helped me see that eating healthy really can be delicious! Luckily though, there are tons of other great recipes included, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
*I started out always putting cranberries in the salad and loved the touch of sweetness they add. Now, I usually leave the cranberries out because of how much sugar is added to them (Yes, I have tried the unsweetened kind and they were so tart, I couldn’t eat them). But every now and then, if I know I’m going to need a little something extra, I’ll go ahead and add the cranberries. Also, I used to use pine nuts, and it tasted delicious, but since those are so expensive, I’ve switched to walnuts, and it’s just as good.
Irresistible White Bean Dip with 4-Ingredient Paleo Crackers
If you don’t feel like packing a fork, or you just know it’s going to be a finger-food kind of day, this combination is perfect. The Irresistible White Bean Dip recipe was developed by Dreena Burton and is published on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website. Talk about easy! You just add the ingredients to a food processor and combine. You can do it ahead of time and then just portion out what you need when you’re packing your lunch. **Note, I don’t add the maple syrup, and it tastes fine.
The 4-Ingredient Paleo Crackers from Ambitious Kitchen take a little more effort but are almost just as easy – seriously! When I saw the prep time on the recipe as 10 minutes, I thought, “Yeah right.” No way can you make homemade crackers in 10 minutes. But, I’m happy to say, you can! This recipe is fantastic! The most time-consuming part of it is trying to smooth out the edges of the dough, and no, I don’t worry too much about having perfect edges because the taste is great no matter what the shape of the cracker’s edge. Even though the total time for this recipe is 25 minutes, you’ll want to do it ahead, so that all you have to do when you’re packing your lunch is to divide up the crackers. Between the bean dip and the crackers being made with almond flour, there’s plenty of protein to get you through whatever the rest of your day has in store.
Salad with Chickpeas (or another source of portable protein) and Mustard Vinaigrette
I’m always surprised at how many people I hear say, “I wish I could have a good salad for lunch, but I eat in the office or at my desk.” Even if that’s the case, a good salad is still very possible! Simply put it together in the morning in a travel-friendly container and take it with you. Assembly time is much more manageable if you’ve already chopped up all of your vegetables so that you can just grab a handful and throw it in. Even if I’m going to be at an outdoor activity for the day, I take my two containers (one with the salad and a small one for my dressing) along in my cooler.
For plant-based sources of protein that don’t have to be heated up, I love chickpeas and tofu. For animal-based protein, sliced cooked chicken breast works great. If you have access to a microwave at lunch and want something warm on your salad, simply pack your protein in a separate (glass) container and warm it up, then add to your salad. I also pack my dressing in a small container, and off I go. One of my favorite dressings is this Mustard Vinaigrette that was developed by Jennifer Raymond, M.S., R.D. and published on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website. (Yes, that is the second time I’ve cited them here because they’re such a great resource!) The vinaigrette can be made ahead of time and refrigerated so that it’s ready when you need it.
Mexican Bean Salad
This Mexican Bean Salad from All Recipes is one of my standbys. With three different kinds of beans, it’s definitely filling but not too heavy and is perfect for any kind of weather. This is another make-ahead type dish that you can then go ahead and divide into your lunch portions. That way, all you have to do is grab a container and go! Super easy to put together, the part that takes the longest is chopping the peppers. Trust me, when your colleagues see this, they will be jealous.
Note: the recipe calls for sugar, but I don’t add it. If I add any sweetener, I use a little Stevia.
Who doesn’t love wraps? And the best thing is, you can put just about anything in them. This isn’t so much a recipe as a reminder about not forgetting to include these in your lunch rotation, especially if you’re looking for a way to get some raw leafy greens into your diet. Wraps feel like they’re a little heartier than a salad for lunch, but you’ll still get plenty of greens. I just pile A LOT of Arugula or Spinach on to a whole wheat low-carb tortilla, add sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes and sprouts when I have them, chickpeas or tofu for my main source of protein and voila! A lunch that makes me feel like I went to the deli. If you want an animal-based protein, chunks of cooked chicken breast work well for these too.
These ideas aren’t new, but sometimes, we just need a reminder that our kitchen is as good (I think much better) than any fast-food restaurant or deli. Having a lunch that makes you look forward to lunchtime because it’s so delicious and healthy is definitely worth the few minutes it takes in the morning to put these lunches together. As you’re eating them, you can feel good that you’re still on track with your health and nutrition goals.