How To Come Up With Healthy Work Lunch Ideas

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
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There are far too many working people out there who skip lunch, if you ask our opinion.

It’s one thing if you have no time, if you’re strapped for cash, or if there are any major circumstances preventing you from eating normally and healthily.

For those who have no excuse to do so, however, skipping lunch can be bad for more than just your long-term health — in the short term, it can affect your productivity and happiness.

But what does a good lunch look like for people who work in an office? Should you always pack, or can you order in sometimes? What are the major parts of it you should keep in mind?

Fortunately, we here at Zippia wondered the same thing. Here are a few tips to help you figure out your own answers to all of the above questions (and more lunch-related quandaries).


1. Why Are Healthy Office Lunches Important?

Skipping lunch is a lot like going on a miniature hunger strike, and as a result, your body reacts in comparatively unhealthy ways.

Your brain needs a new batch of glucose every 4-6 hours if you hope to remain functioning at normal levels. The only way you can get that glucose is by eating — and once that 4-6 hour timer runs out, your body starts running through its stores, and once those are depleted, then things start really getting dour.

At this point, your body starts fuelling your brain by using fuel that would normally be powering other (similarly essential) body functions.

Not to mention that with the way human brains have developed their survival functions, the longer you go without food, the more you’re going to be thinking about it. It’s just the way you’re programmed.

If you’re working a normal 9-5 and have only eaten breakfast, you’re going to start getting hungry around 11am-1pm. Four or more hours is a long time to be thinking about your next meal, and you’re virtually guaranteeing that even if you do manage to get work done, you’ll be at least partially distracted the whole time you’re doing it.

At that point, there are still many miles to go before you sleep (or eat, as the case may be).

But getting a healthy lunch in can be tough — not to mention expensive, if you find yourself eating out more often than not.

So what are some methods for getting in a good lunch, without requiring too much prep time or breaking your bank account in the process?

2. What Components Does a Healthy Work Lunch Need?

Whether you’re eating out or bringing your lunch from home, it’s important to remember that not all lunches are created equally.

You need a few major elements in place to ensure that your lunch doesn’t end with you either still hungry, too full, or otherwise hunched over your desk clutching your stomach for your remaining hours at work.

Here are the biggest things to keep in mind when constructing (or ordering) your lunch for the day:

  • A good lunch in a normal eating schedule should take up just under a third of your daily calorie intake — for most people, that falls between around 500-750 calories, depending on your weight.
  • You need nutrients, and micronutrients, and probably nanonutrients too, whatever the hell those are. In any case, to get everything you need out of any lunch requires variety in the foods you eat. That doesn’t mean different brands of potato chips mixed together — that means multiple different food groups (at least 4) all in the same meal.
  • One of those food groups ought to be a protein of some kind — lentils, peas, beans, eggs, greek yogurt, chicken, and other lean proteins are the best for this. Red meats can be good too, but they’re not the healthiest, and should be eaten more sparingly if possible.
  • Don’t forget vegetables, preferably ones high in fiber (to keep you feeling full).
  • Carbs are also essential for keeping you energized, but make sure they’re good carbs, not empty ones.
  • Last of all, make sure the lunch has lots of flavor. If it’s not tasty, or if for any other reason you just don’t like it, then it’s not very likely you’re going to stick to a diet like this for long. There’s plenty of ways to make or buy healthy food that you enjoy, so don’t needlessly punish yourself with bland, gross (but healthy) foods.

3. Good Examples of Healthy Office Lunches

So with all this in mind, we come to the final piece of our advice for the day:

What are some good examples of these kind of healthy lunches?

But real quick, before we get into that, let’s wrap up one question still hanging in the air: is it possible to eat healthy and cheap if you’re only eating out for lunch?

The short answer is no, unless your work is compensating you for every one of these lunches. And even then, the odds are low that you’re going to find a restaurant that’s healthy enough and has enough variety for you to be eating healthy lunches every time you go out.

Eating out for lunch once or twice a week, if you can afford it, is fine, and probably won’t destroy your walking-around money.

But you’re going to want to learn how to start bringing at least three out of your five weekly lunches from home, at least if you hope to make any real progress when it comes to eating cheap and healthy meals on the reg.

Now, onto the main event. Here are some excellent healthy lunch examples you can try for yourself (recipes can be found online in a number of varieties):

  • Avocado BLTs: Cheap and easy to make bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches with just a little avocado or guac thrown on for some extra flavor. Opt for whole wheat bread, and throw in some sprouts if you’re a fan.
  • Wraps: Wraps are excellent in general because, particularly when made with cold ingredients, they’re quick to throw together even on a hectic morning, and it’s easy to add in any ingredients you might need. But where these really shine are with pre-cooked ingredients like brown rice, fried veggies, and some form of protein like beans, tofu, or chicken. There’s really no wrong way to make a wrap and they’re easy to heat up in a work microwave, so as long as you’re hitting all the major food groups, go nuts and add whatever you like.
  • Rice Bowls: Again, these are extremely easy meals to adapt to a wide variety of different tastes and diets, and what’s great about these is that for meal preppers, it’s easy to make several at once. They keep well in the fridge and microwave well too, and as far as variety goes, there’s not a whole lot of meats or veggies you can add to rice that won’t taste perfect with it. Look specifically for Indian, East Asian, and South and Central American based dishes in order to get the level of variety and taste you’re looking for.
  • 3-Ingredient Meals: Intentionally simple, but easy to spice and flavor, 3-ingredient meals are absolutely perfect for meal preppers. The most common kind include either potatoes or sweet potatoes for carbs, some sort of lean protein like baked chicken or tofu, and lots and lots of veggies. If you plan it right, you can bake all of these ingredients on the same sheets in about a half hour, and with minimal prep time you can suddenly have a week’s worth of lunches at the ready.
  • PB & J: It might seem simple, but these are actually excellent sources of protein and carbs — again, go with whole wheat bread, go easy on the jelly, and pack some fruit and baby carrots to help round out the meal a little more.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all for this one! Just keep in mind:

The main thing to keeping up with a healthy diet is to remain consistent with it — not with eating specifically the same foods over and over, but with the commitment to healthy eating itself.

The easiest way to do so is to keep things cheap, simple, and, above all, tasty.

You want to do your best to make it easier for you to think about and prep healthy lunches than it would be for you not to do so.

Humans are creatures of convenience — so find foods that you truly enjoy, and experiment to find the healthiest and easiest ways to put them together.

In no time, you’ll find yourself putting together your week’s worth of lunches without even a second thought.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips for Identifying the Worst Companies to Work For
3 Tips to Making a Lateral Career Move
3 Tips to Answering the Question “Why Should We Hire You?”

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