I don’t know if there is a single tip I can stress more than bringing your own lunch to work with you. So often, we are pressured by our work buds to make lunch choices that we normally wouldn’t if we were dining alone. Or maybe it is the urge to get out of the office just to revel in the fresh air. I notice that just the thought of lunchtime possibilities throughout the morning hustle can be more exciting than a trip to Disney. This is simply due to our desire to escape the workplace, and truly has little to do with the meal itself. Boy, is this going to come as a blow….pull it together….make your lunch in advance, and bring it with you!!! Eat it outside, at Starbucks with a hot tea, or in your car for all I care. Just don’t waste your day’s worth of calories and fat during a lunchtime bender.
Call me crazy but a loaded pizza on a Wednesday at noon would not be happening if I was thinking sanely and had a lunch calling my name in the fridge. Then, what happens when we get home? We rejoice in the fact that the workday is over and we eat something else decadent? So commonly, this is the truth. I understand that lunch for so many is a wonderful time in the day that we detach from our duties and enjoy some deliciousness. But the fact of the matter is, we are at work. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my calories and bad choices while I’m at work. I would rather go wild at home with loved ones. After a long day of work, I’m tired and I don’t necessarily want to make good decisions all the time. So I know that if I fueled up on nutritious food at breakfast and lunch, I have room to rejoice at the end of the day. I can indulge in my favorite dessert of the week, whatever that may be – all things in moderation. Evenings are usually filled with our families and maybe even a dinner out, so I want to relax and enjoy that time. Of course, I have to add a disclaimer: Weeknight dinners are not meant for rich, decadent, fatty overloads and binge eating….but there is a bit more leeway if we have calories to spare.
- Go meatless. By going meatless at lunchtime, we can significantly reduce our saturated fat intake, carbon footprint, total calories, all while filling up on fresh plant-based food. This is a great tip to keep lunch affordable as well….but where will I get my protein? Simple. Add beans, nuts, and seeds and you will have plenty of protein for that meal. The best part about this tip is that you can literally eat as much as you want without feeling guilty.
- Prepare your weekday lunches on Sunday. Large salads (and I mean large- no wimpy salads that will leave me ready to gnaw off my arm in an hour and a half) are great to get through lunchtime. Chop all of your veggies on Sunday and portion out at least 3 of your salads for the week. They will be ready to grab and go as you roll out of bed for the next three days. Wednesday night is a good time to reevaluate your veggies. Your lettuce may look like it has seen better days, so you might want to sub a different vegetable. Now, prep the next two days. Load your salad up with anything and everything you can imagine. You can choose celery, carrots, olives, hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, raw peppers, jalapenos, avocado, banana peppers, goat cheese, feta cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, beans, nuts, seeds, and so many more. I love to make my own dressings. I will post some of my faves in the near future.
- Soup it up! Pile as many veggies and beans as you can think of in a pot and simply add veggie broth or water and a few veggie bouillon cubes (Make sure they are MSG-or monosodium glutamate free) and bring to a boil. You will not believe how simple it is to make veggie soups- and they are pretty hard to mess up. It is one of my go-to’s. I will make a large batch of soup on Sunday and freeze half for later lunches weeks down the road. So after that busy weekend or a weekend getaway I simply defrost the soup overnight and have plenty of soup for the week. This is a really great tip to load up on veggie goodness while eating a filling dish and still enjoying some comfort food at work.
- Change it up. My previous tips have focused on preparing one basic meal in the beginning of the week and then eating that same meal for five days. I don’t mind this, because I know that most are more likely to BYOL if it is waiting in the fridge the morning of. Many weeks I am able to eat the same thing five days in a row, but not every week. When you need to switch it up, use those ingredients that you prepared on Sunday and transform them into something a little bit different and more interesting. For example, throw those already chopped veggies in a tortilla to make a delicious veggie wrap Wednesday night. Sick of meatless meals? Make a soft taco with roasted chicken breast and use the salad as the topper. Add tuna or grilled chicken to your salad. Just make sure that at least 50% of your lunch comes from plant sources. Be Creative! If you’re sick of the soup, maybe purée it and add a dollop of Greek yogurt to change it up. Delish!
It’s about experimentation. Try new things. Never had watercress? Give it a shot! Enjoy the meals that you prepare so that you look forward to eating them. But always, always BYOL!