Office Lunches You Can Prepare the Night Before

When you’re chasing your tail at work and trying to meet deadlines, it’s easy to order a quick doughnut and coffee for lunch. But what you choose to eat at work will hugely affect your focus, energy levels and therefore your productivity through the afternoon.

Studies have shown that the best kind of office lunch consists of three elements: a lean protein like chicken, fish or beans, a complex carb like whole-wheat pasta or brown rice, and of course, vegetables.

 

Variety is Key

 

Try not to bring or the same thing every day. This doesn’t give you the variety of nutrients you need, and it can become boring. That said, it’s helpful to have a few go-to lunchbox meals to cycle through during the week. Repeating a few favourites makes it easy and quick to prepare ahead. Your lunch of choice needs to be simple to prep, filling and packed with nutrients. It should also be tasty and it must stay fresh when prepared the night before.

 

Pasta and Veg Dishes

 

Start with a whole-wheat, pasta shape. Whip up a quick vegetable-based sauce such as onion, tomato and mushroom. This can be made over the weekend and brought to the office for several days afterwards. Alternatively, make it for supper the night before and bring the leftovers to work.

 

To ring the changes, mix in some protein like chunks of cooked chicken or tuna, and top with a sprinkling of cheese. If you’re vegan, mix through some white beans. This will give an added protein boost that will leave you feeling satisfied but not over-stuffed through the afternoon. Flavour your pasta with classic Mediterranean touches like oregano, sweet basil, olives and olive oil.

 

Hearty Soups

 

Filling, comforting and nutritious, soups can be a real treat in winter. If your office doesn’t have a microwave, invest in a wide-mouthed thermos flask for bringing hot meals into work. Add a whole grain bun or slice of bread for dunking, and you’ll be the envy of the office.

 

Vegetable-based soups with added protein options like beans, lentils and chicken are best. Avoid canned soups or thin broths as these won’t be filling enough. It’s really simple on the weekend to boil up a big pot of vegetables, with added stock, bone broth and legumes. You can even freeze portions in containers all ready to take to work.

 

Salads

 

The problem with eating salads for lunch is that they often aren’t substantial enough and you’re left feeling hungry an hour later. Branch out a little from the usual lettuce, cucumber and tomato and make your salad a real meal. Use those basics as a base, then add a protein such as tuna, beans, chicken or salmon.

 

Different cheeses like feta work well in salads too. Avocado makes a salad more filling and adds extra nutrition. A good dressing really adds flavour but be careful only to add it just before you eat, or you’ll be left with a limp mess in your lunchbox.

 

Mason jars are a trendy and practical way of packing a salad for work. Put the dressing in the bottom, then layer in your protein and vegetables on top. Give it a quick shake before eating.

 

A great “whatever is in the fridge salad” can be made by chopping whatever suitable veg you have, adding a few ounces of tuna, shrimp or poultry and some healthy fats like olives, avocado, cheese or seeds. Finish it off with some lemon juice or a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 

Sandwiches

 

Sandwiches may have gone out of fashion, but they’re still a great go-to lunch. You can mix things up with seed loaves, rye and whole-wheat options. Always use a good butter or quality mayonnaise and don't forget to spread it right to the edges because this oily layer prevents the bread from becoming soggy.

 

Good filling choices are mustard, roast beef, cheese and pickles; chicken mayonnaise with shredded celery and lettuce; egg mayonnaise with tomato and lettuce. Coleslaw works well in sandwiches too.

 

Wraps are a good alternative. They are easy to transport and eat. Begin with whole-wheat wraps, spread with pesto, mayo or pizza sauce then roll in a layer of vegetable sticks and lean protein. Alternatively, omit the bread wrap and use lettuce leaves or deli meat slices for the outer layer.

 

Greek Yoghurt Base

 

Plain Greek yoghurt provides a great base for a filling lunch. It contains generous amounts of protein as well as probiotics to support your gut bacteria. Plus, it’s creamy and delicious. Add some fruit, berries and some nuts like almonds for a satisfying crunch.

 

Whole Grain Bowl

 

Cook up one of your favourite grains such as quinoa, brown rice or barley. Top this with some cooked or fresh vegetables and half a cup of pulses such as lentils, chickpeas or beans. Top it off with a handful of cashews. Season with pickled ginger and soy sauce.

 

Whole grains raise your serotonin levels, provide heaps of energy, and help your mood. The pulses are also a source of protein and fibre that will keep your belly satisfied for the next few hours.

 

Egg Bowl Scramble

 

Scramble a couple of eggs and allow them to cool down. Sauté a mixture of chopped vegetables like onion, mushrooms, peppers, and kale. Mix this through the egg and top with a little cheese. This makes a super-satisfying, delicious lunch, and can be eaten cold or reheated in the microwave.

 

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