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FOOD & FITNESS / MAY. 02, 2014
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How to Make the Best Work Lunches

When lunchtime rolls around, it's time to fuel up. Lunch is not intended for fighting with your boyfriend, it's meant for you to take a break and eat something. Although painting your nails may seem like a priority during your lunch break; nail varnish won't provide you with any energy or nutrients.

Lunch can add up quick if you're buying it everyday. Sure, £7 may not seem like a lot, it's not a big deal. If you're spending £7 each day, that's £140 each month; £1680 a year. Some may be spending even more than that daily. Never mind the cost, what about nutrients? Most quick lunch options are low in nutrients, but high in fat and sugar. It's time to focus on your health and wallet.

Benefits of a Packed Lunch

  • Cost: Sure, you need to buy food in order to make your lunch. No lunch will be free, but making a lunch is much more cost effective. You can go to any supermarket and get great deals. If there are a few of you in the household, buy in bulk.
  • Choice and Variety: When you are packing your own lunch, you decide exactly what you want that day. If there's only a few options around your office, you may be stuck with some of the same boring options everyday. When you pack lunches, the sky is the limit. You can have a different lunch everyday for the entire month if you please. Pack your lunch according to the weather; if it's a cold day, consider a nice soup. When it's warm, you may want a nice fresh salad; or a cold sandwich with all your favourite toppings.
  • Energy: If you do not bring a lunch, you may not be eating lunch at all. If there's nowhere close or you're trying to save money, you may opt for nothing. When you don't eat, your energy reserves run low. Everything you do requires energy. If you were to sit still all day, your body would still require energy for systems you're not conscious of. Your cells are trying to work for you, but if you do not provide them with any food, they'll begin to function less efficiently. If you want to be the best you can be at work, you need to consume a lunch.
  • Nutrients: Energy is not the only factor in terms of output within our body. Nutrients are needed for a variety of functions. If you do not eat, your mind and body suffer. There are numerous nutrients that our bodies cannot produce. We need to feed our bodies, in order to absorb crucial nutrients. Optimal brain function requires; fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and water. Our brains cannot communicate with us verbally, but they show us other signs that something isn't right. When you get headaches, feel tired or can't concentrate for instance, that is your brain lacking the proper nutrition. If you're opting for a burger and fries three times a week, think about how beneficial that would be in terms of nutrition.

Now that you're aware of the benefits, let's look at some of the best options when packing a lunch.

1. Sandwiches

Although this seems like a no brainer, there are so many different sandwiches you can make. Here are some tips in terms of sandwiches.

  • Bread: Stay away from white bread, choose some nice grainy bread. Complex carbohydrates are so important. When you eat refined carbohydrates (white bread), you're not doing yourself any favours. Your bread is the starting foundation for all the unlimited choices you have to put between two slices. You don't need to stick to bread either. Whole-grain wraps and pitas make great options as well.
  • Switch it up: The best way to continually take sandwiches is to mix it up. Don't stick to the same option everyday. You'll get bored of it and go right back to your no lunch ways. Make sure you're getting a good variety of flavours and nutrients. You don't need to just put tuna; add greens, sprouts, cucumbers, hot peppers, whatever you like. You will not only be jazzing up flavours, you'll be adding more beneficial nutrient-rich ingredients.

2. Soup

Soup is another lunch option that is versatile, nutritious and easy. The same goes in terms of soup, make sure you're switching it up and incorporating healthy ingredients. You may like to know some tips for soup as well. 

  • Cook in bulk: Soup is great because it can be made in advance. Cook a soup that yields four-six servings and freeze it. That way, you can pop a serving out the night before or even that morning. Stick it on the stove while you get ready, then transfer to your Thermos.
  • Invest in a solid Thermos: Buying a well insulated Thermos is a great investment. Soup is cheap to make. Once you have purchased the container, your lunches will be costing next to nothing. This is especially essential if your work does not offer anywhere to heat your food up.
  • Pay attention to the weather: If it's a hot day, opt for a cold soup. There are plenty of cold soup options. If you have never had one, you'll love how fresh it tastes. If you opt for a cold soup, invest in an insulated bag to put some ice-packs in. This bag will be used many times I am sure, it will not be strictly for cold soup.

3. Leftovers

Utilise leftover dinners. If you made a Sunday roast, why not bring some of into work on Monday? Many places have an area where employees can heat their food. If your work does not provide a station to heat food, use some of the meat on a sandwich. You made the dinner regardless, now you have lunch from it. Two birds, one stone.

4. Salads

You may think that salads can lack finesse, but that just means you're not making the right ones. Salads can be extremely hearty and filling. Follow some of these tips for the best salads.

  • Dark greens are better: Try and incorporate as many dark greens as possible. Dark, leafy greens provide so many nutritional benefits; they also provide more flavour.
  • Homemade dressings: Whip up a simple vinaigrette. You can make enough for a few salads, just make sure it's in a sealed container and kept in the fridge. There are so many easy options; olive oil, honey, dijon, lemon, salt and pepper for example. Invest in a small container that keeps your dressing separate from your greens to avoid sogginess.
  • Bulk it up: Don't be afraid to stick some hearty ingredients in with your greens. This is what will make it a proper lunch. Some great options are; chicken, tuna, salmon, any vegetable, nuts, cheese, seeds, etc. The possibilities are literally endless.
  • Think outside the lettuce box: A salad does not need to have lettuce as a foundation. There are numerous bean, pasta or vegetable salads for instance. Make a salad with chickpeas, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, feta and a vinaigrette of your choice.

5. Snacks

You do not need to limit yourself to one food item. Bring a few snacks, just incase you're hungry throughout your work day. It's a great idea to nibble away at some healthy snack options. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Hummus with cut up vegetables and whole-grain pita: If a portion is large enough, this could also be used as a lunch idea. Hummus and vegetables will give you lot's of energy to get you through the day.
  2. Fresh fruit: Bring a banana and some fresh berries. Anti-oxidants do wonders for your body.
  3. Nuts and seeds: It's easy to snack away at some almonds or pumpkin seeds. These little powerhouses are packed with all kinds of benefits.
  4. Yogurt: If you have your insulated bag, why not bring a yogurt? It's easy to pack, eat and it's healthy.
  5. Peanut butter and whole-grain crackers: Bring a spoonful of peanut butter, along with some crackers or celery sticks.

As you can see, the options are endless. Start planning ahead, and utilising the benefits of a packed lunch. You will feel better, be more focused and have a heavier wallet. Start bringing lunches tomorrow. Once you get into the routine of bringing a lunch, it will feel strange not to pack one. Get creative and enjoy!

 

Photo credit: Flickr  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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