A dietitian recommends the best guilt-free office lunches
A healthy workday lunch doesn’t mean a bland bowl of leaves, writes Jemma O’Hanlon, accredited practising dietitian at Jenny Craig.
Everyone’s a regular victim of Mondayitis — but “lack-of-meal-prep-itis” might be an even worse condition.
As you can probably predict, this one strikes when you haven’t done your shopping, your fridge is looking very lonely, and you’re completely out of the game when it comes to having your meals prepped for the week.
Worse too, you’ve got a big week of work ahead and you know that you need to be eating well to be kicking goals, but you just haven’t quite got your act together. So, what to do?
Before you surrender to a week of takeaway, here’s my top tips on getting your work lunches sorted when you’re suffering from a case of lack-of-meal-prep-itis.
Keep supplies in your desk drawer
If you could open my desk drawer right now you’d see some cans of tuna, cans of corn, baked beans, four-bean mix, ready-made rice and quinoa and some grainy crackers, for those times when I need something quick and easy.
It’s amazing how you can whip up something quite delicious with a few supplies under your belt.
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Keep frozen veggies in your office freezer
Think broccoli, beans, snow peas, carrots, cauliflower. Grab some steam fresh bags from the supermarket and suddenly when you forget your lunch, you can easily whip up a healthy tuna, veggies and rice meal in under five minutes.
Keep bread in the office freezer, and sandwich supplies in the fridge
I scored this trick from a male colleague of mine, Blake, who would bring in everything he needed to make a sandwich. At lunchtime he’d pull out his supplies and get layering. I was always in awe of his sandwiches and to this day my sangas never quite live up to his.
But, with a few slices of bread stored in the freezer, I am never at risk of running out of carbs (which could end in tragedy), and there’s always some lovely bread that I can easily whip out and pop in the toaster.
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Having some fillings in the fridge means there are also no excuses when it comes to making a healthy lunch. Keep on hand some greens (think rocket, spinach or good ol’ lettuce), some slices of cheese, avocado (hi, millennials), lean ham, wholegrain mustard, and my absolute fave right now – sauerkraut (I’ll save my love for this bad boy for another day).
What to buy for lunch (that isn’t a burger and chips)
I hear what you’re thinking: What happens if you’re just not that organised, even the week before, and have no supplies ready and waiting for you. Yep, I’ve been there too. Well, unless you want to risk devouring someone else’s lunch, eating out just might be your only option.
But, before you throw in the towel and order that juicy burger that you’ve been eyeing off at the cafe next door: stop, and remember you have choices.
These days there are plenty of healthy options out there, and sometimes it’s just about knowing where to find them. So what really are the healthy options are there for lunch? Here are my five top picks.
Sushi is a fantastic, low- GI, substantial option. Go for a filling like salmon and avocado (think of those good fats and omega-3s) and try to steer away from the tempura rolls as they are higher in kilojoules.
Healthy salads are obviously an excellent choice, but the key is to find that happy balance between a salad that’s filling and wholesome (don’t just choose lettuce leaves or you’ll be hungry an hour later) and one that’s not saturated in a creamy dressing and packed full of excess kilojoules.
Find a colourful salad with loads of veggies, wholegrains like brown rice or pearl barley, and some lean protein like chicken, beef, smoked salmon, chickpeas or lentils.
A light dressing based on extra virgin olive oil and vinegar is always a winner, and in fact, the fats in the oil will help you absorb more nutrients from your salad.
Sandwiches and wraps
These are sold at nearly every cafe or food court, and you can’t go too wrong with these.
Choose one with wholemeal, rye or a grainy bread to keep you fuller for longer, and one with some protein, good fats and greens. For example, why not try a ham, cheese and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread, or roast beef, chutney, cheese and salad on rye.
Tacos, poke and rice paper rolls
There are plenty of healthy international options, but it depends what the ingredients are and the portion that’s served up.
Lovely fresh tacos (hold the sour cream), burritos and poke bowls are very on trend at the moment and super good for you, as are rice paper rolls.
Also, when you’re eating out, focus on eating until you’re 80 percent full (comfortably satisfied), rather than eating until you reach the point of discomfort. When you get those signals from your stomach to say, “Ok, I’m feeling comfortable and don’t need anything else”, stop right there and resist the temptation to keep eating.
Save whatever you haven’t eaten for later, and ask for a doggie bag if you can. Not only is this a bonus as you’ll have more food for later when you get hungry again, but you also won’t get that horrible bloated feeling in your stomach from eating way more than you needed to.
What about a drink? Well, water is always the best option and there are now a range of flavoured waters that don’t contain added sugar, but check the nutrition panel to be sure.
My other drink of choice right now is kombucha. I just love its fizzy, refreshing nature on a hot summer’s day, and it’s a much better choice than soft drink. A milky coffee could be another option as you’ll get a good dose of calcium and a little caffeine boost for the afternoon (choose decaf if you’re sensitive).
But just remember, all drinks still add extra kilojoules to your daily intake, so if you want to stay hydrated and keep kilojoules to a minimum, plain or sparkling water is your best option.
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