Whether you’ve made a resolution to eat better this year or are trying to save money, healthy work lunches are always a challenge. Here’s how to make healthy work lunches on a budget.
It’s tempting to try to pack your lunches each night, but the reality is that after a busy day, most of us are too tired to get it done. The solution is to pack all of your lunches on one day. For most of us, that’s Sunday night. This way, all you need to do is grab your lunch and go in the morning.
Get the Right Containers
Having a mish-mosh of different size containers will make packing all at once more difficult. Most stores carry inexpensive plastic containers in packs of five – perfect for most work weeks. It’s worth the $3-4 investment to make your life easier each week.
Use a Formula
One of our favorite lunch styles is the Bento Box. Instead of making a full sandwich or meal, Bento Boxes are more like snacks. You fill your container with an item from each category. Done correctly, this style of lunch can be amazingly healthy and keep you full all day. The trick is to follow the formula!
Pick a Protein
If you’re a meat eater, this can be lunchmeat, beef jerky, cooked chicken breast or anything else you wouldn’t mind eating each day. If you’re a vegetarian or are just looking to eat less meat, don’t worry – you have plenty of options. Hummus, cheese, a hard-boiled egg or even peanut butter work great as lunch proteins.
Don’t be tempted to skip having a protein in your lunch. This is the item that is going to fill you up for a longer period of time and just may be the most important part of your meal.
Eat Your Veggies
Next, pick a veggie you enjoy. A good tip here is to make it something that holds up well in your refrigerator. While something like cherry tomatoes are a great choice, they don’t do well cold and you’ll have to remember to throw them in your container each morning.
Carrots hold up particularly well, as does celery. The bonus with both of these veggies is that they are cheap if you buy them in a big bag and chop them yourself. However, if you’re pressed for time and don’t mind spending a little more, splurge on the already-portioned vegetable bags or get a big bag of mixed veggies that are usually meant for dinner and divide that up into your lunches.
You Guessed It – Pick a Fruit
There are so many fruits that hold up well all week – from apples to grapes to bananas. You don’t even need it to be a whole fruit though! This part of your healthy work lunch could be applesauce or fruit cups. Just make sure you look at the container for sugar content and try to get items not packed in heavy syrup. If your goal is to eat healthier, piling on a bunch of sugar at lunchtime isn’t going to get you to your goal.
Add in a Carb
To round out your lunch, pick a carb of your choice. There are a million options here. You can keep it simple and choose bread, but it can also be crackers, pita chips, rice or a tortilla!
Bonus: A Little Treat
While most people stop their Bento Box there, we find that having a little, pre-portioned treat can mean the difference between sticking to your healthy work lunch plan and falling off the wagon. If you’re into chocolate, your treat can be a little piece of candy (think the size you’d hand out at Halloween). What you want to do is satisfy your sweet tooth, but not add in a ton of calories or sugar.
Go online and get inspired to try new combinations. Pinterest is a great resource for this. Let us know any ideas you have for packing healthier lunches on a budget in the comments!