Updated: Apr 24, 2019
“Failing to plan is planning to fail” Benjamin Franklin
Food prep... it takes a little bit of effort. It does take a little bit more time than just grabbing your keys and wallet and heading to the office. But the subsequent benefits of preparing a healthy packed lunch to take to work, drastically outweigh the negatives:
It’s healthier - The next time you grab a sandwich, bag of crisps, smoothie and Kit Kat from Tesco’s, take a moment to read the nutritional information. You might be surprised how much hidden sugar, salt and preservatives are lurking beneath the innocent-looking packaging. When you prepare your own lunch, you know exactly what’s gone into it and you can save a significant number of calories.
It’s cheaper - If you regularly eat out in your lunch break, you might not notice the cost day-to-day, but add up the total and it can be extortionate. Lunch at a cafe or restaurant probably costs £10-£15 on average, while grabbing your lunch from a shop is about £5-7. A couple of meals out and a few shop purchases over a week adds up to about £40 a week. Over a year - that’s almost £2,000! Compare that to the cost of preparing a salad (about £2) or a large pot of soup that makes 4 portions at £1 each - and you’re looking at a saving of £1,500 per year. That’s a two week holiday!
It’s better for your wellbeing - Apart from the smug feeling you get when you are organised, efficient and eating healthily, making your own lunch gives you more time to enjoy your lunch break. Taking the time to go for a wander, sit on a park bench and soak up some sunshine or even read a book can do wonders for your mental wellbeing, making you a more productive, positive employee when you return to work for the afternoon.
Forget the same soggy tuna sandwich wrapped in tinfoil each day though; the key is to get creative with your pack-ups to make sure you’re looking forward to your midday meal when it’s time to eat.
You’re onto a winner with any kind of salad really - just avoid the creamy dressings (try a mix of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil instead) but here are a few alternatives to salads you can try, to keep things interesting:
1. Chicken & Houmous Lettuce Wraps
Anything you can put in a sandwich, you can wrap in lettuce instead for a much healthier lunch. Try Tuna Niçoise, with boiled eggs and olives, or homemade falafel with halloumi. For more inspiration, check out these other no-bread sandwich ideas.
2. Leftover Roast Chicken Soup
It genuinely saddens me that so many people simply throw away the carcass after they’ve had roast chicken on a Sunday. There are so many amazing nutrients in those bones - it’s like nature’s medicine. All it takes is 30 - 60 mins of boiling and you’ve got an incredible stock you can use to make delicious soups or as a base for numerous other dinner recipes. Pour a portion of soup into a thermos flask and you’ve got an incredibly healthy snack or lunch you can enjoy throughout the day.
3. Healthy Banana Bread
A great way to avoid the temptation of the 4pm vending machine run is to pack your own snacks. This recipe makes a whole loaf of banana bread so you can bring in a portion each day. Alternatively, try bringing in some crudités and a small pot of houmous, a piece of fruit (berries are best if you’re trying to lose weight) or a small pot of nuts and seeds.
4. Chorizo Frittata
This recipe is fantastic for a healthy, protein packed breakfast but the real advantage is, if you make a whole pan, you’ve got 3 more portions to take to work for lunches. Pair it with a light green side salad and you’ve got a delicious lunch that will leave you feeling full and energised all afternoon. You can try out loads of different ingredients as well - smoked fish is amazing instead of chorizo.
5. Five-A-Day Vegetable Tagine
Make this recipe for dinner and you’ll save yourself a job in the morning rush. Just fill up a tub and hey presto - you’ve got a delicious lunch you can enjoy hot or cold. Get creative with the vegetables you include as well - courgettes, aubergines and butternut squash all work really well.