Healthy Lunch Hacks Print

How to Save Time and Pack a Healthy Lunch for Work

CTV Morning News, Andrea Holwegner on CTV news

 

Struggling with the dreaded task of packing your lunch? Many of our clients that work outside the home want to eat a healthy lunch but struggle with feeling overwhelmed and juggling a busy schedule. If you are looking for time-saving tips when it comes to how you think about lunch and some new tasty ideas that are also healthy, then read on.

Watch Andrea Holwegner, Calgary Registered Dietitian share Lunch Hacks:

 

 

What are the components of a healthy lunch and why?

A healthy balanced lunch should contain 3 components:

1. Grains/starches:

  • Bread, pita, wraps, crackers, homemade muffins, pasta, potato, rice, quinoa or other grains.
  • These offer fibre, B-vitamins and carbohydrate needed for your brain and muscles for energy.  
  • Failing to add enough carbohydrate in your lunch leads to poor productivity, fatigue, inability to concentrate and sleepiness in the middle of your work day. You may also experience low mood (crankiness and emotional swings) and overeat later in the day if you fail to fuel your brain with enough carbohydrate during your work day.

    Lunch packing ideas for work

2. Veggies and fruit:

  • Raw veggies, leftover cooked/grilled veggies, vegetable soup or salad and fresh fruit, frozen berries, canned unsweetened fruit, dried fruit.
  • These offer fibre and health-promoting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. In general, adults should aim to have half of their lunch from veggies and fruit.  
  • Failing to add enough of these to your lunch will likely mean you may fall short by the end of the day which negatively influences health, energy and weight management efforts.

 3. Source of protein:

  • Leftover meat/poultry/seafood, legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, refried beans and more), cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, canned tuna/salmon, hard cooked eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • These provide iron and protein, which are key for sustaining energy and fullness.
  • Failing to add enough protein to your lunch will lead to inconsistent blood sugar levels that feel like you are on a rollercoaster ride, along with cravings and constant hunger through your work day

When is the best time to plan lunch?

While different things work for different people, there are generally 3 options when it comes to lunch meal prep. Which one will work best for you?  

3 Ways to plan lunch based on your meal prep personality:

Option #1: The Weekly Meal Planning Pro

If you are someone that is naturally drawn to lists, systems, planning ahead and keeping very organized, then weekly lunch planning will fit for you. If you already plan your suppers one week at a time then it would make sense to also plan lunches for the week that can incorporate leftovers and planned extras of single foods to enjoy in another way at lunch.lunch planning ideas for work

Option #2: The Night Before Planner

If you struggle with supper planning and find it hard to find the time and organization skills to plan for a few days or a week at a time then plan your lunch the night before, immediately after eating supper while you are still in the kitchen. Important! Don’t wait until the next morning to begin thinking about lunch unless you are a morning person with oodles of time, it is not likely to be a creative time to brainstorm or make decisions when you are rushing out the door.  

Option #3: The Halfway Planner

If you are someone that plans some of your suppers but leaves the others for spontaneity, then using the same philosophy for planning half of your lunches is likely going to work well for you. Aim to plan 3 suppers and 3 lunches for the week and leave the other meals for items to pull from the freezer, a healthy meal out and/or one of the back-up lunches discussed later that you can put together quickly.

What do you mean by a back-up lunch?

In our Calgary nutrition counselling practice, we teach our clients to first nail down a best case scenario that involves packing leftovers, cooking planned extras of one component of the meal to include in your lunch and other useful planning strategies. Then we move on to help our clients brainstorm back-up plans for when things don’t work out.lunch packing ideas for work

A back-up plan is key when:

  • Your life is insanely busy and you simply could not find time to plan and shop with all that you are juggling at home and work
  • Your schedule changes unexpectedly and makes it impossible to execute your meal plan
  • Weekday stress and fatigue impacts motivation to want to make a healthy lunch

All of the dietitians in our practice recommend having a list of back-up meals posted in your home:

  • Make a list of 3-5 back-up lunches you will have on standby at all times in your home
  • Make sure your weekly grocery shopping list always contains the ingredients for your back-up lunches
  • Lunches should be able to be prepared in a short amount of time
  • Lunches should contain 3 things for balance (grains or starches, vegetables and/or fruit and a source of protein)
  • The main cook and the “not-so-good cooks” should know how to make these (do some meal prep or cooking instruction if needed so everyone is on board).

What are some ideas for speedy back-up lunches?

Here are a few ideas to get you started if you are packing lunch in a hurry:  assorted lunch packing ideas

  1. Speedy Eggs: Pack eggs, bread/buns, carrot sticks or frozen veggies for work. At work use a microwave egg cooker and top your bread or toast with eggs and serve with heated frozen veggies or carrot sticks. Enjoy grapes or watermelon on the side.
  2. Mexican Medley:  Pack flour tortillas (fresh or frozen), canned or frozen black beans (or refried beans), grated cheese (kept fresh or frozen), red peppers (fresh or jars of roasted red peppers), frozen corn and canned salsa. Assemble at work and eat cold, or place in a toaster oven and bake as a quesadilla. Enjoy melon or an orange on the side.
  3. Snack Attack: Toss the following into a lunch bag and assemble at work. Pack a protein (Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, leftover meat, chicken, seafood, tofu, hard cooked eggs), fruit (whole fruit to slice and wash at work), raw veggies or salad greens and dressing as well as grains (whole grain crackers or bread).
  4. Breakfast for Lunch: Leftover or pre-made frozen pancakes, waffles or French toast along with frozen mangos or berries (they will thaw by the time you are ready for lunch) and jam or maple syrup. Serve with milk, soy milk, yogurt, dessert tofu or pre-cooked leftover or frozen breakfast sausages.
  5. Seafood Salad: Frozen cooked shrimp (or canned tuna or salmon), pre-washed mixed salad greens, a bottle of your favorite vinaigrette and whole grain rye crackers and cheese. Assemble your salad at work.
  6. Go Nuts! Toss baby cucumbers or a piece of English cucumber into your lunch bag. Also toss in a container of peanut butter or other nut butter, wraps or pita bread, fruit (apple, pear or banana or berries) as well as a small container of coconut and hemp hearts. At work slice up your cucumber and munch on those while you prepare your wrap or pita (spread the nut butter on the wrap or pita or peanut butter and then top with fruit, coconut and hemp hearts and roll).  
  7. Greek Goodness: Toss whole mini cucumbers, peppers and grape/cherry tomatoes into your lunch bag. Also pack feta cheese, olives, leftover cooked chicken or canned drained chickpeas and a Greek salad dressing. Assemble your salad at work and serve with whole grain crackers or couscous, quinoa, rice or barley (all of which you can make ahead and freeze in small portions in the freezer to add to your lunch).Andrea Holweger, Calgary Dietitian on CTV Morning News

Important! Office workplace wellness nutrition tips:

  • If space allows, stash some of these items at work in your office or the kitchen fridge/freezer.  
  • Ask your employer if they would consider adding a blender, toaster oven and microwave to your staff kitchen to encourage healthy lunches for employees.  
  • If fridge space is an issue ask your employer if an additional shared fridge could be purchased or if you can add a small bar fridge to your personal office.
  • Share this resource with your employer: WORKPLACE WELLNESS NUTRITION SCORECARD that may prompt them to think about diverse ways they can encourage healthy eating at work.

 

If you need more help with lunch (or other meal) planning, contact us!
We’re happy to help as part of a nutritional counselling program.

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This