Packing a lunch from home often means you’ll enjoy a more nutritious meal, save money, and feel great about doing something good for yourself. If you’re thinking, “That sounds great, but where do I find the time to make lunch?” I’ve got you covered! Here are 10 lunch ideas for busy people, plus a few extra tips on how to plan your lunch.
The suggestions here are perfect for folks who don’t have time to cook. They rely on easy to prepare or ready-to-eat foods. Stock up on the ingredients when you grocery shop, then pack them in a container or two before rushing out the door in the morning. When lunch time rolls around, you’ll have a well balanced meal. Some of the recipes require microwave cooking — those are denoted by an “(M)”.
I didn’t include portion sizes, but aim to include more veggies and fruits than meat/protein. As always, use your hunger and fullness cues to guide your eating.
Ten Lunch Ideas for Busy People
- Smoked Salmon Smorgasbord: Pumpernickel bread, smoked salmon, baby carrots, portioned cheese (Laughing Cow, Baby Del, etc.).
- Rice & Green Beans (M): Combine whole grain microwavable rice (Uncle Ben’s) and frozen green beans and microwave until cooked. Serve with hard cooked eggs and apple.
- PB & Banana Sandwich with Strawberries & Yogurt: For the sandwich: whole grain bread, 100% natural peanut butter (or other nut butter), sliced banana. Serve with strawberries & yogurt cup (I like a moderate-fat yogurt, about 1-3%).
- Loaded Baked Potato (M): Cut a baking potato almost all the way through, microwave until cooked. Top with rinsed canned black beans and shredded cheese. Enjoy an orange for dessert.
- Deli Chicken Salad: Pre-washed lettuce/ spinach, cooked sliced chicken from the deli counter, salad dressing. Serve with a whole wheat bun.
- Vegetarian English Muffin Sandwich: English muffins, sliced cheese, cucumber slices, bell pepper slices.
- Avocado Bagle: Whole grain bagle topped with avocado slices and cottage cheese.
- Hummus with Pita & Veggies: Pita bread, hummus (look for the brand with the lowest sodium content), cut up broccoli, cauliflower, and celery sticks.
- Healthy-ish Soup/ Stew (M): In a bowl, combine your favourite low-sodium canned soup or stew and a couple of handfuls of spinach leaves, or cut up kale/ Swiss chard leaves. Microwave until the soup is hot and veggies are wilted.
- Hearty Oats (M): Microwave oatmeal, ground flax seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon, and water / milk until cooked. Top with kiwi slices and yogurt.
Tips for Planning Your Lunch
- Consider what you will be doing that day. If you anticipate a busy day without much of a chance to eat, bring some snacks to nibble on so you don’t get too “hangry”. Bring a larger meal if you’ll be doing physical activity, and a smaller meal if you’re sedentary.
- Consider where you’ll eat lunch. If you’re going out to a restaurant, browse through their menu ahead of time and look for entrees that contain vegetables and whole grains. If the restaurant participates in Informed Dining, look for meals that are lower in sodium, saturated fat, and higher in fibre.
- Write down your plan. Whether you’re packing a lunch from home, or planning to order the turkey clubhouse on rye with a small soup– having a reminder can help you stick to it!
Packing a lunch is possible in a pinch. Bringing something from home gives you control over what goes into your body, can save you hundreds of dollars in eating out, and is often healthier than choosing restaurant meals. It also gives you an opportunity to use a super-cute lunch bag! Happy eating!