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Now that we’re all working from home, those corporate kitchens and office-adjacent lunch chains — with $16 salads, Pret A Manger sandwiches, or poke bowls to-go — are a distant weekday memory. In theory, working from home offers endless lunch possibilities, but in practice, planning out what to make for another meal in the middle of the day can fall pretty low on the priority list. I’ve spotted colleagues on Zoom choking down anything from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix bags and energy bars to the remnants of their kids lunches. It’s completely understandable — we’re all just trying to make through another day in this new normal. But the problem with these quick, thoughtless meals is that lunch can be vital for our productivity throughout the day. You might be tempted, given the scheduling conundrum working from home sometimes presents, to reach for sugar-laden energy bars, processed meats filled with chemicals and artificial ingredients that affect our health, or even to skip lunch entirely. In my opinion, these convenient but non-nutritious meals do not contribute to your health, happiness or productivity.
After many conversations with colleagues and dietitians about what to eat when you have back-to-back calls and no time to cook, I’ve compiled a list of some fast, nutrient-packed solutions.
So, WTF should you eat for lunch while you WFH? Below are seven healthy, tasty and easy lunch ideas that can be quickly prepped the night before and take 10 minutes or less. Put your headphones on, take that three hour long conference call, or listen to a podcast while prepping.
Some quick, thoughtful meals
1. Scrambled eggs. They’re high in protein and have good fats (especially if you add leftover meat). Get creative with a spice or two (think chili powder, paprika, nutritional yeast for the “cheesy” effect). You might be impressed! Scrambled eggs are known as the “Breakfast of Champions,” but let’s make it the “Lord of Lunches” too. If you prefer hard-boiled eggs, serve those with protein or over avocado toast.
2. Overnight Oats. There are hundreds of flavor options for overnight oat recipes. If you make these the evening before, all you need to do is crack open the fridge. From peanut butter to pumpkin, here are 50 recipes from a content editor who has covered nutrition extensively for prevention and women’s health.
3. Smoothies. If you are more into smoothies or on the go, you can prep these in advance but take caution, as many people load their smoothies with too much sugar, too many calories and not enough of the fiber, protein and fat that we need.
4. Tuna. It’s high in protein and so versatile. I love the pre-seasoned cans and pouches of low mercury tuna from SafeCatch or Wild Planet. And they also have sardines (don’t knock them until you try them!), salmon and other products. Crack open a bag and put it on bread, over a salad, or eat it with raw vegetables.
5. Loaded sweet potato. No baking necessary. Just wash it, prick it with a fork a few times, microwave it for five minutes (or until it’s soft) and you can open it up and go savory by stuffing it with black beans, cheese or leftover chicken, or go sweet and add peanut butter, almond butter or honey to it. These inexpensive taters are high in fiber, anti-inflammatory, immunity boosting, and satisfying.
6. Potpourri or “snack” plates. This is what I call them anyway. It’s basically a mix of many things, including leftovers and they’re easy and delicious. Try a plate of any of these crackers, cheese, meats, hard-boiled eggs and cut-up veggies. If you want to get fancy, order some figs or dried apricots, or if you love avocado, add half an avocado to the plate with a handful of tortilla chips. Apples, pears, melons or nuts are a nice touch, so long as the plate contains some carbs, some protein, and some fiber.
7. Quinoa, chicken breasts and veggies. Have cooked chicken breasts and quinoa in advance (prep over the weekend or the night before), and then add vegetables. Here’s some quinoa inspiration that ranges from adding pesto to more plant-based bowls with garbanzo beans and roasted veggies.
You can always google to find “quick and easy lunch recipes,” but if you prefer to have the work done for you try something like these.
Below are some nutritious choices that truly taste good from companies I admire. All of these can be found in stores or on Amazon. If you aren’t using Amazon Fresh, Instacart or another online grocery delivery service, I highly recommend that.
Support entrepreneurs with these meal choices
1. Healthier ramen? Yes, it exists. While I may have grown up on Cup-o-Noodles, Vite Ramen is more of a nutritionally-complete ramen. Each packet contains up to 31g of complete protein, 9g of pre-biotic fiber, ALA Omega-3s, and is formulated with a calculated macronutrient and fiber approach, which helps us sustain energy. No deep frying or preservatives and it cooks up in three minutes after your water is boiled.
2. Trying to cut carbs? Jeanne David, founder and CEO of Outer Aisle cut processed carbs from her own diet and was one of the cauliflower carb-swap pioneers back in 2013. A mother of four, Jeanne has been on a mission to help people incorporate more anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic veggies into their diets without making mealtime much of a fuss. Her keto avocado toast takes five to seven minutes and hits the spot. I’m personally a sucker for cauliflower pizza crust.
3. Take the tediousness out of making smoothies. Helen Hall’s Blender Bombs don’t disappoint. The base ingredients of all the Blender Bombs flavors are the same, and packed with superfoods including chia seeds, almonds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, pecans, dates, bee pollen, local honey, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. This energizing spirulina smoothie makes a refreshing lunch.
4. Healthier pre-made burritos? Very few will say no to that. EVOL Foods makes a great burrito as well as breakfast bowls and single serve meals – so good that the small company was acquired by Boulder Foods back in 2013 for $48 million. These also work for those on the go.
5. Chef Jennifer Scism has beaten Mario Batali on Iron Chef which means that her food is at least worth trying. A former NYC restaurateur, Scism co-founded the dehydrated gourmet meal brand, Good To-Go. She offers worldly meals including thai curry, pad thai, bibimbap, and mushroom risotto. She has spent over a year traveling the world, studying local foods, and definitely keeps it interesting for those wanting more of an international flare at lunchtime.
6. If you’re following a Paleo-friendly, Whole30-approved, keto, dairy-free, or gluten-free diet and still want flavor, pick up some of Primal Kitchen Foods’ “Frozen Bowls” and “Skillet Meals.” The founders are good friends and we use their oils, sauces and seasonings at every meal – from salad dressing to mustard to mayo to bbq sauce and even a delicious and guilt-free alfredo sauce. It’s no surprise they sold to Kraft for $200 million.
7. Chips and guac? Oh yes you can! The team at Siete Foods somehow managed to make grain free tortilla chips, cheese sauces, hot sauces and even taco shells that I swear are crispy and taste amazing. They make for excellent “Taco Tuesday” staples and my kids even love their chips.
8. While bars have yet to open around the country, protein bars seem to be more popular than ever. If protein bars are your thing, look for bars with at least 10g of protein, less than 5g of sugar and 3g of fiber. Some of my personal favorites from small companies include plant based IQBAR (truly a brain boosting bar!) and BHUfit Bars. Look to avoid sugar alcohols as those can lead to bloating and digestive issues.
Try a meal subscription
If you’re curious about meal subscriptions that also make for excellent dinners, there are many affordable meal subscription companies to look into. Or why not surprise your team or top executives with a one-week subscription? Entrepreneur recently published a great list of meal delivery companies here or if you’re plant based, here are some options with honest reviews from The Beet.
I encourage you to move the quarantine banana bread to the backseat or weekends, and give some of these quick lunches a try. How we fuel is directly linked to how we perform physically and professionally.