Winter Warmers: Hearty and Healthy Office Lunches
Your office might be cosy and warm, but when it comes to midweek lunches, who wants a cold miserable salad to match the weather outside? Answer: nobody.
Your food choices are vital to your overall health and wellbeing, so it certainly pays to re-evaluate your midweek office lunches. Simply packing sandwiches every day becomes boring while shop-bought lunches are costly, not to mention the high levels of sugar, salt and preservatives often hidden in the list of ingredients.
Our advice is to change your way of thinking and start planning ahead. Double up on evening meals or batch-cook on weekends and set aside portions for midweek lunches (it’s best to chill or freeze your portions as soon as possible - otherwise it’s too tempting to go back for second helpings!)
To help your meal-prep efforts, make sure you have plenty of air-tight containers in different sizes. If you’re taking a dressing, back it in a separate box for freshness. You might also want to take a handful of unsalted nuts and dried fruit for a mid-morning snack.
It takes a little more time and effort to prepare healthy lunches for the week ahead. So why bother?
Top of the list is your wellbeing. Bread sandwiches filled with butter or mayonnaise and processed meat or cheese, alongside packets of crisps and sugary snacks, add high levels of carbohydrates, saturated fat and sugar to your daily diet. Combined with sedentary office-based work and low levels of physical activity, it’s all too easy to gain weight.
This type of diet and lifestyle doesn’t just pile on the pounds, it also puts your body at risk from longer-term health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and conditions such as diabetes. This is especially problematic in winter when limited daylight and bad weather reduces our outdoor activities.
Happily, there are plenty of options to help transform the humble packed lunch into a hearty yet healthy meal that will help keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
Hearty and Healthy Office Lunch Ideas
Chilli con carne, lasagne or moussaka.
Traditionally made with red meat, you can swap this for a lighter alternative such as minced turkey or shredded cooked chicken (ideal after a Sunday roast).
For a vegetarian or vegan lunch, use chunky roast vegetables such as cubed courgette, sweet potato or butternut squash. There’s no need to add rice if the chili has kidney beans or plenty of veg, and in place of carb-heavy lasagne pasta sheets, try using grilled slices of aubergine instead.
Grilled chicken and veggie wrap (dairy free).
Wraps are an easy on-the-go option and don’t take much preparation. Simply take your fillings in a container and load into your wraps as soon as you’re ready to eat (a few seconds in the microwave makes for a warming lunch). There are plenty of fillings that work well with wraps such as roasted pepper, courgette, mushroom, tomatoes... the list goes on. For an extra kick, rub your veggies and/or chicken with your favourite spice, such as Cajun or paprika, before roasting.
A wonderful traditional courgette-and-tomato based meal that’s versatile and easy to make. Delicious with a sprinkling of parmesan or cheddar on top. You can also add some crispy bacon lardons for a meatier feast.
Squash and spinach fusilli.
When you’re in a rush or waiting for payday, pasta is an easy low-cost solution. This version is colourful, flavourful, and comes topped with nuts for a little extra bite.
Salmon with brown rice.
You can’t beat lime or lemon for a dash of natural full-on flavour. And while we normally recommend avoiding office lunches containing strong-smelling fish (for the benefit of your coworkers!) cold, pre-cooked salmon isn’t too heavy on the nose.
In this recipe, you can switch the rice for an alternative such as lentils, cous cous, lightly crushed chickpeas or quinoa.
Honey and mustard slow cooker chicken.
Slow cooker meals are easy and fuss-free. While browning the chicken adds extra flavour and texture, it’s not essential, and this recipe works just as well without (you’ll reduce your fat intake and save on washing-up too).
Throw in some chopped vegetables of your choice, such as carrots, leeks and broccoli, and enjoy a warming lunch with plenty of broth. Again, the creme fraiche in this recipe is optional - leave it out if you want to reduce your fat intake.
A staple of every office lunch and a wonderful way to warm yourself up. But in place of tinned soup with high levels of salt and sugar, make your own with your favourite ingredients.
Whizz your creation in a food processor for a tasty smooth soup, or leave chunky for a hearty broth-like lunch.