Between deadlines, meetings and that gigantic list of to-do’s, it can be all too easy to slide on over to the vending machine for a speedy lunch at work, while making a mental note to pack a lunch for tomorrow.

But when a day becomes a week and a week a month, we begin to impact productivity, concentration and overall performance.

We’re a time-poor society, with most of us are juggling work, family, relationships and social commitments. But even for the busiest of folk, lunch should be a non-negotiable part of our work day. It provides a pit stop for our body, and a place to refuel so we’re able to zip through the afternoon without crashing in energy levels come 3pm.

Not only will eating a wholesome lunch help us feel more energised - both mentally and physically - but we’ll also experience better weight management, and may even save some money from skipping outside snack-stops and café lunches.

Today we’re chatting through tips for nutritious work lunches! Starting with…

A little planning goes a long way

Making sure your lunch contains each of the following food groups will help your blood sugar levels remain stable into the afternoon, and ensure you’re receiving a good balance of nutrients. Aim for your plate to contain:

  • Around ½ a cup of complex carbohydrate, e.g. kumara, brown rice, pumpkin, legumes or beans, or 1-2 slices grainy breads or 2 brown rice cakes.

  • Good quality protein - aim for a portion around the size of your palm, e.g. fish, chicken, eggs, beef, nuts, tofu, legumes or beans, or dairy.

  • Vegetables - at least two big handfuls, e.g. leafy greens or colourful fresh, tinned or frozen varieties.

  • Healthy fats, e.g. a drizzle of olive oil, ¼ avocado, ¼ cup nuts or seeds, 1-2 tbsp nut butter/pesto/hummus or 2-3 tbsp cheese.

Keep it easy: preparing a healthy lunch at work doesn’t have to be hard

Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  • Two brown rice cakes spread with pesto/hummus, topped with tinned salmon and two big handfuls of rocket. Squeeze overtop with lemon juice.

  • Leftovers! Simply cook a little extra the night before of whatever you’re having and refrigerate for lunch the next day - an economical way to ensure you’re eating healthy the following day.

  • Brown rice (microwavable pots are super quick), mixed with a few tablespoons of flavoured hummus, shredded chicken breast and chopped salad.

  • Butterbean Greek salad: Mix together tinned butterbeans, tomato, cucumber and red onion, and season with olive oil and vinegar.

  • Homemade lentil and vegetable soup. Cook a large pot and freeze portions for speedy lunches.

  • Ryvita crackers topped with hummus, swiss cheese slices and tomato. Serve with salad greens on the side.

  • Two slices of quality grainy bread spread with avocado, topped with sliced tomato, a handful of greens and boiled egg.

  • Chickpea salad, made using tinned chickpeas, tomato, cucumber and spinach, tossed with feta cheese and olive oil.

  • Wedge of frittata (equivalent of two eggs and a serving of veggies) served with a side salad.

  • Brown rice sushi with salad.

  • Quick tuna nicoise salad: leftover boiled potatoes, tinned tuna, boiled egg, chopped tomato, red onion, seasoned with olive oil and vinegar.

Work on your food environment: stock up on supplies at work

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Make sure you have all the fridge and pantry supplies you need to put together a balanced lunch. Bring a supply of easy-to-eat bits and pieces to stash in your desk or in the refrigerator/freezer at work:

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  • Tins of salmon/tuna/chickpeas/butterbeans/lentils.

  • Single portions of soup from home or the supermarket stored in the fridge/freezer.

  • Wholegrain/nutty-seedy crackers or rice cakes in an airtight container.

  • Bags of salad for the fridge.

  • Frozen edamame beans

  • Pots of hummus/pesto for the fridge.

  • Frozen/steam pouches of veggies in the freezer.

  • Container of nuts and seeds.

  • Small bottle of olive oil/vinegar for easy and healthy salad dressing – ditch the processed sugary kinds!

This blog was written especially for our friends at Westpac NZ, who we’re excited to be assisting with their workplace wellbeing this year. It’s thrilling to see a company go the extra mile for their staff!