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Weekdays are hectic. We’re all busy with stressful jobs and/or caring for our families, maneuvering the busy city life or tending to a homestead.
But with the right intention there is no excuse not to have a healthy lunch everyday.
Here are some tips to make that healthy lunch happen no matter how busy your days are.
1. Limit Your Choice
You shouldn’t have to think about what to eat for lunch everyday – we’re all too busy for that. Creating habits and routines for the things you need to do everyday alleviates “decision fatigue” and makes you more productive. One example is Steve Jobs wearing the same clothes everyday. And you can do this with your lunch.
Make a plan, and stick to it.
An easy and healthy habit is to have a daily hearty salad at lunch.
Limited? Yes. Boring? Definitely not. Here are some quick photos of some of my lunches the last few weeks. I don’t have to think about it. I make it. I eat it. Done.
2. Follow a Template
So how do I create all this variety?
I follow a simple template that can literally create a brand new meal every single day of the year.
mixed greens + quality protein + healthy fats + extras
Again I’m following a plan – no big decisions and quick to execute. I place a bunch of greens on my plate, add some leftover protein from a previous meal, drizzle some olive oil or homemade dressing, and add whatever already prepared extras I have in the fridge or pantry.
The point of my template is to create a nourishing meal that is full of nutrients and satiating enough to keep satisfied until dinner.
3. Prepare Ahead
You may be thinking, “who has time to make gourmet salads for lunch everyday?”
These salads took less than five minutes to put together – really! And it’s not just because I work from home… check out some pics I took of my lunches when I’m on the go all day.
It still took me less than five minutes to put together and could be done the night before.
What makes this practical is having a well stocked kitchen and some advanced preparation.
Preparation Tips for Healthy Lunches
Buy pre-washed mixes of organic salad greens – available in almost any market.
Or take some time once a week to wash enough greens for the week so you’ll have it ready to go. Use a salad spinner to get your greens really dry and store it wrapped in paper towels, a clean dishcloth, or a large storage container.
Top your greens with quality proteins like hard boiled eggs, fish, chicken, or meat.
Use leftovers from dinner. If you usually don’t have leftovers start cooking more for dinner so you can save some for your lunches. Or prepare ahead once a week. Hard boiled eggs can be boiled up once a week. Grill some chicken breast or burgers to freeze in single size servings (just remember to thaw it out the night before).
For those times when you really run out or don’t have time to defrost, keep canned wild salmon, tuna, and sardines in the pantry. Herring and smoked salmon lasts a while in the refrigerator too.
Do not skip this! You need fats to absorb the nutrients in your greens and help you feel full long enough not to run for the vending machines in the afternoon.
Make a large batch of a simple homemade dressing on your prep day or just quickly drizzle some olive oil and fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar on your salad.
If you’re packing your lunch, put the dressing in a separate container so the greens stay fresh and crisp until you’re ready to eat.
Some other healthy fats you can add include are avocado, olives, raw cheese, nuts and seeds.
Extras are whatever else you have in the fridge that adds variety and extra nutrition to your salad. But not essential if you are too rushed.
One of my favorite “extra” is fermented vegetables. They are super healthy for you and can last for weeks refrigerated.
I also always have a container in my fridge of cut up vegetables; radishes, cucumbers, bell peppers, celery, carrots, jicama, bell peppers, etc… I prepare this about twice a week and add some to my salads.
A great salad making tool is a handheld mandolin. I like to add thinly sliced red onions, radishes, or raw beets for extra crunch and the mandolin makes this really fast.
I prefer glass or stainless steel containers for packing but you don’t need any specialized containers for taking lunch to go. Use whatever you have at home and make it work. You can repurpose glass spice jars to store your dressing in. Some people even pack their salads in mason jars and leave the dressing on the bottom until it’s time to eat.
What other tips can you offer for healthy lunches? What do you like to have for lunch that’s easy to prepare?