You’re probably lucky if you had enough time this morning to wait for your coffee to cool down sufficiently before chugging it and dashing out the door. So packed home-made lunches rarely make it on to the A.M. train to work, as commuters quietly suck on their first-degree tongue burns while lost in quiet thought and mentally preparing for the hectic day ahead.
The problem is that typical lunch take-out orders average a whopping 840 calories per meal, says a 2013 British Medical Journal study. And even if you decide to just order the salad, many restaurant salad dressings have enough unhealthy oils, additives and calories to rival a Big Mac, while nibbling on plain salad greens will simply have you running to the nearest junk food office vending machine an hour later when intense hunger hits again.
Taking just an hour or two out of your weekend to prep some easy, healthy, delicious make-ahead lunches for the entire week ahead can have a major impact on your weight loss results. Healthier, lighter and satisfying lunches are also excellent for avoiding mid-afternoon crashes and overeating binges, boosting your energy levels, your mental alertness and your mood for the rest of your day.
Take a few minutes each night to prep your lunch and make it grab-n-go ready with sealable baggies, lidded storage containers, a thermos and a stylish travel cooler bag. Learn more about how to make easy healthy travel-friendly meals here.
This way, taking a healthy home-made lunch with you to work every morning becomes easier and faster than the time it takes your hot coffee to melt off your inner mouth flesh every morning.
And, as luck would have it, the feeling in your tongue almost always conveniently returns by midday, just in time to enjoy the fruits of all your labor in creating a delicious, healthy, satisfying and responsibly-packed weight-loss lunch to happily fuel the rest of your day.
Vegetable Quiche Muffins
Bake these in a 12-cup muffin tin and refrigerate for the week. Pack 3 quiche muffins with a small green side salad for healthy, filling lunch meal.
4 large eggs, whisked
2/3 cup low-fat milk
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 package frozen spinach, drained
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
½ cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ tsp dried chives
¼ tsp dried dill
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin by spraying with oil or by lining with paper muffin liners.
On the stove, heat oil in a pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Toss in the mushrooms, bell peppers and broccoli and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and spinach and sauté for 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives, dill and spices. Stir in the sautéed veggies, and spoon the egg veggie mixture into the muffin cups so that each baking cup is mostly full (leave a bit of room at the top for rising). Sprinkle a bit more chives, dill, salt and pepper on top of each filled cup.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the eggs are set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow them to cool, store in a large container and refrigerate for up to 4 or 5 days.
Nutrition Facts per serving (3 cups): 132 calories/6g total fat (1g saturated fat)/10g total carbs (3g dietary fiber)/11g protein
Vegan Chili Bowl
This hot comfort dish is loaded with vegan protein, fiber and super nutrients, and it re-heats beautifully. Make a big pot of this chili on Sunday, and on work-day mornings, stick it on the stove to heat up while you jump into the shower and get ready for the day. Then simply spoon the heated chili into a thermos, pop it in your bag and head out the door.
Find this mouth-watering chili recipe here.
Tuna Avocado Pita Pocket
Canned tuna is a cheap, easy and incredibly lean source of protein and healthy omega-3s, and it takes just a couple minutes to whip some up into a pita pocket with a few tasty toppers the night before a work day. Mayo, high in saturated fat, is swapped out for creamy avocado, which is high in healthy fatty acids and vital energizing nutrients, while also incredibly filling and satisfying.
1 whole wheat pita, cut down the middle to form two pockets
1 can white albacore flaky tuna packed in water, rinsed and drained
1 stalks celery, finely diced
¼ red onion, chopped finely
½ ripe avocado, mashed
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
4 fresh tomato slices
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
1 handful baby spinach leaves
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mashed avocado with the lemon juice, cilantro, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, stirring well. Stir in the celery, onion and tuna, combining well.
Carefully open the pita pockets and line the insides with spinach leaves, alfalfa sprouts and tomato. Spoon the tuna avocado mix into each pocket, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge in a brown paper bag for work the next day.
Nutrition Facts: 402 calories/14g fat (2g saturated fat)/29g total carbs (10g dietary fiber)/30g protein
Mouth-watering Minestrone Stew
This classic soup is thickened up with so many delicious, healthy and wholesome ingredients that it takes on the consistency – and tummy filling factor – of a stew.
Make a big pot on Sunday, and on work-day mornings, stick it on the stove to heat up while you jump into the shower and get ready for the day. Then ladle the heated stew into a thermos, pop it in your bag and head out the door.
Find this savory minestrone recipe here.
Maple-Miso Glazed Salmon Salad in a Jar
Miso paste gives this salad a major probiotic boost, linked with improved digestion, weight loss and general health.
To prep for this salad, boil the rice and chop up the veggies on the weekend or the night before and set aside in your fridge. Broil the salmon fillet on the weekend to use more conveniently throughout the week, or you can simply save time by using prepared canned salmon instead.
When storing the salad in your Mason jar, always start by pouring the dressing into the bottom of the Mason jar first. Then layer in the rice, the salmon, the edamame, the peanuts and carrots. On top of that, layer in the cucumber (so that the cucumber layer isn’t in contact with the liquid at the bottom) and the greens, and screw the cap on tightly. When you’re ready to eat the salad, give the capped Mason jar a vigorous shake to coat everything with the dressing and to toss all the veggies, then grab your fork and enjoy!
4 Tbsp short-grain brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
¼ Tbsp soy sauce
¼ Tbsp sesame oil
¼ Tbsp rice vinegar
¼ Tbsp lime juice
¼ Tbsp pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp white miso paste
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
4 oz. salmon fillet
2 Tbsp cup shelled edamame
½ large carrot, shredded
¼ large cucumber, diced
1 Tbsp dry-roasted peanuts
2 cups kale, torn into bite-size pieces
Preheat your broiler. Place the salmon skin-side down on a broiler-safe pan.
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, miso paste and maple syrup. Brush some of this mixture over the salmon, reserving the rest. Broil the salmon for about 8 minutes, or until cooked through. Then break the salmon fillet up into large flakes with a fork (if using prepared canned salmon, skip these steps).
Add the sesame oil, rice vinegar, lime juice and ginger into the bowl with the remaining miso mixture, whisking everything together very well. Pour this dressing into the bottom of a Mason jar, and then layer in the rice, then the salmon, then the edamame, then the peanuts and then the carrots. On top of that, layer in the cucumber (so that the cucumber layer isn’t in contact with the liquid at the bottom) and pack up the rest of the jar tightly with the greens, screwing the cap on tightly. When you’re ready to eat the salad, give the capped Mason jar a vigorous shake to coat everything with the dressing and to toss all the veggies.
Nutrition Facts: 389 calories/14g total fat (1g saturated fat)/28g total carbs (4g dietary fiber)/37g protein
Cashew Quinoa Salad with Sweet Sriracha Dressing
You can conveniently jar this sweet and spicy protein-packed salad as well, by placing the dressing at the bottom of the jar, layering the nuts, beans and quinoa on top, and then layering in the fresh veggies and greens last, so that the vegetables don’t make contact with the dressing until you shake the jar right before eating.
Get the recipe for this out-of-this-world lunch dish here.