Skip lunch and you’re doing yourself a disservice. Not only will you probably end up snacking on convenience foods (read crisps, popcorn, chocolate and the odd apple to balance it out), but you’ll send your metabolism skewwhiff in the process. Making a habit of swerving your midday munchies means your insides will start turning to your muscles for fuel rather than fat, which is no good if you want to stay trim either. Then there’s the fact it’ll probably leave you feeling grumpy and stressed… all undesirables.
And anyway, we think lunch should be the highlight of your 9-to-5—a little mouth party in between the monotony of meetings, emails and deadlines. If you know you’ve got a hectic week coming up, packed lunches are your stomach saviours. And they don’t have to take hours of legwork. Or be the same meal every day. Or be a bland salad or sandwich.
Scroll down for some healthy lunchbox recipes that take minutes to make and will give Pret’s Cheese ’n’ Pickle a run for its money…
A twist on the Greek salad using mozzarella pearls as opposed to feta means no messy hands from crumbling. That’s how lazy we’re talking here. You will have to chop the avocado and cucumber, but you can tear up the basil and drop the cherry tomatoes in whole. Season and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Transfer food from plate to mouth.
Another protein-packed lunch. Drain your chickpeas, and then stir in some spring onion, turmeric, garlic, fresh mint, cumin, chilli peppers, sesame seeds and olive oil. In a separate bowl, mash up an avocado with some lime, tomatoes, spring onion, basil and green pepper. Or buy a tub of guacamole. Works just as well. Using romaine lettuce as your boats, dollop on avocado, and top with chickpeas. Use the whole can of chickpeas, and then Tupperware what’s left over, and repeat the exercise in a day’s time.
Shredded chicken, sliced mushrooms, grated carrot, a handful of spinach, spring onions, crushed ginger, chilli flakes, coriander and Chinese five-spice powder is all that’s needed for this Instagram-friendly feed. Shove them all in a jar, and then add boiling water until it’s an inch from the top. Stir, let the flavours infuse for five, and then squeeze in some lime.
If you’re a fan of the sweet-and-salty flavour combo, you’ll be all over this easy-peasy lunch. Baby spinach, red apple, green apple, pecan halves, sliced avo, dried cranberries and a can of drained mandarin oranges. Combine, and add balsamic dressing. You can add some feta cheese if you want to take your lunch to next-level tastiness.
Yes, we said pizza. Play Papa John and use a wrap as your base. Smear on some tomato paste or passata, sprinkle over some dried Italian seasoning or fresh basil, and then add your topping. This one’s turkey, but the options are endless. Shredded mozzarella on top, and then roll it into a handy wrap. Eat it cold, or—wait for it—whack it in the microwave for 60 seconds for authenticity.
No one’s judging if you buy precooked, perfect consistency quinoa (we like Merchant Gourmet’s grab bags)—it’s the perfect protein base. Chop up some red pepper, courgette, aubergine, spring onions and tomatoes; dollop on a blob of harissa; and whack on a baking tray in the oven for 20. Once they’re all shrivelled and juicy, stir into your quinoa. We’d call that a job well done.
Go to the shops, and buy a bag of shredded kale, some tortilla wraps, grated Parmesan, Caesar dressing and can of wild salmon. Place all ingredients into a large bowl, mix with a fork to break up the salmon, and then assemble your wraps.
There’s nothing as comforting as a baked potato, but they’re not that appetising when they’ve been getting sweaty in a plastic lunchbox for hours on end. Which is where sweet potatoes scoop the prize. Slice, drizzle with oil, season with chilli and salt, and then grill on either side along with some garlic. Transfer to a plate or lunch box, and tear some mint leaves on top. It’s healthy and nutritious, and feel free to add some grated cheese on top, too.
A simple veggie scramble popped in a pita bread is a great way to use up the leftovers in your fridge. Make sure to transport the scramble in a pot, and pop into the pita pocket just before serving because no one wants soggy bread.
Ringing in at under 250 calories, this is one speedy success story. Oil, garlic and shrimp go in the pan. Fry for five. Squeeze in lemon, grind salt and pepper, throw in some frozen peas, asparagus and dill, and wait for the flavours to infuse. That’s it. If you need more of a fill, just add it to a bed of lettuce or stir into some rice.
Chop up a sweet potato, or cash in on the ready-peeled, precubed stuff that saves time and arm ache. Coat with oil, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt, and roast it in the oven. While that’s cooking nicely, finely slice the kale, massage in some olive oil, and then throw in some coriander. Chuck the tots on top of the kale once done, add some chopped pecans and dried cranberries on top, and you’ve got a well-balanced, satisfying feed in front of you.
While your rice is boiling away, sprinkle some premixed Cajun spice over some chicken breasts, and grill alongside peppers of any and every colour and a roughly chopped onion. Once the juices are all flowing, and it all looks a little charred, drain the rice, add your grilled goods and chop some avo on top. Season with a squeeze of lime and coriander to top it off. Now all you need is a margarita!
Pour some tamari and sesame oil over your tofu, and fry it off while you’re boiling up some rice (do a big portion to use over the week in cold salads—don’t reheat it). Grate some carrot and beetroot, slice some radishes, spring onions and cucumber, and chuck in an avocado for good measure. Mix it all together, garnish with sesame seeds if you’re feeling fancy, and reach for the chopsticks. Itsu who?
Roast the sweet potato, diced carrots and some red onion in a baking tray, and cover with olive oil and chilli flakes. Open a pack of precooked lentils, and make the call if you want them hot or cold. Transfer the veg on top, and crumble over some feta and rocket. Finish with lashings of balsamic vinegar. M&S, eat your heart out.
Opening Image: Swiish