Five Steps To A Better Lunch

One of the most frequent requests I get from readers is about how we can simplify lunchtime. In the middle of your busy work/school/groundhog day, you often don’t have a whole lot of time to get fancy and make an elaborate recipe. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend $10 on a salad or hit the drive-through for something that will leave you hungry an hour later. With a tiny bit of planning, you’ll save precious time and money and ensure you’re filling yourself up with nourishing, good-tasting food.

Five Steps To A Better Lunch.jpg


1. Invest in some good containers. When you’re commuting to work in the morning, the last thing you want to worry about is how to get last night’s Thai curry off your skirt (this has happened to me one too many times). I’m a big fan of the Klip It To Go line (available at The Container Store), which doesn’t leak and is fitted with grooves to store reusable utensils. And remember: the ice pack is your friend. Use a rubber band to attach one to your tupperware for your commute, especially if it’s summer.

2. Pack it up the night before. Okay, so we all tell ourselves we’re going to do this, but somehow we end up running around the next morning, bleary-eyed, grabbing random things from the fridge on our way out the door and hoping it’ll all come together as “lunch.” Friends, instead of trying to psych yourself up about a can of tuna and an orange, take 10 minutes while you’re making dinner. Make extra of whatever you’re eating and put it in a box. Bam! Lunch is done.

Get creative with leftovers! Transform last night’s dinner into an exciting lunch.

pizza lunch.jpg Brown rice tortilla “pizza” with tomato sauce, Italian Butter Beans, parmesan; side salad with swiss chard, red peppers, red wine vinegar + olive oil

lunch plate.jpg Whole wheat bun with soy cheddar + blueberry goat cheese; arugula with rice wine vinegar; tomato soup

I often like to serve leftovers over greens; either heated up or cold, a dish can taste totally different when mixed with fresh lettuce or kale.

leftovers over greens.jpg Gingery Red Lentils & Rice over steamed kale, topped with coconut and currants

3. Satisfy your taste buds. I find meals the most satisfying when they have many different flavors and textures. I often make “sample plates” with small portions of a lot of different things.

lunch plate.jpg Spinach, roasted brussels sprouts w/ tahini sauce, steamed squash, pita chips, toast, scrambled eggs, blueberry goat cheese

Crunchy foods, like roasted vegetables and pita chips, take longer to chew and help you remember to slow down instead of inhaling your meal.

quesadilla plate.jpg Quesadilla with sautéd mushrooms + peppers, spinach, black beans + blueberry goat cheese; Chobani plain yogurt (i.e. “sour cream”) and avocado; side salad with spinach, red peppers, rice wine vinegar

4. Don’t forget about the “kitchen sink.” Giant salads are my favorite things to have for lunch, for several reasons.

IMG_1038.JPG Mama Pea’s Thai Crunch Salad

  • 1) They use up leftovers! As stated above, you can pretty much throw anything- that hasn’t passed its expiration date, of course- over greens and call it a salad.
  • 2) Fiber, fiber, fiber! We all need it, but it does take your body some time to break it down digest, so do yourself a favor and make lunch your fiber-heavy (read: lots ‘o veggies) meal so it doesn’t keep you up at night.
  • 3) They’re nutrient-dense. I often base my social plans around the dinner hour, which can take me anywhere from cocktails to pizza to ice cream (and often all three). By making sure I get my veggies in during the day, I don’t have to worry that I’m going to get scurvy ;-)

kitchen sink.jpg Spinach salad with grape tomatoes, marinated gigantic beans (from Whole Foods’ antipasti bar), steamed butternut squash, roasted brussels, tahini sauce;  Roasted Eggplant Hummus with pita chips

5. Lunch dessert is always a good idea. Even if you just have a piece of fresh fruit, end your midday meal on a sweet note.

IMG_1316.JPG Mini fudge cake with Chobani + tangerine lemon curd

Today, after my yoga class, I’m going to have a mini quesadilla (black bean hummus + cheddar) and kale salad. Cheesy, nutritious, satisfying. Meal planning only takes a few extra moments, folks, and will save you morning stress and lunch despair.

Save the crazy for the bars… you deserve it.

What does weekday lunch look like for you?

20 comments to Five Steps To A Better Lunch

  • Excellent post. I just did what you noted above (threw together a quickie lunch right before jetting out the door). What I normally do? I cook a big dish or two on Sundays that I can eat throughout the week. I place them into small containers so I can just grab and go. Or, I put them in one big container and take that to work on Monday so it’s there all week.

  • my lunch ALWAYS composes either dinner leftovers, frozen veggies with meat or fish, a piece of fruit & often raw almonds or cashews. i’m also a big fan of packing hard boiled eggs, just leave the shell on and crack when ready to eat! i posted my sardine ideas today too :)

  • Planning ahead is totally key. I believe in making big batches and storing it up in containers. That little pizza sounds like a fabulous idea

  • Jessica

    thanks for the tips! your lunches always look so gorgeous, I love the bright colors :)

  • thinkpositively

    Thanks for the Container Store info–having something other than a plastic bag for saucy things is critical.

  • Great post with so much helpful advice!
    My weekday lunches are almost always some kind of salad. They’re easy to pack and keep me full all afternoon.

  • Great post! I’m a salad and soup girl most of the time but I also love those snacky plates with a few different things. I know what you mean about tupperware being essential, I’ve had far too many spils in my bag!

  • breadnwithit

    Beautiful photos.

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