Over the last 4.5 years, I have established a routine that has enabled me to bring my lunch to work about 99% of the time. At least once a week, one of my coworkers stops by my office at lunch time to inquire about the delicious aromas drifting from my office in to the hallway. Usually it’s someone who has just come back from buying lunch who is either disappointed by the lack of healthy choices or frustrated by how much money they spent.
Do you find yourself identifying with my disappointed coworkers? Are you looking to save a little money on your weekly food budget or follow a healthy eating plan? Do you typically buy your lunch at work some or most days of the week?
If you are buying lunch out more often than not, you should give some consideration to bringing your lunch at least a few times a week. If answering yes to any of the above questions is not enough to convince you to start bringing your lunch, keep reading.
Restaurant portions are large. Larger than what most people should be eating in a sitting. This typically means more sodium, more fat, and more calories than if you brought your food from home. Although eating out occasionally can seamlessly fit into a healthy lifestyle, eating out regularly makes it easier to pack on the pounds.
Not only can bringing your lunch from home help you ensure your lunch is healthy but it is also more affordable. Buying lunch out can often cost $10-$15 for one meal. If you buy lunch every day for one week, that’s $50-$75 you’re spending on lunch alone.
If you’re struggling to break your habit of buying lunch daily, start by bringing your lunch two to three times per week. Here are five tips to help you get started:
1. Plan and prepare meals ahead of time. Don’t wait until the morning to pack your lunch. If you oversleep, you’ll be too busy rushing to get ready to take the time to prepare lunch. I take a few minutes each night after dinner to prepare my meals to bring to work the next day. I find this system works best for me, but some people prefer setting aside a few hours on the weekend to prep everything. Experiment with different methods and see what works best for you.
2. Get creative. Eating the same thing every day can often get quite boring. Try reinventing your leftovers. Top a salad with leftover grilled or roasted vegetables. Turn leftover grilled chicken into a healthy chicken salad by mixing with plain Greek yogurt and adding chopped apples and walnuts.
3. Follow the plate method to help plan a balanced lunch. Include a lean protein (such as skinless poultry, fish, lean red meat, beans, tofu), vegetable, and whole grain. Feel free to add in a piece of fruit and low-fat dairy such as Greek yogurt to have with lunch or save for an afternoon snack. These foods provide a mixture of protein and fiber which will help you stay full for the rest of the work day.
4. Keep a list of your favorite healthy lunch ideas. When you are stuck on what to prepare for the week, the list can serve as some inspiration. If you use Pinterest, I also recommend creating a board for lunch ideas. Instagram can also be a great source of inspiration for healthy lunch ideas.
5. Encourage your coworkers to bring their lunches from home, as well. You’ll all be saving money, and you can exchange creative lunch ideas to help each other stay on track. Your coworkers will be less likely to try convince you to ditch the lunch you brought from home to head out for lunch, if they are on board.
Now that you’re ready to get started on bringing your lunch to work, make sure you also have a way to transport your food from home to work. A reusable lunch box or bag and good tupperware containers are worth the investment. There are even bento-style boxes such as Yumbox that can help with portion control when packing different ingredients. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator at work, make sure to get an insulated lunch box and add an ice pack to keep it cold enough until lunch.
Be sure to check back on Friday because I’ll be sharing some of my favorite “bring to work” lunch ideas.
Do you typically bring your lunch to work? If so, what are some of your favorite lunch ideas?