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A Dietitian’s Secret to Packing Healthy and Affordable Lunches

November 18, 2014 by Sophia Baker-French, Registered Dietitian

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In the past month, many of my friends have been talking about how hard they find it to eat healthy at work. A teacher friend told me that he doesn’t have time to make lunch; a co-worker said he doesn’t have time to eat lunch; and a friend in construction told me she is spending too much money buying lunch. As you can imagine…my dietitian ears perked up.Just because I’m a dietitian and my partner cooks for a living, doesn’t mean we love spending time making lunches. My partner and I have come up with a few solutions that keep our work lunches easy, tasty and affordable. As a result, we are lunch-packin’ regulars!

Lunch principles we live by:

  1. We share cooking duties. When my husband cooks dinner, I make the lunches and vice versa.
  2. We make extra dinner. When serving dinner, we dish-up lunch portions in reusable microwave-safe containers, and put them in the fridge for the next day. For information on cooling your food safely, check out HealthLink BC’s Health File “Food Safety: Easy Steps to Make Food Safe."
  3. On our days off, we make extra food and freeze individual portions. These are easy to grab-and-go.
  4. While making dinner, we take an extra five minutes to wash, chop and pack up veggies for lunch and work snacks.
  5. We keep easy-to-pack fruit on hand. My fall favorites are apples, plums, and pears. In winter, I eat a lot of no-sugar added apple sauce.

Here are a few dinner dishes that make for yummy reheated lunches:

  • Any kind of soup. At our house this might be chicken and kale or carrot lentil soup. I pack a piece of whole grain bread to round out the lunch. See Dean’s blog “Kitchen Sink Soup” for other soup ideas.
  • Veggies and pasta. Check out Andrea’s blog “Picnic Baskets Yogi Bear Would Be Proud Of” for some great ideas.
  • Frittata. I love making these with yam, kale and garlic or we use Dean’s “Frittata to Go” recipe.
  • Andrea’s blog “How to Simplify Cooking” has other great simple dinner ideas.

Here are a few hearty cold lunch ideas that don’t require reheating to be delicious:

  • Deconstructed sandwiches. Pack the ingredients and prepare the sandwiches at work. Soggy sandwich problem solved! We use leftover baked chicken or turkey for an extra tasty (and affordable) treat.
  • Picnic “tapas”. We pack our favorite veggies, fruit, a meat or meat alternative such as nuts or baked tofu, and whole grain crackers and cheese into small containers. Enjoy picnic style and make your co-workers oh so jealous.
  • Salmon salad on a bed of greens. I use canned salmon without salt, lower-fat Greek yogurt instead of mayo and add sliced apple for sweetness in my recipe.
  • Grain salad. These make a great one-dish meal. One of my favorites is quinoa, kale and feta tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. I add toasted almonds and raisins for extra fuel and flavour.

Do you have any favorite tricks for easy, tasty and affordable work lunches?


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