©iStockphoto.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
1. Beyond the brown bag
Having proper lunchtime gear on hand will inspire you to pack a meal and ensure your food stays intact and appetizing until you're ready to eat it. Bento boxes and salad keepers are perfect for any type of healthful fare, and individual fruit holders prevent your produce from bruising en route. There are even beverage containers specifically designed for enjoying smoothies on the go!
2. Make a plan
Meal planning is a great way to keep the chaos of dinner hour to a minimum and can be a lifesaver for busy families. So why stop there? Planning your lunches offers many of the same benefits and also resolves one of the most common dilemmas of BYO lunching: It takes too much effort to bring a healthful lunch to work every day. But by organizing a week's worth of lunches at a time, you won't have to start the planning process from scratch every morning. Bonus: You'll cut down on the number of times you run to the grocery store each week.
3. Piggyback your prep
Now that you have a plan and all the right apparel, it's time to get cooking. Even this step can be simplified by prepping multiple meals at once. Chopping vegetables for a weeknight stir-fry? Prepare extras as snacks and store them in single-serve containers. Grilling chicken breasts on the weekend? Make a couple more pieces to slice and serve atop a spinach salad for a healthful, protein-packed lunch. Batch cooking is another great way to take advantage of prep time: Suppertime soups, stews and pastas can taste even better the next day, so make plenty.
4. Snack well
It's important to have the right snacks on hand during the long breaks between meals, otherwise you'll find yourself heading straight for the temptation of a sugary, fat-laden treat. Sarah Remmer, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, recommends a combination of fruit or veggies, plus protein: A banana and low-fat yogurt, or a homemade granola bar, will keep blood sugar levels stable and help you maintain your focus throughout the day. A latte with low-fat milk or a handful of almonds also make good choices, though Remmer cautions snackers to limit their intake to no more than ¼ cup or â…“ cup of nuts per day, as the calories add up quickly.
5. Leave your desk
Hunger isn't the only reason we eat; boredom and frustration can also compel us to reach for a snack. But the next time you find yourself stumped by a problem, feeling sleepy, or just in need of a break, shake off the cobwebs with a walk. Even a lap or two around the office can direct your energy away from snacking, with the added benefit of reducing stress while increasing your energy level.
6. No lunch? Don't panic!
There will be times when there's no chance of leaving the house with a healthful lunch in hand. When this happens, your choices (and budget) may be limited, but there are still ways to eat out without pigging out. Remmer says to forgo fast food and go where the food is freshest. Sushi—minus tempura and creamy sauces—is a good option; make-your-own sandwiches or wraps are also ideal. Remmer suggests opting for whole grain bread, lean meat (such as turkey breast), loads of veggies, and a mustard or vinaigrette dressing. In a pinch, a latte and a piece of fruit with crackers and peanut butter will do.
7. Make it a group effort
It's not easy to go it alone when it comes to making a lifestyle change. Encouraging coworkers to adopt healthier habits will guarantee success for everyone. Instead of the usual cake, suggest fruit trays for birthday celebrations and other special occasions, or organize a homemade potluck once a month. Try to make the lunchroom a junk-free zone void of the communal cookies that can tempt you when hunger hits.
If you want to stay in shape while on the job, check out how these businesses added workouts to their office routine.