Office lunches – beyond the sandwich

by Ali on August 20, 2008

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with lunch, eating a succession of sandwiches throughout the week – often with the same type of bread and the same filling each day. Whether you take in a packed lunch or buy something from the nearest shop, sandwiches can start to get boring.

But what alternatives are there which are just as easy to eat in the company breakroom, or in the local park? Here’s a few which I’ve eaten in the office:

Pasta salad

One of my favourite non-sandwich lunches is a homemade pasta salad. It’s easy to throw together in the morning, and transports well in a Tupperware box. Just pop it in the fridge at work and enjoy at lunch time. (Don’t forget your fork.)

Most supermarkets have some pasta salads alongside their sandwiches; keep an eye out for low-fat varieties. Even the standard ranges tend to be fairly healthy – pick chicken, prawns or tomato-sauce based options.

Rice salad

A rice salad is another easy lunch-time meal, and can often consist simply of last night’s leftovers: risotto or paella tastes just fine cold! (Just a reminder: never reheat cooked rice, and keep it properly refrigerated.) Brown rice is a great healthy option if you’re making your salad from scratch.

Again, you can find a wide range of ready-to-eat rice salads in supermarkets: look out for ones with plenty of vegetables or beans.

Soup

If you have access to a microwave at work, soup is a great option. (Some soups are also designed to be eaten cold.) Buy fresh soup if you can – or make your own and bring it to work in an airtight container – as tinned soups tend to be higher in sugar and lower in actual vegetables.

A bowl and spoon helps here, but if you’re lacking these, a big mug is just as good. Try a crusty wholemeal roll with your soup, or a few crispbreads.

Stir-fry

One of my favourite lunches is cold noodle stir-fry; the flavours come out best when it’s been in the fridge for a few hours. This is also a great lazy option – cook extra stir-fry the night before, then pop the leftovers into a leak-proof Tupperware box in the fridge.

All you need to do in the morning is remember to pick it up!

Alternatives to bread

Sometimes, you don’t have to depart too far from the concept of a sandwich in order to get a decent change. How about switching your usual two slices of bread for:

  • A bagel (low fat cream cheese and smoked salmon works well)
  • Crispbreads (cottage cheese, hummous or guacamole are good toppings)
  • Rice cakes (again, cottage cheese complements these nicely)
  • Tortilla wraps (fill with salad and lean protein like ham or chicken)
  • Pitta bread (stuff with prawns and lettuce)

A monotonous diet often equals a failed diet, so pick a day each week (perhaps Fridays?) to take in a “different” lunch and make your midday meal something to look forward to.

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