The habit of taking food to the office is one of the most useful if you pack a lunch box correctly. It is cheaper than going to the canteen or cafeteria, and less time-consuming.
It’s up to you to make your office lunch healthy, too – here’s what you need to do it.
Make a menu for the week
The most correct principle of preparing lunches in the office is to make a menu. This will help to assess in advance what products you need to buy, and what you already have at home, (for example, vegetable oil, cereals, eggs and spices.
It is most convenient to choose two or three dishes and alternate them during the week. For example, a salad with oven-baked or grilled chicken, whole-grain bread sandwiches with tuna, stewed beans with meat.
If you doubt that as part of a proper diet you can do without a hot meal, then do not doubt: by and large, the body does not make a difference what temperature foods to get.
It will heat or cool it down to the right temperature. In this sense, whole-grain tuna sandwiches are a healthy lunch – more info here.
It is not necessary to eat soup for lunch, either; there is no official medical recommendation on this matter.
Of course, if you want to lose weight, it’s not a bad option, because the caloric content of first courses is lower in principle. But if you can’t stand soups and are afraid that the container will spill on the way to work, don’t bother.
It is important to include fruits and vegetables in the office lunch: according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, adults are supposed to eat about 400 g (five servings) of fruits and vegetables a day, except for potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, sugar beets and other starchy root crops (corn, beans and carrots are allowed to include in the mentioned 400 g).
Lunch is a great opportunity to eat at least some of the required amount.
Use the container properly
If you want your lunch to be hot, you’ll have to use the office microwave (it’s safe for your health – you don’t have to worry).
The main question is whether to heat the food in the container or use a crockpot.
There is a perception that chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates can go into food from some types of plastic. The European Food Safety Authority characterizes these substances as safe components because they are quickly broken down by the body, but a number of scientists doubt this: they cite studies confirming that the substances potentially increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity. In short, modern science has no definitive answer.
Some manufacturers indicate whether food in their containers can be heated in a microwave oven. You can rely on these recommendations.
Watch the shelf life
Pre-prepared lunches to the office save a lot of time: no need to go to the canteen, stand in lines (this time can be spent on reading, an easy walk and work, after all).
At the same time we do not advise to pack on Sunday evening and prepare containers for five days in advance: the products may not survive up to the date and spoil unnoticed, and you may lose your lunch or, in the worst case scenario, get poisoned.
Each product has its own terms and conditions of storage – and they need to be considered if you’re going to keep a container for a few days. We have already talked about how to store fruits and vegetables, milk and eggs, meat and fish.
It’s best to prepare each meal the day before, but if you don’t have time or are lazy to do it, don’t keep the container in the refrigerator longer than a couple of days. This is a general rule of thumb.
What foods are better not to take to the office
In the office should not take not only harmful products, but also those that will irritate colleagues. We strongly advise against smelly fatty soups, liver (by-products) and fried fish: if the kitchen is small and the ventilation system is faulty, the smell in the office kitchen will be extremely unpleasant. Colleagues will not be happy.
If you want liver and fish, eat them cold, in salads, pates, on sandwiches. As for soups, light vegetable soups or puree soups don’t smell as bad – take them to work.
In general, when preparing a healthy lunch menu, follow the general WHO recommendations: include vegetables and fruits in recipes; cut fat intake to 30% of your total energy intake (saturated fats should be less than 10% and trans fats less than 1%); cut free sugars to 5-10% of your total energy intake; cut salt intake to less than 5 g a day.
Finally, evaluate the overall caloric content of your office diet: it should not be the only or main meal of the day. Ideally, if your work schedule allows you to eat several times, in small portions.
What to snack on
Snacking is an important part of the work day. The brain actively eats calories during the thought process, which means you need to keep it going.
Here are some suitable foods for office snacks:
- Nuts: do not overdo it, because all nuts are caloric, but they are a source of fatty acids, rich in proteins, vitamins E, B6, selenium, iron and zinc (eat no more than 30 g a day);
- Bananas – a source of phosphorus and fiber; olives: do not overdo it, because canned olives are too salty, but they are rich in vitamins A and E and help recovery (best – eat no more than 8-10 pieces a day);
- chopped carrots with a drop of vegetable oil, a source of carotene, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other vitamins;
- dried fruits: as in the case with olives, do not overdo it (because of the sweetness), but if your work involves intellectual work, there is no better snack (per day eat no more than six pieces of dried fruits).
- It is not so difficult to form a habit and, having turned an office lunch into a kind of ritual, to eat tasty and varied daily. It is definitely cheaper than business lunches at a nearby cafe and, if you do it right, healthier and tastier. Go into the new year with healthy habits and everything will work out.