Many hard working Americans lead an insanely fast-paced life, struggling to find the time to balance work, family and life in general, let alone personal health goals which tend to get placed on the back burner. This leaves very little time for meal planning and preparation and as a result, many reach for what’s convenient which is not always the most nutritious option. While employee healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, now more than ever it’s crucial that opportunities are provided for employees to develop skills that will enable them to take better care of their health, including meal planning skills. This week we provided a nutrition booth at an employee health fair, teaching employees the skills to plan healthy lunches for on-the-go. We find in our practice that many employees forgo making their lunches ahead of time and are subjected to vending machine snacks or fatty meals out with co-workers instead. Below are a few time-saving techniques and quick, healthy lunch menus you can encourage employees to adopt. With just a little preparation and planning, anyone can be successful at staying on top of their nutrition and health goals without taking away too much time from daily life.
Top Time Saving Techniques for Healthy Lunches During the Week
- Prepare lunch the night before or cook dinner in bulk and pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.
- During the weekend, prepare healthy sides to pack in lunches to save time during the week. Pre-portion healthy sides into ziplock bags such as almonds, grapes, & baby carrots.
- Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy, grab-on-the-go items such as non-fat Greek style yogurt, string cheese, fruit cups, and peanut butter crackers.
- Use reminder notes so that you don’t run out the door without your lunch! Many people aren’t in the habit of packing a lunch and often forget their lunch at home. Sometimes we need visual cues when we are forming new habits so try leaving a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or on the inside of the front door where you can see it before you leave the house.
Quick Healthy Lunches For On-The-Go
Our corporate dietitian, Ashli Doss, RDN, LD displayed the following healthy and delicous lunch meals to employees at the health fair:
Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Bell Pepper, and Cilantro
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 red bell pepper, chopped into small dice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Rinse quinoa in fine-mesh strainer if indicated on package. Combine quinoa, water, and salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let it cool while you prep other ingredients. Drain the beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water. Pat beans dry in paper towel.
2. When the quinoa is fairly cool, combine quinoa, black beans, diced red bell pepper, and sliced green onion in a bowl. Add enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients. Gently stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.
Healthy Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
1 rotisserie chicken (2 cooked chicken breasts)
1/3 cup apple, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries (crasins)
¼ cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1. Shred an entire rotisserie chicken into mixing bowl & set aside
2. Chop the celery, apples, onion & almonds into small pieces & add in dried cranberries
3. Combine the chopped ingredients & rotisserie chicken and stir in Greek yogurt
4. Season with salt & pepper to taste
5. Serve over spinach/romaine lettuce or on a croissant roll
Ham and Cheese Sandwich on Whole Grain Sandwich Round
1. Split all ingredients evenly onto one side of the Sandwich Thins® roll, beginning with mustard, ham, cheese and lettuce. Top with mustard and the other Sandwich Thins® roll side.
Tuscan-Style Tuna Salad
2 5-ounce cans chunk light tuna, drained
1 15-ounce can small white beans, such as cannellini or great northern, rinsed
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Combine tuna, beans tomatoes, scallions, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir gently. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Quick and Easy Side Options
1 cup grapes + 100-calorie almond pack
1 cup berries + 1-6 oz. container Greek yogurt
1 string cheese stick + 1 pear
1 apple + 1 peanut butter to-go cup
10 baby carrots + 2 tbsp. hummus
10 whole-grain crackers + salsa
1 pudding cup + 4 graham crackers
1 mini-box raisins + 2 tbsp. dried pumpkin seeds
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup pineapple chunks