Many of us care for a healthy diet, especially at the beginning of a new year when everyone seems to follow crazy dietary plans. But eating healthy gets much more difficult on a day to day basis when you spend the day out at work. Rarely are there any good options available at the job. The daily pizza, burger or sushi sure don’t count as healthy options and are kind of expensive over time. For those with special dietary requests it is increasingly problematic to integrate good lunch options into their daily life. And sustainable concerns are also hard to address in the workplace lunch situation.
But there is a solution: Meal prep or the famous Meal prep sunday! Meal prep is short for meal preparation on the day before or even on sunday for the whole next week. It enables you to make meals according to your own demands. In most workplaces it is possible to heat up your lunch with an oven or microwave. That makes a meal prep lunch a great, healthy and environmentally friendly option for every day – which you can adjust to your every dietary demand.
Advantages of meal prep are obvious: You have full control over the contents of your lunch, save money and are able to make your lunch sustainable. Also, meal prep can make your lunch more social if you can eat together at the workplace.
I personally am a big fan of meal prep since a couple of years, mostly because of limited good options at my workplace. But to make it easy for everyday life, I use 5 essential and easy knacks:
- Meal prep doesn’t have to mean additional cooking, it just needs planning. If you are cooking anyways at the weekend, just scale up the portion so that you can take leftovers during the week. Especially soups, stews, pasta or rice dishes are super easy to scale up.
- If you cook a big portion, freeze some small lunch meals so that you don’t have to eat the same dish every day of the week. I usually keep frozen soup or stew in the freezer which I can take to work any time, as it remains good for weeks or even months. This way I can mix up my daily food and always have something even if I did not get to prepare lunch the day before.
- Stretching your meals enables you to enjoy a healthy option all week long: Even if I didn’t spend much time cooking at the weekend, I can stretch my food to last all week long. I use the 50:50 principle: By filling half my lunch box with a prepared meal and half of it with some frozen vegetables. Suitable veggies are those which just need to be warmed up in the microwave without additional cooking. I often use frozen peas for this, but also prepare myself some slightly steamed brokkoli or cauliflower in big batches to keep in the freezer. The resulting lunch not only keeps you full, it is extra healthy!
- There are many easy and fast dishes which can be prepared in the evening or even morning in just a few minutes. This can be something simple as a salat or sandwich. My favourite option are overnight oats as it is especially easy to stockpile all necessary ingredients: Oasts, nuts and frozen berries. For active people I suggest to add seeds (like pumpkin, sesame or flax seeds) due to them adding a lot of minerals to the meal. Soak everything up in water or milk (which can be a vegan milk alternative, of course!) and you are good to go!
Personally, I recommend the classical Bircher Müsli option of overnight oats which contains a grated apple (and any other fruits you have at home) and uses joghurt to soak it up. It tastes great and can also be eaten over several days, so you can also make this in a big batch.
- Leftovers can also make an easy and healthy lunch, even if you have only some rice or noodles. Check what kind of veggies you have in the fridge to spice up your lunch: Several veggies can be eaten raw. Especially carrots, tomatoes or bell peppers can easily be sliced and added to the leftovers. Mix it up with nuts, seets and a salat dressing and you are golden – not only did you get a healthy lunch option, you avoided food waste!
The only thing you need for all of this are a good stock of boxes to keep your meals in. If you don’t have enough, you might not even have to buy some: You can reuse food packaging such as glasses or plastic boxes. I uses glasses even in the freezer, works just fine. And the good thing about reusing plastic boxes is you can avoid coloring your favourite tupper ware with colorful foods such as curries – while you avoid plastic trash which is hard to recycle. Sounds like a great deal to me!