Lightning-Quick Lunch Ideas to Ensure You Actually Take a Break
I go more days without taking a lunch break (or any breaks at all, for that matter) than I care to admit. This was already the case when I was working in an office but turns out to be even more true after working from home for several months now. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans working from home conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Freshly last month, it turns out I'm not alone in the non-lunch-taking department. The survey revealed 1 in 4 (29% to be more specific) of Americans aren't taking meal breaks, with 6 in 10 feeling guilty for taking any type of break during the workday. And those that do eat? Well, they either wind up just eating at their desks to keep working (me!) or order some expensive takeout. Freshly's director of nutrition Brooke Scheller, D.C.N, says lunch is a critical meal during the day. "Not recognizing the importance of pausing for lunch can sabotage your afternoon productivity and even be the cause of evening overindulgence or stress eating later in the day," she says.
Scheller points out what we eat for breakfast, lunch, and our snacks throughout the day "plays a huge role in your ability to focus and concentrate." By not taking time for lunch, you're more likely to experience that dreaded afternoon slump, causing you to munch on less-healthy snacks like chips or candy. "If we don’t eat enough throughout the day, we tend to make up for it later in the day," Scheller says. "So if you’ve skipped lunch, but then overdo it on evening snacks, there’s a biochemical reason why this happens. Focus on your meals throughout the day and you’ll be less likely to overindulge at night."
Since 2 out of 3 in the survey admit to not knowing what to make for lunch during a busy workday, here are some quick lunch ideas to help fuel the rest of your workday (and prevent overeating later).
1. Raid the Fridge
One positive about working from home is access to your kitchen. Keep your crisper drawer stocked with fresh fruit and veggies to inspire a delicious lunch on the fly. And it doesn't always have to be salad, either. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a hot lunch is by whipping up some scrambled eggs with some mushrooms, spinach, or whatever's in the fridge. Eat it on its own or wrap it up in a tortilla or lettuce leaf. Not only do they cook super fast, but you'll also get the boost of protein. You can also skip the eggs and throw some veggies and meat in a skillet ($50, Target) for a fast stir-fry.
2. Upgrade the Brown Bag Lunch
It is possible to have delicious, healthy lunches ready to go for those days when getting away from your desk seems impossible. Keep some homemade cups of noodles (with your pick of veggies and protein) on hand so all you'll need to do is add water. Turn rotisserie chicken into chicken salad for a sandwich in no time. Or used canned tuna, salmon, or chicken to do the same. Need something kid-friendly? Try these lunch prep ideas for both in-school and virtual learning days.
3. Plan for Leftovers
One of the easiest ways to ensure you'll have a meal ready is by cooking a large enough dinner to allow leftovers the next day. Then all you'll have to do is pop it in the microwave for a few minutes. On long workdays, there are tons of 30-minute recipes, casseroles, and dump dinner ideas for a homecooked meal without spending a ton of extra time in the kitchen. Skip the takeout and try these 20-minute recipes or a one-dish meal made right in your Instant Pot ($120, Bed Bath & Beyond).
4. Try a Meal Delivery Service
According to the survey, 63% of Americans are more likely to order out for lunch and dinner because of work-from-home stress and end-of-day fatigue. If this is you, a meal delivery service might be the way to go. For around $10 per meal (which you pay for the less-healthy takeout anyway), you can have ready-to-heat meals sent right to your door via services such as Freshly or Sun Basket.
5. Use a 15-Minute Lunch Recipe
The struggle to get creative with so little cooking time can be difficult. These simple recipes can be accomplished in just 15 minutes. That's just enough time to step away from the computer and allow yourself to breathe and replenish some needed nutrients.
I know it's super hard to step away sometimes, but practicing self-care really is important. Give yourself permission to break for a quick lunch, a walk outside, or a meditation session. And when those afternoon hunger cravings strike, opt for a healthy snack such as these energy bites or customizable hummus to power through the rest of the day.