Healthy lunch ideas for busy adults

“What to have for lunch today?” Are you constantly asking yourself this question as you busily get ready for the day ahead?

As adults we are often so busy juggling work, study, family, and time to relax that the last thing we want to plan is a healthy lunch that can get us through the day. We’ve all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but just as important is LUNCH!

By packing a healthy nutritious lunch everyday, you will be sure to get all the nutrients you need and have the energy you need to get you through the afternoon, without the 3pm snack attack!

What makes up a healthy lunch?

  • Breads and cereals (preferably wholegrain)
  • Fruits, vegetables, and legumes (lots of different colours and flavours)
  • Low fat dairy, including milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Food for thought:

You wouldn’t send your children off to school without lunch so make sure you think about your own lunch too! Pack lunch for yourself when you pack lunch for the kids to make sure that you don’t miss out.

Use Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Eating Pyramid to help you plan a healthy nutritious lunch for work. Make sure you include foods from all the different food groups to help you meet your daily nutrient requirements.

Start by choosing a variety of foods using the Healthy Eating Pyramid as a guide, and aim to include the following foods everyday:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables (fresh, dried, canned or frozen)
  • Grain foods, including whole grains (such as rice, quinoa or barley), and wholemeal/ wholegrain/ high fibre varieties of bread and cereals (such as crackers, rice crackers and wraps)
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and/or legumes
  • Reduced fat varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Plenty of water

What about snacks?

Eating regularly throughout the day is important. Snacking during the day can help keep you going until your next meal, but choosing the right snack is important to make sure you get the energy you need without over eating. Listen to your body, and eat according to your energy needs and daily activities. Aim to include at least two food groups in each snack.

If time is a problem for you consider the following ideas:

  • Pack your lunch the night before and prepare food on the weekend
  • When preparing dinner make a little bit extra to have for lunch the next day
  • Pack at least one main meal item (e.g. a sandwich) so that you are not tempted by fast food takeaway options at lunch time
  • Certain foods can be packaged up and frozen for later use. These include bread, rice, pasta and some dinner leftovers.

Careful planning and organisation can go a long way. Make the effort to plan and pack a healthy lunch so you can make the most out of your day. Allocate a small proportion of your food budget to be spent on lunch each week, to cater for an occasional take away snack or coffee. Be sure to minimise the cost of food at lunchtime by eating out no more than once per week. And when you do eat out, remember to make your food choices healthy!

Great ideas to get you started:

 Healthy lunch ideas  Healthy snack ideas
Soup and sandwich
Dinner leftovers
Chicken/beef/tuna/lentil salad
Toasted sandwiches and melts
Sandwich/wrap/roll/crackers with a variety of fillings
Quiche and salad
Mini pizza muffins (cheese, ham and tomato)
Wholegrain crackers with tomato and low fat cheese
Peanut butter on wholemeal toast
Plain popcorn
Fruit salad
Veggie sticks with hummus or yoghurt dip
Raisin toast
Tub of yoghurt and a piece of fruit
Fruit smoothie with low fat milk

Spice up your sandwiches

The sandwich is a traditional lunch food which is quick, easy and convenient to prepare. Eating the same old sandwich each day can get a little tiresome, so try some of the following ideas to keep your sandwiches both healthy and interesting:

  • Use a variety of different breads including wholemeal, wholegrain, and rye
  • Use low fat margarine spreads instead of butter and low fat mayonnaise and dressings
  • When bread starts to dry out try toasting it in a sandwich press
  • Be creative with fillings – try some of the following: Salad and low fat cheese, egg and lettuce, tuna/chicken/beef /ham and salad, chicken and avocado, vegemite and cheese, peanut butter, coleslaw and baby spinach, roast meat and chutney, baked beans/spaghetti jaffle

Updated January 2012


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