Raise your hand if you bring a lunch to work!?
Bringing healthy, varied and easy-to-eat lunches to work every day can be a real challenge.
I do have the facilities at work to warm food up in microwaves and I do make use of this fairly often, particularly in the colder months. But let’s focus on summer for now… I have been thinking more about recipes that can be eaten on the go, cold so they don’t require heating.
To eat healthy and vegan while at work- you have to plan ahead.
Have some favourite go-to lunches and plan what you are going to have. It doesn’t have to be a weekly plan- it can be the day before, or the night before. It may be the last thing you will want to do before bed, and there may be some days, you’ll wake up in the morning- open your fridge and just have to throw something together with whatever your fridge is offering you! But, a small amount of planning and preparation, where possible, can be really rewarding and in the end make your life so much easier.
I rarely find myself at work with no food, and then being forced to buy something in the city. Firstly, bringing a lunch to work saves money. A lot of it. Secondly, on the whole you will find you eat better and healthier foods (it is always nice to know what is actually going into your food!). And lastly, if you are a big foodie like me, you will have beautiful and varied meals to look forward to everyday…
I try not to have too many ‘bog-standard’ sandwich lunches, although sometimes I know there is nothing better. I have my favourite recipes, and then some I’d like to try. I am a big fan of the ‘left- overs’, and this can save you a job, in terms of ‘thinking’ and ‘prep’ as you just box up the left-overs from last night’s meal.
This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like- as my Husband and I work shifts so we aren’t always at home for dinner. In fact, the majority of our dinners are often made and eaten at work too… but that’s a whole other blog! For now, we will stick with lunches, and what I hope is a few months of eating outside, on the go, in the park and in the sun.
I thought I’d share with you some fresh, healthy lunches that can easily be eaten cold across the summer months.
A tip before we get started… get some good lunch boxes.
I have tried them all. I have spent a fortune on fancy lunchboxes, that in the end were not very practical. I have also used takeaway containers that we have kept and reused. We have used plastic tubs that once contained all manner of things, and the standard leak-proof, lock and go containers.
Here is what I have found…
- Glass jars are the best. I re-use nearly all my glass jars. Stop recycling them in your bins, and start recycling them in your kitchen!
- Rebel against the gimmicky, expensive lunch boxes – you don’t need them, a simple container that you can use time and time again is all you need. It doesn’t need to look the part it just has to work.
- I also try and have a lot of varied sizes… covering all recipes and all appetites.
- Where possible and when it makes sense, keep your ingredients separate until you are ready to eat. It actually maintains a certain level of freshness and gives you a choice as to how much you want to add. For example, a simple salad can benefit from keeping the ‘wetter’ ingredients like tomatoes to one side and adding them in when you are ready to eat.
MY TOP 6 VEGAN LUNCH IDEAS
FOR THE SUMMER
So now we are ready for some ideas. There are so many choices and options out there but here are my top 6 bases for lunches over the summer. I will make all of these, in various ways over the summer and discover some nice new recipes too.
Most of these ideas are versatile, so you can adapt them according to your tastes and what you have in your fridge/cupboards. They can also be pimped to suit your diet, you can add cheese or meat- or if you don’t normally follow a vegan diet, why not give it a go! Choose one of the below ideas and just try it once a week- Vegan Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (you get the idea)!
Salads are the best, from simple salads to ‘everything you have’ salads. They are inexpensive, filling and obviously healthy. I like adding seeds to mine to give it a little crunch and cress. Cress is about 25p in most supermarkets, and for a little guy- it packs a lot of flavour and will make its mark on your salad. If you are feeling a little adventurous you can also have fruit in salads, my favourite to use is strawberries… don’t knock it until you have tried it!
Wraps are great for eating on the go, but I will suggest boxing the filling separately and then making the wrap fresh when you are ready to eat. There are so many options for a wrap, pretty much anything goes. From a simple salad with baba ganoush, to hummus and grated or ‘noodle’ carrots. Even marinated tofu or vegan sausages that have been cooked and then left to cool with spinach and veggies. Experiment and see what you can come up with.
I don’t tend to eat a lot of pasta but it is a really good lunch. Particularly, if you have been caught out the night before work with no ideas, as most of us have pasta and various sauces hanging out in our cupboards. Simplicity is key here and portion control. No one wants a huge portion of pasta in the middle of the day. So think light and team it with some pepper, rocket or spinach. If your cupboards are really bare, try boiling your pasta with a veg-stock cube… it is surprisingly flavoursome and perfect for adding some plainer pasta to salads.
Falafel. I love falafel. It is so versatile, it can be eaten cold straight out of the packet or cooked the night before in the oven for a little extra bite. I love eating falafel with pitta pockets and a simple salad, like spinach and tomatoes. If you can add hummus you will be in heaven. Very filling and satisfying.
- Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables
One to prep the night before or if you have time in the morning. My favourite mix is a little garlic, red onion, courgette, aubergine, red pepper and cherry tomatoes. If you have them, cannellini beans can be added in the last five or so minutes of cooking. Simply roast all the veg in one pan with olive oil for about thirty minutes. To serve, you can add a twist of balsamic vinegar and top with basil. For lunch this can be eaten cold, with pitta or couscous/quinoa.
- Vegan Vegetable Tart
With one sheet of vegan friendly puff pastry your possibilities are endless, but my go-to is a tart. Simply chop whatever vegetables you have- Mediterranean vegetables work beautifully here. One sheet of puff pastry will make two smaller tarts or one massive one. Score a 3cm border, and spread sun-dried tomato paste in the middle. Top with your veggies and add a few spoonful’s of green pesto randomly. This is great fresh out of the oven, but cooled can be enjoyed cold and on the go!
I am a brand new snack-er! I used to pride myself on not snacking between meals, but please don’t believe ‘them’ when ‘they’ tell you snacking is bad, it isn’t. It is a wonderful bridge between meals and can be just as healthy and exciting as lunch. Of course snacking is bad, if you are picking up a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar every day, but quite honestly- why would you with so many delicious ‘snack perfect’ options out there?!
Here are a few of my favs-
Graze ‘Super food’ Oat Bites
They have so many choices and a lot of them (but not all) are vegan. My favourite, (which feels so much like a treat) is their Cocoa Orange with Quinoa and Whole Oats. A brilliant source of fibre and just 143 calories, but more importantly- delivering per 30g pack 597kj of energy!
Yogurt and Granola Pot
A perfect use for a small glass jar. A couple of spoonful’s of crunchy and nutty granola, a couple of heaped tablespoons of some vegan yogurt and topped with some fresh fruit. Unbelievably filling and so healthy. I have started using frozen fruit and adding it in the morning, as the short shelf life of fruit was becoming an issue. A large bag of frozen mixed berries will last ages so it is definitely the more economical choice long term.
I simply couldn’t talk about snacks without mentioning (in my opinion) the best of all the snacks- the nut. There are a ridiculous amount of choices, and I have always said, that I have never met a nut, I didn’t like. Yes, they are high in (good) fat and calories but they deliver in almost every respect. They are high in protein, antioxidants and many other nutrients. And of course, keep you fuller for longer.
(we just need the sun now… )