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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule

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10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule

In today’s society we are all overworked, pressed for time, and stressed. We all want to be healthier, and most people make a concerted effort by eating better, moving more, and getting to bed earlier. But if you’re like me, it’s an uphill battle, especially if you don’t know where to find healthy lunch ideas.

How often do you find yourself working through lunch? And when you do get a chance to eat, you have to scurry to the nearest market or take-out spot, grab something barely edible, only to scarf it down in front of your computer screen. I know the dilemma—you have to eat to keep your brain functioning, and quick and healthy options during lunch madness are pretty scarce.

The answer to this dilemma is simple: pack a lunch. It really is the best option for busy people who skip lunch, are crunched for time, and who have “working lunches” frequently.

Benefits of Making Your Own Lunch

The benefits of bringing your own lunch from home are numerous. Here are just a few:

  1. You can track and control your nutrients.
  2. You can prevent yourself from over-eating and consuming large, calorie-dense meals.
  3. You save money.
  4. You have more time to actually eat your lunch.
  5. It will help you on your journey to get fit.

It’s easy to feel convinced that it’s a good idea to bring your own lunch to work. However, now comes the issue of what to pack. The time saver in you—once you do make it to the grocery store—will try and talk you into buying a bunch of prepackaged, processed mess. You’ll have to fight these instincts to build in the new habit of preparing your own meals.

If you need help boosting your motivation to start this new habit, check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost. It will help you tap into your reasons for doing what you do and help you find a “why” for making your own healthy lunches.

To get you started, here are 10 easy, healthy lunch ideas that you can make in a short amount of time.

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10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas

1. Quinoa Veggie Bowl

Mexican-Quinoa-Bowl

     

    Toss together your choice of fresh or cooked vegetables with cooked quinoa, fresh herbs, and a dressing such as tahini, apple cider vinegar, cashew, cheese, or mashed avocado. Quinoa is an amazing grain that is full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, so it’s a great addition to any meal.

    The quinoa and veggies can be cooked the night before, making this the perfect lunch for when you know you’ll have to get up and go the next morning.

    Get the recipe here!

    2. Buddha Bowls

    Protein-Packed Buddha Bowl Recipe by Tasty
      Buddha bowls are one of the most versatile lunches you can make and top the list of many easy recipes. They can be altered depending on your favorite sources of protein and the tastiest vegetables sitting in your fridge. If you’re looking for health lunch ideas, look no further!They often consist of a base of rice, quinoa, or another healthy grain. The next layer is built with two to three vegetables and a protein. You can even add hard boiled eggs! If you like mixing and matching depending on what’s available, this is the perfect healthy lunch recipe for you. For extra flavor, many choose to make a healthy sauce to top it all off, which usually uses soy sauce or olive oil as its base.Get the recipe here!

      3. Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls

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      Veggie-bowls
        This recipe is quick, simple, and to the point. If you’re a chicken fan, you use this as your base and build around it using your favorite vegetables. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try using sweet potatoes and green beans, or even adding rice. Using different spices for each day, you can have different variations of this meal all week without boring your taste buds to death.Get the recipe here!

        4. Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

        Best Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup Recipe - How To Make Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup
          If you know you’ve got a busy week ahead of you and are looking for quick and healthy lunch ideas, put this soup at the top of your list of healthy meals. Let it cook in the slow cooker Sunday evening, and you have a week’s worth of healthy lunches to keep you going.

          Full of protein-packed peas and healthy vegetables, this soup is filling and delicious at the same time.

          Get the recipe here!

          5. Chickpea Salad Sandwich

          UltimateChickpeaSaladSandwich1

            Meatless Mondays aren’t just for Mondays anymore! Go meatless for a week by prepping the chickpea filling for this sandwich and bringing a little to work each day. Have some bread waiting at your desk, and you have a quick and healthy lunch that won’t take time away from your break.

            Get the recipe here!

            6. Steak Fajita Salad

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            Fajita salad

              This salad is full of vitamin-filled vegetables and contains all the amazing flavors of a fajita, making it one of the best healthy lunch ideas. It’s topped off with a creamy cilantro-lime dressing that will feel new and fresh each time you eat it.

              Get the recipe here!

              7. Pesto Pasta

              Pesto Pasta

                This is a delightfully light, yet filling meal that will definitely add a twist to the working lunch. It’s packed with roasted tomatoes and asparagus, adding another dimension to an already delicious pesto pasta. Make it for dinner the night before and use the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

                Get the recipe here!

                8. Spinach Artichoke Turkey Panini

                If you’re a fan of spinach artichoke dip, you’ll love this easy panini. It includes Greek yogurt, which will offer an extra dose of protein and combine well with the flavors of the turkey and spinach. Everything combines to create filling sandwich that’s the perfect alternative to the traditional ham sandwich that you often find strewn on your coworkers’ desks.

                Get the recipe here!

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                9. Chicken Lettuce Wraps

                This Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe is easy to make and has incredible flavor!

                  These are favorites at Chinese restaurants, and now you can make them as a quick and healthy lunch ideas in your own home! Use large leafy green lettuce leaves as a nutrient-rich alternative to a regular wrap. This recipe calls for ground chicken, but you can use ground turkey, lentils, black beans, or any other protein to fill your lettuce.

                  Prepare the filling on a Sunday evening, and you’ll have your lunch ready to go for several days.

                  Get the recipe here!

                  10. Mason Jar Ramen

                  This Mason Jar Ramen Recipe Will Forever Change Your Lunch Game

                    Forget boring, sodium-packed, store-bought ramen. This homemade ramen is stored in mason jars, making it amazingly easy to just pull out of the fridge before you head off to work. It also includes kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables, which is full of probiotics that will help you digestion[1]. This is truly one of the best quick and healthy lunch ideas for a busy lifestyle.

                    Get the recipe here!

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                    The Bottom Line

                    Don’t let your busy lifestyle impede your progress towards gaining optimal health. Healthy lunch ideas can help keep you focused, prevent the 3 PM energy slump, boost your mood, and save you time and money in the long run. Learning how to meal prep is a process as it’s a new habit you’ll have to form, but once you’ve learned it, life will be a great deal easier.

                    More Healthy Lunch Ideas

                    Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via unsplash.com

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                    Published on August 24, 2021

                    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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                    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

                    I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

                    Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

                    A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

                    • Fruit
                    • Vegetables
                    • Whole grains
                    • Lean protein
                    • Nuts
                    • Water

                    This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

                    Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

                    What Is a Whole Food Diet?

                    By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

                    In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

                    Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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                    Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

                    Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

                    For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

                    • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
                    • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
                    • Berries five times a week
                    • Five or more servings of nuts a week
                    • Olive oil five times a week
                    • Whole grains five times a week
                    • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
                    • Legumes and pulses five times a week
                    • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
                    • Vitamin D supplement
                    • Minimally processed foods
                    • No more than one glass of wine a day
                    • One or two coffee or tea a day max
                    • Two liters of water a day

                    That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

                    Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

                    And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

                    Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

                    Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

                    For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

                    So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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                    As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

                    Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

                    In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

                    A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

                    In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

                    Whole Foods and the Gut

                    Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

                    They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

                    Whole Foods and the Brain

                    The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

                    In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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                    Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

                    • Oily fish
                    • Nuts
                    • Eggs
                    • Berries
                    • Broccoli
                    • Whole grains

                    Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

                    Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

                    It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

                    Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

                    This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

                    Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

                    Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

                    Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

                    Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

                    Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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                    1. Practice Batch Cooking

                    Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

                    For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

                    I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

                    2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

                    Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

                    Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

                    If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

                    Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

                    If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

                    Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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                    Reference

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