20 healthy work lunches you’ll love
Sick of the same ham sandwich day after day? These easy lunch ideas will make you the envy of your colleagues.
Bread / toast
The sandwich is a lunch staple, but it can get a bit boring. These lunches make bread a bit more interesting. Some you can prepare ahead and take to work, and some need a little cooking in the kitchen.
1. Avo toast tower
Spread wholegrain toast with avocado. Top with sliced tomato, rocket and feta. Sprinkle with toasted seeds and chilli flakes.
2. Pulled meat sliders
Toast a grainy bun. Mix pulled pork or beef with a little barbecue sauce. Spread bun
with a mix of low-fat plain yoghurt and mayonnaise. Add meat and top with a dollop of sauerkraut or chutney.
3. Vege power toast
Top wholegrain toast with a generous dollop of hummus. Add grated beetroot, grated carrot and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds. Add an egg to this dish if you wish.
4. Crunchy vege wrap
Spread a wholemeal wrap with peanut butter. Add carrot sticks, sliced cherry tomatoes, salad greens and sliced marinated tofu. Roll and cut.
5. Chicken quesadilla
Top one half of a warmed large, wholegrain tortilla with mashed black beans. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes, chilli sauce and grated reduced-fat cheddar. Fold tortilla in half and press down to make a sandwich. Eat as it is, or toast in a sandwich press or hot pan until cheese has melted.
Serve with this salad to add 2 1/2 vege serves to your lunch:
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 cup roughly sliced baby spinach
2 teaspoons seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (flavoured if you like)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix all veges and seeds together. Combine olive oil and lemon juice. Add to salad and toss well.
Use precooked leftover rice or convenient steamed rice pouches to make these tasty bowls. Brown rice and rice mixed with other grains add a fibre boost. Take all the ingredients to work and assemble in a bowl, then heat when required in the microwave.
Safe cooling of cooked rice
Uncooked rice frequently contains bacteria called bacillus cereus. These bacteria can form protective spores that survive the cooking process. If cooled slowly, these spores can germinate, grow and produce an emetic (vomit-inducing) toxin. Reheating rice before serving will not inactivate the emetic toxin or kill all the bacterial cells, so the rice may not be safe.
Tips for food safety:
- Keep rice hot, or cool as quickly as possible
- Cover cooked rice and store in a refrigerator
- Eat within a day
- If reheating, reheat until piping hot.
Source: Ministry of Primary Industries/NHS
6. Sashimi don
Reheat cooked brown rice in the microwave. Top with sliced raw tuna or salmon, chopped avocado, diced cucumber and finely shredded red cabbage. Drizzle with a dressing made from a mix of reduced-salt soy sauce, mirin and water. Top with shredded seaweed (optional) and sesame seeds.
Cook a mix of rice and quinoa. Top with sliced leftover cooked steak and add veges such as julienned carrot, sliced spring onion and mung bean sprouts. Add a dollop of spicy kimchi and chilli sauce (optional). You could also pre-make a thin, one-egg omelette, slice and add to the bowl.
8. Vegan abundance bowl
To a mix of brown rice and chia add julienned beetroot, julienned carrot and baby spinach. Add a blend of soft tofu and chilli or chipotle sauce (make this ahead in a processor or whisk together with a fork). Top with chopped Brazil nuts.
9. Poké bowl
A poke bowl (pronounced poh-keh) is a Hawaiian-style dish using raw fish, popular in the US, and similar to deconstructed sushi.
Make a dressing of sesame oil, lime juice, reduced-salt soy sauce, ginger and a little water. In a container combine chopped raw salmon, chopped cucumber, chopped spring onion and chopped iceberg lettuce. Top with dressing, mixing through well and chill. At lunchtime, put cold brown rice in a bowl and top with salmon mixture.
10. Gado gado
Also known as lotek, gado gado is an Indonesian salad with vegetables and a hard-boiled egg.
Make a quick satay sauce by combining peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce, a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce and hot water to make a smooth sauce. Reheat brown rice. Serve with cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, celery sticks, halved cherry tomatoes and a quartered hard-boiled egg.
Noodles / pasta
Noodles and pasta, both hot and cold, make for an interesting change from sandwiches. Load them up with veges — remember the ideal plate — and these lunches are full of goodness.
11. Peanut and vege noodles
Cook rice noodles following packet instructions and rinse to cool. Make a dressing from a mix of peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce, thinned with boiling water to a smooth consistency. Add sliced courgette, capsicum, asparagus and carrot to noodles. Dress with peanut dressing and top with cooked chicken, beef or tofu, chopped peanuts and coriander. Add sliced chilli to taste (optional). Serve hot or cold.
12. Soba noodle salad
Cook soba noodles ahead and rinse to cool. Make a dressing of sesame oil, fresh ginger, lemon juice and a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce, combined with water if needed. Add ready-made slaw mix to noodles along with toasted sunflower seeds and shredded chicken. Dress noodle salad and toss well to coat. Serve chilled.
13. Tuna pasta bowl
Combine cooked pasta with baby spinach or rocket, chopped cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon zest and blanched green beans. Add a small can of tuna (use chilli flavoured if you like). Serve hot or cold.
14. Courgette noodles with raw green sauce
Make ‘noodles’ from courgette using a spiraliser or peeler. Cook briefly in boiling water or microwave. Make a sauce by blending spinach or silver beet leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, water, garlic and a dollop of cottage cheese. Toss noodles in sauce and top with a generous pile of chopped tomatoes, a few olives and chilli flakes. Serve with a grainy bread roll.
15. Rainbow pasta salad
Cook pasta shapes (eg. penne) following packet instructions then rinse and chill. To cold pasta, add diced capsicum and tomato, corn kernels, chopped celery, sliced baby spinach or rocket and cooked chicken or meat. Dress with a little basil pesto and a dash of lemon juice.
16. Roasted vege and lentil salad
Add leftover roast veges such as pumpkin and carrot to drained canned lentils. Add diced capsicum, tomato, feta and a few olives. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.
For a salad to be a satisfying lunch, it has to be substantial. These options tick all the boxes: they’re vege and protein-packed, and they taste delicious.
17. Boosted Caesar salad
Dress cos lettuce with ready-made Caesar dressing (not too much). Add blanched green beans, broccoli and edamame beans. Top with hard-boiled eggs, grainy toast croutons, grated parmesan, anchovies (optional) and cooked chicken or salmon.
18. Sushi salad
Combine cold cooked rice (brown is ideal) with sliced pickled ginger, sliced toasted seaweed, diced avocado and cucumber, julienned carrot and sesame seeds. Dress with a mix of sesame oil, mirin and white wine vinegar. Top with tuna, salmon, chicken or sliced tofu.
19. Tuscan bread salad
Roast capsicum and eggplant in a hot oven until very soft. When cool, add to a salad of crunchy lettuce, chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta. Add torn-up toasted or stale bread (sourdough is great) and add a vinaigrette dressing. Toss to coat everything well. Add chicken or tuna to this salad for more protein.
20. Quick salmon Niçoise salad
Start with torn cos lettuce. Add blanched green beans, chopped cold potatoes, black olives and hard or soft-boiled eggs. Toss together with a mustardy vinaigrette and top with canned salmon.