Does the thought of going back to work make your stomach churn? After the holidays, the thought of setting an alarm and sitting at a desk may seem dreadful! Not to mention, the extra effort of planning and preparing your lunch for work.

But before you take the ‘easy way out’ –  i.e. ordering ‘whatever is going’ at the cafe downstairs, or surviving only on coffee and biscuits – stop to consider the consequences of poor nutrition at work. For example, reduced concentration and low productivity. Not to mention, your roller-coaster blood sugar levels may leave you feeling stumped with simple work tasks, or unnecessarily cranky with your work colleagues.

It’s also worth mentioning that meals ordered out tend to be higher in fat and sugar, and the portions are often too big. In fact, one study showed that people who ate at restaurants consumed 200 calories more than those who prepared their own meal! And, you will probably spend up to five times more money purchasing your lunch each day.

Have we convinced you to take your ‘back to work’ nutrition more seriously? Great! Now let us help you get started, with our tips for preparing healthy lunches.
The Nutrition Code
Three steps to  preparing  a healthy lunch for work:

Step one: Choose meals that are balanced 
Include low-GI carbohydrates, which release energy slowly into the bloodstream, supplying a constant stream of ‘brain fuel’. Don’t forget high-fibre vegetables, proteins and healthy fats, which are slow to digest, helping you to stay full and focused between meals. As a rough guide to portions ,your lunch should contain:
– One handful (1/2 – 1 cup) of low GI carbohydrates – such as quinoa, brown rice, legumes or sweet potato, or 1-2 slices of wholegrain bread
– One handful (palm size) of lean protein – such as a tin of salmon or tuna, shredded chicken breast, 2 boiled eggs or roast beef slices
– Two handfuls (1-2 cups) of non-starchy vegetables – such as fresh or premixed salads, fresh or frozen vegetables
– One thumb (1-2 tsp) of healthy fats – such as avocado, nuts and seeds, hummus or olive oil dressing

Step two: Develop a routine
Choose one of the following routines for preparing healthy lunches (or try a few to see what works best!)

The ‘leftovers’ routine:
Simply cook an extra portion of dinner! Examples include – thai beef stir fry with basmati rice, marinated chicken breast with roasted vegetables and sweet potato.

The ‘convenience’ routine:
Basing your lunch around healthy convenience foods can save you time and effort! Examples include microwave single serve quinoa cup with frozen mixed vegetables and tinned salmon, or a salad bowl kit with boiled eggs and a tin of corn.
The ‘bulk cooking’ routine:
Set aside time over your weekend to bulk-prepare 1-2 lunch options that last the entire week. Examples include falafel balls with tabbouleh salad and hommous, or sweet potato and tuna patties with stir fried greens.
The ‘early morning’ routine:
If you don’t mind setting your alarm ten minutes earlier, you can create a simple, nutritious lunch. Examples include a multigrain sandwich with chicken, avocado and salad, or a tuna salad with tinned chickpeas and feta.

Step 3: Get to it!
Once you’ve decided on your routine, and what meals to prepare – go out and buy your ingredients, and make it happen. Good luck!