Did you know your lunch can be quick, affordable and tasty all at once? You don’t have to resign yourself to boring sandwiches and unseasoned salads to save money and time – here are a few tips to enjoying fast lunches that are good for your body, your wallet and your time.
Whether you're working from home or stuck in the office, juggling energetic kids or have your head buried in your books for school or uni, it's easy to forget to make a nutritious meal come lunch time. The reality of our busy lives results in many of us reaching for those sugar-packed 2-minute noodles or even raiding the chocolate stash – after all, we make bad decisions when we're hungry. But there is a way to guarantee a fast lunch, without the usual traps that come with fast food. Check out our top tricks for a healthy, satisfying, cheap and quick lunch – every day.
Use those leftovers
If you’re looking to speed up your lunch game, don’t sit on those leftovers! It’s so much easier to prepare a little extra for dinner and enjoy the leftovers in the days that follow. It also slashes the need to overthink what to make for lunch, not to mention, you can easily store portions in containers to take to work or school. Here are a few tips for safely freezing leftovers – meaning more time, less cooking:
- Use freezer-safe bags for portions of food or extra ingredients like veggies and meat.
- Freeze batches of soups and curries in freezer-safe containers – stainless steel is a good option.
- Defrost food in the fridge instead of on the kitchen counter – the slower it defrosts, the closer it will be to its pre-frozen state.
- Freeze leftover soup stock in ice cube trays.
Having a Sunday cook-up is a great way to ensure you’ve got a week ahead of fast lunches. When getting started with meal prepping, you’ll want to choose foods with longevity and high nutrition. Take a look at which ingredients are the easiest to prep:
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, millet, wholemeal bread
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
- Raw veggies: cucumber, carrot and capsicum (but don’t cut them up!)
- Cooked veggies: leafy greens, carrot, pumpkin
- Whole fruits: apple, bananas, berries (wash the latter in vinegar to prolong freshness!)
- Nuts, seeds
- Protein: meat, tofu
Now you’re probably what kind of meals to prep – and you’d be surprised at how tasty the options are. Plus, considering you’ll already have them portioned out, it’ll be easy to grab your lunch when you’re on the go. Give these ideas a whirl:
- Roast veggies with quinoa, tofu, pumpkin seeds
- Lentil soup with veggies
- Curried chickpeas with brown rice, steamed greens
- Falafel or koftas with brown rice and yoghurt (add the yoghurt on the day you eat this meal so it stays fresh!)
- Zucchini and cheddar egg muffins
- Spinach and feta pie (Spanakopita)
Nutrition is key
- Healthy fats: These will help prevent those 3 o’clock slumps by stabilising our hunger signals and keeping us fuller for longer. Go for avocados, olive oil, seeds and nuts.
- Protein: The verdict is in – protein-rich foods don’t just boost your muscles, they also support weight loss and hormone regulation, according to studies. Go for lentils, tofu and beans.
- Probiotics: Make gut health a lunchtime priority – regularly consuming these good bacteria will help maintain balance for your gut and brain, which in turn will help you get through the day – awake. Go for fermented foods like kimchi, Sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt.
- Slow-release carbs: Your lunch should give you the energy to push through the trials of a busy day, and there’s no better way to get that boost than with slow-release carbs like those you’ll find in whole grains, fruits and veggies, seeds and nuts.
- Foods to avoid: Steer clear of deep-fried foods, foods high in trans fats, overly processed foods and, of course, sugar.
Here’s a free recipe to get you started:
Spiced Koftas with Golden Quinoa and Lemony Beans
This easy recipe comes straight from the Healthy Family Meals eBook and can be divided into portions for a fast and flavour-packed lunch – not to mention, it’s bursting with anti-inflammatory properties from the turmeric, and the slow-release energy from the quinoa will help you get through your busy day.
- 500 grams lamb mince
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 200 grams green beans, cut into thirds
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- ½ cup almond meal or breadcrumbs
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 egg, whisked
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups steamed greens, to serve
- 2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
- Full-fat natural yoghurt, to serve
- Handful fresh mint, to serve
- Combine the lamb, onion, garlic, cumin and coriander in a large bowl. Add the almond meal and egg, and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide mixture into 8 portions and shape each portion into a sausage shape. Thread sausages onto skewers. Brush each lamb kofta with olive oil.
- Heat a griddle pan or fry pan over medium heat. Cook the koftas, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate once cooked.
- Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon of coconut or olive oil in a saucepan. Add beans and turmeric, cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in cooked quinoa to heat through. Squeeze lemon juice over the top. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve cooked koftas with natural yoghurt, golden quinoa and lemony beans.
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