Brian Sheehan previews our list of the 25 best make-ahead lunches for work. The complete story is available in the Entertain section.
When you’re thinking about what to cook yourself for lunch at work next week, the criteria that you feel need to be met can become so overwhelming that it becomes all too easy to talk yourself out of cooking anything at all. You repeatedly claim that you’re too busy, you don’t know what you’ll want to eat the next day, you can’t think of anything that will last… Yet, inevitably, when Monday lunchtime arrives, you always regret not bringing in a wholesome, homemade meal, as you rush to the café across the road to buy another average, overpriced sandwich.
Making lunch to take in to work doesn’t have to be a stressful, time-occupying nightmare. It’s not true that in order to eat well for the whole working week, you have to spend the entire of your Sunday in the kitchen, slaving over beautifully prepared grains, vegetables, meats, and salad dressings. Some of the simplest recipes make for the best weekday lunches. Just 20 minutes of cooking time can result in a lunch that is so much tastier — and healthier — than that flavorless, unsatisfying sandwich you’d otherwise be eating.
To get the most out of your homemade lunch, there are a few things you should try and include, and a few things you should try and avoid. Pack your lunch full of protein to fill you up and keep your energy levels stable for the rest of the day. Don’t have too much sugar as, although it will give you a sudden boost, you’ll be falling asleep at your desk a couple of hours later. Lighten up on the carbs: Some carbohydrates may be necessary to stop your tummy rumbling, but eat too much of them and you’ll feel heavy and exhausted all afternoon.
The recipes we’ve selected are a mix of hearty soups and stews to warm you up and satisfy you in the dark, depths of winter, and light, zingy salads for those warm summer days. None of these lunches are difficult to prepare, and most of them can be thrown together in under an hour. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, gluten-free, kid-friendly, or low-calorie, there is something for everyone in this collection of our 25 favorite make-ahead work lunches.