What should I eat for lunch at work?
February 6, 2014 7:51 AM   Subscribe

For at least the last five years, the lunch I have eaten most days at work has been a yogurt, two granola bars, and a serving of apple sauce. I am now quite sick of this lunch and am looking for something new. However, I would prefer that my new lunch, like the old one, consist of items that I don't have to cook or otherwise prepare. I'm very lazy in the morning. I just want to place things in a brown bag. I would also like the lunch to be relatively healthy. Can you suggest something? All I've come up with so far is that the lunch could include a banana. Maybe with the help of MetaFilter I can choose a lunch for the next half-decade.
posted by Area Man to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
My favourite lunch and breakfast is fruit, cheese, nuts, and some nice bread.
posted by sid at 7:53 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

What about those little single-serving fruit cups to replace the apple sauce? I like the mandarin oranges and the fruit cocktails.

If you have access to hot water (like a kettle or something) at work, you could also do instant oatmeal. Make it in a disposable coffee cup and you don't even need to worry with dishes.

Occasionally I'll do the "grab a hunk of cheese and a hunk of baguette" thing and bring those to work for lunch. Not super healthy, but god does it make me happy.
posted by phunniemee at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2014

Hummus, baby carrots, carb or almonds, banana?
posted by mr. digits at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hard-boiled eggs!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are you open to preparing things the night before, or not at all?

Bananas and apples are good sides or components, as are pre-cut fruits and veggies like baby carrots, pineapple, mango, etc. -- all of which you can buy at the grocery store.

Peanut butter sandwiches are easy. Frozen dinners are easy and diverse if you have a fridge and microwave at work.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Baby carrots, bread, cheese, grapes.
posted by ghharr at 7:59 AM on February 6, 2014

Are you open to preparing things the night before, or not at all?

I always forget to do the prep, don't have a lunch to bring, and then end up spending money eating some place downtown. So, I'd rather not do any prep.
posted by Area Man at 7:59 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Beef pepperettes, string cheese, and almonds.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:02 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Pita bread & hummus. Best if the bread is toasted when you're about to eat it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:03 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Definitely single-serving cups hummus. (If you get the Sabra ones with the crackers, I always need additional crackers to use it all up.) Cheese sticks-- now in a variety of cheese types beyond "string." Apples. Cups of cut-up fruit. Packets of baby carrot sticks. Packets of trail mix.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:06 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

I came to offer mr. digits' suggestion of hummus and carrots or whole wheat or rice crackers and a piece of fruit. You can buy the individually bagged carrots, throw those in the bag with the entire container of hummus and just leave it at work. Also works just as well with celery, sliced peppers or cucumbers. Another option is just some canned bean and vegetable soup. I like Amy's brand. I just take the whole can to the office and have the soup with some crackers or veggies.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 8:09 AM on February 6, 2014

Apples, grapes, walnuts, those mini cottage cheese cups that come in a 4-pack.
posted by Askr at 8:10 AM on February 6, 2014

Cheese(s) and an apple or pear.

Salami, cheese, and crackers (with a good mustard).
posted by jsturgill at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2014

V-8 Fusion (Energy or not), apple, individual packet of trail mix, baby carrots, rice cake with peanut butter or Nutella (the spreads are in individual packets). This is my favorite lunch... I order the individual packets online - boxes of 50 or 100.
posted by Thinkly at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2014

My lunch today is:

Hummus, cheese, and mustard rolled into a tortilla.

Two carrots with a side of peanut butter (for dipping -- I have a little round tupperwear to put the peanut butter in).

I have an apple and a yogurt for snacks should I need them.

The extent of my preparing was putting a knife into a jar and spreading the contents on some bread.

If you have access to a microwave, oatmeal can be a great lunch, too. Put in a container, then when ready to eat, add the water and microwave. You can put in dried fruit of your choice into it when packing it and use any sugar or milk available in a coffee room to add to it as well if you're so inclined.
posted by zizzle at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2014

String cheese/Babybel cheese, oranges, clementines. Plenty of things come in pre-wrapped single-serving pouches if you're willing to pay a premium: raisins, apple slices, carrots, nuts, etc. Consider switching yogurt styles/brands/flavors, too: if you eat plain yogurt, try Greek; if you already eat Greek yogurt, try skyr.

You'll open up your options so much more if you are willing to go the extra step and put something in a plastic bag or Tupperware container: any combination of nuts/dried fruits, frozen edamame, dips, granola, etc. It does take a little longer, but it's not so bad when you get into the habit.

You might really enjoy Graze boxes, which are single-serving healthy(ish) snacks mailed to you every two weeks. They aren't enough to replace lunch, but they are fun little ready-to-eat treats that you don't have to think about. (Disclaimer: that link contains my referral code; I won't feel bad if you don't use it.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Another good fruit option is clementines: you can throw one or two in your paper bag, and they peel incredibly quickly and with very little mess once you're at the office. A handful of dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs, etc.) is good with crackers & cheese.

If you're willing to do a tiny bit of prep once you're already at work, you can bring a tomato to slice and eat with cheese & crackers, or with crackers/bread/tortilla + hummus.

Other carb-y things: peanut-butter filled pretzels, tortillas (for wrapping around aforementioned hummus + a tomato, or around peanut butter & a banana).

Savory things: olives (you can buy single-serving packages/packets), cheese (you can buy pre-cut slices or cubes, or a container of crumbled feta/goat/blue/etc.).

This thread may also be useful.
posted by rebekah at 8:16 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yogurt, granola bars and applesauce for lunch? That is a ton of sugar. Wow.

Do you have a microwave at work? I find any sort of Amy's frozen meal is good. (Amy's products are all organic and vegetarian.) Kashi brand is also pretty good. Both brands are less artificial than some of the frozen meals you'll find. You can also always get a frozen burrito or anything like that. I ate frozen meals everyday at one of my jobs. It was nice because I could actually bring in a few at once, label them in the office freezer and they'd just be there for whenever I ate them. Or in the morning, I could just pick one and head out the door.

I do love the single serve hummus cups with the pretzels. I guess that could be incorporated into a meal.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:17 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Mix and match: Tuna lunch kit or those "Sensations" kits with crackers (Spicy Thai Chili is the best one, in my opinion), can of smoked oysters, can of sardines, canned chicken, mixed nuts, mozzarella string cheese, olives, roasted peppers, pickles, crackers, chips, pretzels, rolls, those individual-serving packages of crackers and peanut butter or crackers and "cheese", raisins and other dried fruits, apples, oranges, grapes, berries, tomatoes, carrots, celery, radishes, pico de gallo and guacamole if these are in the produce section of your stores, sushi and sandwiches from your grocery store, raw spinach with individual packages of salad dressing, canned SlimFast, yogurt.
posted by Houstonian at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2014

This does require a bit of prep, but my coworker does all this prep at work, assuming you have a fridge and microwave. He does a shop, and then brings in and stores at work things like: a container of oatmeal, a jar of peanut butter or cashew butter or almond butter, a container of hummus, a bag of the baby carrots, bag of trail mix, dried blueberries (for snacks or sprinkling on the oatmeal), dried nuts, packages of individually wrapped string cheese or baby cheeses, package of whole wheat tortillas (stored in either in fridge or freezer), package of whole wheat pita bread (stored in either fridge or freezer), individual serving size aseptic boxes of milk, juice or other beverages, and microwavable soups. He then has the makings of various types of lunches already at work for a number of days. What he brings from home will be things like fruit, or he may keep a bag of apples or clementines at work as well. So, one lunch example, hot oatmeal sprinkled with dried blueberries a few almonds and milk, along with sliced apples spread with some peanut butter. This is all prepared at work in a few minutes, from things he already has at work.
posted by gudrun at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

My go-to lazy lunch is salami slices, cubes of pepperjack cheese, and an apple. It's filling, fairly healthy, and super easy to prep.
posted by tryniti at 8:37 AM on February 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I eat lunch like this and people have mentioned many of my go to things. One thing I do that I haven't seen mentioned is take a whole avocado to work, then slice it open and eat chunks on crackers, with or without pre-sliced cheese. A regular table knife works fine to cut open a ripe avocado. Our Kroger also has little squeeze pack individual servings of guacamole, but one avocado is much more food and really fills me up especially with the cheese and crackers.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:37 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can get hot water, instant oatmeal is the bomb. You can bring different stuff to put in it, or not. You can just stash them all at work too. I ate oatmeal for 2 years straight and it never got disgusting.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:38 AM on February 6, 2014

Banana or apple with almond butter (or any other kind of nut or peanut butter) is a pretty solid start to a lunch. Other quick and easy things I grab: jerky sticks (single serving), hard-boiled eggs, trail mix, grapefruit, lunch meat.
posted by ldthomps at 8:40 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My lunch at work has been the same for almost five years: baby carrots, string cheese, multi-grain crackers. Sometimes I'll add an apple or orange.
posted by dearwassily at 9:44 AM on February 6, 2014

People above mentioned crackers - Ryvita or Ryecrisp crackers are awesome for this. Very filling compared to most other crackers. I keep those and a tub of MacLaren's Imperial Sharp Cheddar at work.
posted by variella at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2014

Greek yogurt (fat free) with fresh clementines mixed in; a packet of almonds with pre-washed celery or carrots.

Make sure you mix it up. You can still be lazy and pack ready made items, but aim for more variety.

For your health.
posted by glaucon at 9:55 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tin of sardines, a handful of raw almonds or other nuts with a few dried apricots (not too many---sugar), an apple, some carrot, a piece of bread with good cheese.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2014

There are tons of things that are in individual servings now:









I'm a fan of salami and cheese that I buy at the deli counter and keep in the fridge at work.

But there are lots of cool things in single servings.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:22 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dump-n-run salad:
spring mix or whatever from box
feta from tub
cherry tomatoes from thingy
green olives from jar
chickpeas from can

if extra time: hard-boiled egg, cold boiled pototes, cucumber, celery, green pepper, whatever
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I keep a magic bullet blender at my desk at work, along with some fruit, a tub of protein powder, and I keep a carton of milk in the fridge at work. My lunches are a quick fruit protein shake. Delicious, healthy, fast, and just wash out the blender cup and you're ready to go for the next day! Highly recommended.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2014

While I admit that I still eat kids' lunchables as an adult, I know they're the not the best choice ever in terms of how processed they are, plus there are way better meats and cheeses available if you buy a la carte to assemble your own adult version of lunchables. You can keep crackers, sandwich meat, and good sliced cheese in your office fridge, and just assemble a meal from them throughout the week. Just put it all in bag Monday morning, plus some fruit and nuts or whatever, and use it for lunches throughout the work week.
posted by yasaman at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2014

Hummus, baby carrots, and crackers are super-lazy and super-tasty. As noted above, if you have a fridge at work, you can bring a bunch at the beginning of the week and then not have to worry about bringing lunch for the rest of the week!
posted by ourobouros at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you cook dinner? SO and I usually make sure that at least a couple of our dinners every week are large enough to bring in leftovers for lunch for the next day or two. It doesn't make cooking dinner any more complicated, and doesn't involve any more prep than putting it in a container the night before.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Muesli. My husband eats Seitenbacher #2 (with dried raspberries) for breakfast every day with vanilla yogurt and never gets tired of it. Probably better for you as a lunch than granola bars would be.

My lunch has often consisted of a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, and a box of non-perishable rice or soy milk in different flavors. I grab the fruit on my way out the door and keep the almonds and milk in my desk hutch.
posted by tully_monster at 11:03 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I sometimes keep cream cheese in the fridge at work, and pack one bagel and some vegetables every morning. (Could be baby carrots, or a bell pepper or tomato (if you're okay with eating those apple-style, it totally works), or mini cucumbers, or whatever else you like.) I cut the bagel open and spread the cream cheese at work. It's a bit high carb, but it's filling. You can vary the vegetables, and the flavours of cream cheese and of bagel so that it doesn't get boring.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2014

I'm not saying this is healthy, but my father had Carnation Instant Breakfast (he bought the milk at work and added the powder from home) and one of those 6-packs of peanut butter crackers for lunch every day for at least 15 years and lived to be 83. I'm not sure what he ate before they invented Carnation Instant Breakfast but I bet it was some 50s equivalent.
posted by chocotaco at 12:24 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am exactly like you. My daily lunch for the last many years has been cottage cheese. If I'm a little extra hungry, I also have a Cracker Barrel individually wrapped cheese stick. Yes, that's a lot of cheese, but I like to keep my lunches as protein-rich as possible.

Other regular lunches that have worked for me include baby carrots with hummus and also hard boiled eggs if I can get around to making a week's worth on Sunday. Smoked salmon with cream cheese. Sometimes I supplement with a handful of Brazil nuts or almonds. Also, once in a great while I'll have a half fish or beef filet left over from dinner the night before which I will bring in and eat cold. In the summertime I'll sometimes buy a container of berries, stick it in my work fridge and add that to my lunch throughout the week. These lunches are all very boring but they tide me over and keep me from having a horrible carb/sugar crash in the afternoon.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:06 PM on February 6, 2014

Excellent user name, sir!

Do you have any ethnic markets around you? I buy nuke-in-the-bag vegetarian indian food for lunch that's healthyish and delicious. Bout $2 a pop at a good place. No prep required. They even have rice!
posted by area.man at 1:02 AM on February 7, 2014

One random piece of fruit or vegetable for each hour you spend at work, a piece at a time throughout the day to reward yourself for another hour gotten through. If that adds up to too many calories, you might need to halve some of the stuff. Preparation is just buying and washing the stuff.
posted by pracowity at 5:11 AM on February 7, 2014

Single serve oatmeal pouches/sachets are decent for this.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:58 AM on February 7, 2014

Here is something really simple to make.
Usually when I take lunch to work I make a salad with the following ingredients:

Boiled egg
spring salad mix
shredded carrots
sesame or Italian salad dressing
(insert any other healthy vege)

This salad gives you a good mix of protein, and the other nutrients which
will get you through the afternoon slump.

And, it's fast and EASY!!!!
Good luck!
posted by Zandile Williams at 9:02 PM on February 7, 2014

Cheese stick, v-8, banana, and peanut butter crackers (in the little six pack).

Mini box of cereal with box of shelf stable milk and a piece of fruit (apple, banana, orange, 2 kiwis, bunch of grapes, etc.)
posted by Night_owl at 10:50 AM on February 8, 2014

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