If you’re working from home at least a day or two per week, it can be challenging fitting in healthy plant-based meals to grab between conference calls. So, check out these five tips and recipes on how to make easy vegan lunches for virtual work days to take the pressure off.
Back-to-back Zoom calls, pressing deadlines, and mountains of emails make for busy workdays when you work virtually. Add pets demanding a walk and hungry kids coming home from school and it’s easy to see how lunchtime can become grabbing a box of crackers and calling it a meal. For sure, it can be challenging to prioritize healthful meals when you work at home. The last thing you want to do is spend your whole lunch break in the car doing drive-thru, where you’re less likely to find healthful options anyway. However, if you miss out on refueling your body with powerful nutrition mid-day, you can slump in the afternoon, as well as miss out on an opportunity to get powerful nutrients in your day, such as protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a zen healthful meal that doesn’t take your whole lunch break to whip up? A meal that pops with color and vibrant health and nourishes your body, as well as your mind and soul? Here are my top 5 tips for creating healthy, plant-based lunches for virtual work days that are satisfying, but not too time-consuming for your at-home lunch break.
5 Tips for Making Easy Vegan Lunches for Virtual Work Days
1. Create Grain Bowls
The wonderful formula of whole grains + plant proteins (tofu, pulses, nuts) + veggies + a flavorful sauce is a winning one for easy lunches. All you have to do is start with cooked grains, then you can layer in the other ingredients. You can cook grains (brown rice, farro, millet, quinoa, sorghum) at the beginning of the week (make them in an Instant Pot to get the job done quickly) to save time. Or try precooked pouches of grains. Then create your bowl with the ingredients you have on hand. Try a variety of veggies, such as leafy greens, carrots, frozen peas, avocados, snap peas, and cucumbers. Sauces can include prepared salad dressings, a quick tahini sauce, or a plant-based yogurt dressing.
2. Open a Can of Beans
A simple can of protein-rich beans, from chickpeas to black beans, can get lunch on the table lickety-split! Pour them over your salad greens, whole grain wrap, corn taco shell, or whole grain pita bread to get your meal started. Make sure to layer in even more veggies, such as spinach, cherry tomatoes, sprouts, frozen corn, and avocado slices. Learn more about how to make a meal out of canned beans here.
3. Stir-Fry a Quick Healthy Lunch
Grab your skillet and go to town! In just minutes you can stir-fry a protein-rich, colorful, veggie-rich meal. Start with heating some vegetable oil in your skillet, then add whatever chopped veggies you have on hand (or use a frozen vegetable blend to make it even easier), including zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots. Stir in some plant protein, such as frozen edamame or cubed tofu or tempeh. Season it with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. And voila! Use those precooked grains to make it a meal.
4. Toss up a Satisfying Salad
There’s nothing better than a fresh satiating salad for lunch. It’s so easy too. Start with baby or chopped leafy greens (kale, romaine, butter lettuce, arugula, spinach); top with even more veggies you have on hand such as bell peppers, canned artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and radishes; layer in a plant protein, such as baked tofu, beans, or tempeh bacon; sprinkle over some nuts, seeds, and/or dried fruit, such as pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds, or raisins; and drizzle with EVOO and a squirt of lemon juice. Presto! Lunch is served!
5. Meal Prep Healthy Lunches for the Week
To really save time on healthy workday lunches, meal prep on your day off. Create delicious meals in individual containers you can pull out, pop in the microwave, and enjoy during the work week. Whether you make salads, grain bowls, wraps, or pasta dishes, it’s easy to make a whole batch of premade lunches all at once, rather than making individual meals each day. You may want to try meal prep ideas that give you some variety so you don’t get bored with your meals. For example, cooked pasta can be made into a pasta casserole, pasta salad, or pasta with red sauce. Cooked quinoa can be turned into grain bowls or salads. Make different fillings for your wraps or burritos.
For more quick and easy lunch recipes, check out my favorites:
Easy Vegan Tacos with Refried Beans and Corn Salsa
Double Chickpea Vegetable Pitas
Chipotle Tomato Rice Power Bowl
Best Avocado Toast
Vegan BLTA Sandwich
Vegan California Burrito Bowl
Quinoa Corn Bean Chowder
Mediterranean Vegan Meal Prep
Image: Masala Cauliflower Rice Bowl, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN from California Vegan