12 Healthy, portable January lunch ideas
January can be a bit of a depressing time – Christmas and New Year are over, you're back at work and for most of us, our bank accounts have taken a bit of a battering over the festive period (those Boxing Day sales!) Ensuring you eat healthily when the days are cold and dark outside can not only help to boost your energy levels, it can also help stave off depression and low mood, not to mention assisting you as you work towards those fitness goals for 2015!
We've gathered together 12 recipes to ensure you have plenty of ideas for healthy lunches that you can take to work or the gym – all are easy to make and fairly budget-friendly, so you'll save money on pre-packed lunches and be healthier too. Don't forget to eat a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast in the morning too, as this sets you up for the day and will prevent you snacking before lunchtime.
This recipe uses tinned black beans, which are a great source of fibre and protein. Zingy red onion, healthy fats from the avocado and antioxidants from tomato, plus flavour-packed feta cheese and a spicy chimichurri salad dressing made with olive oil and spices ensures this salad recipe will soon become a lunchtime staple!
Bento boxes are the ideal way to combine several health elements and enjoy a tasty lunch that's light in calories but full on flavour. Tofu is a source of vegan protein and the soy and lime marinade adds loads of flavour. We love the healthy coconut milk and peanut dipping sauce and sticky rice balls. Add your choice of fruit and vegetables and you're on your way to your five a day!
It might be billed as a lunch box idea for kids, but we think rolled up sliced turkey forms the basis for a great healthy lunch. You could even add some cream cheese, cucumber batons or a gherkin to the inside of your rollups. Cubed mature cheddar cheese and a tasty home-made 'slaw with red cabbage, carrots and spring onions makes for a healthy, colourful and protein-packed lunch. Fill the other compartments of your bento box with the fruit and vegetables of your choice. Cherries and some sugar snap peas are our favourites.
Grilled chicken and quinoa give you a double-dose of protein, with frozen (defrosted) edamame, vitamin A packed sweet potatoes and sesame seeds, for an oriental twist. The sweet miso dressing is one of our favourite things, and you could use this on any other salad too. Even better, if you make a big batch, you can use leftovers to create sweet potato, quinoa and salmon cakes for dinner!
Soup is ideal to take to work when it's cold and can be kept hot in a thermos or reheated in a microwave. This simply yet spicy soup uses chickpeas, which will fill you up thanks to their high protein and fibre content – so you won't be reaching for the biscuit tin mid-afternoon. Try serving with toasted pitta bread; simple and delicious.
Wraps are super-portable and won't go soggy in your lunchbox. This recipe uses mashed white beans, with healthy fat from the avocado, smoky spice from the chipotle and lots of vegetables – it's one of our favourite Mexican-inspired lunches.
This salad can be made with smoked trout or smoked mackerel, both of which are easy to source at your local supermarket. We like to add some dark green leafy spinach or curly kale as well as watercress for extra Vitamin C. Spelt is a whole-grain which can help to lower your cholesterol and can even reduce stress and depression (1), so this is the perfect mood-boosting lunch for those stressful days at work!
#8. Veggie Egg Salad
We love eggs! Loaded with amino acids, protein and essential nutrients for health, they're also cheap and a great addition to any lunch box. This egg mayo salad uses yoghurt mixed with mayo for a lighter take, and includes carrots and cucumber, so it's the ideal way to get more vegetables into your diet. We love to serve this with whole-grain crackers and some cherry tomatoes or cucumber batons.
Sometimes you just need some carbs to get through a busy day at the office and this light pasta salad should do the trick. With black olives, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes, it's loaded with antioxidants. This salad will leave you feeling satisfied all afternoon, so you should have plenty of energy for that gym session after work. It's also a great way to refuel after a lunchtime workout.
This French-inspired recipe uses crusty baguette and a delicious take on tuna nicoise with red peppers, olives and a zingy vinaigrette. Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can help promote a healthy brain, making this the perfect lunch for days you need your concentration to be 100%. Opt for tuna packed in spring water or olive oil, wherever possible.
If you have some beef left over from a festive roast, this is perfect, or you can always pick up some lean slices of beef from a deli counter. This is the ideal wrap to make when you don't have many ingredients to hand and it swaps out tortillas for lettuce leaf wrappers. Spicy horseradish adds a kick that's really tasty and the beef is a lean source of protein.
#12. Tomato soup
No, not the kind you find in a brightly coloured tin on your local supermarket shelves, but a tastier home-made version with less sugar and salt. You could even use your own home-grown tomatoes, if you like! Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant which can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones) in later life and can also promote a healthy heart (2).
READ THIS NEXT: 15 super-speedy 3-ingredient recipes