Lunch Outside the Box: Pack the Perfect Meal

Make lunchtime fun again. Smart strategies for packing the perfect workday meal: Lunch!

By Tamar Adler from Fine Cooking
Healthy Delicious LunchScott Phillips/Fine CookingTake an omelet to work instead of dining at the deli.

Lunch doesn’t have to be a dull routine of boring sandwiches, reheated leftovers, premade salads, and mediocre, pricey takeout. Instead, it should be a bright spot in the middle of your workday, a meal you look forward to, even if you’re eating it at your desk. Forget sandwiches, and think strategies. Here are my secrets to making the meal new, different, and delicious every day of the week.

THE MENU

Some assembly required.
Think of lunch as several tasty ingredients that you can assemble at your desk. I pack a variety of things I like, and then at lunchtime arrange them on a plate, almost like a composed salad.

Ditch the deli meat. Go beyond sliced turkey and ham; there are so many other ways to think about the protein on your plate. Roasted meats and fish, yogurt, cheese, toasted nuts, and eggs are just as portable and twice as exciting.

Make over leftovers. Get creative with last night’s dinner, whether it’s tossing cooked vegetables with a mustardy vinaigrette or serving cooked rice in a new way. Plan on a few leftovers, and you’ve got lunch insurance.

Unplug lunch. Foods that are good at room temperature won’t taste leftover-y or refrigerator-y when you sit down to eat. Avoiding the microwave keeps lunch feeling more dignified.

PACK AND EAT

What you pack your lunch in, and what you eat it on, will make a big difference.
Choose green. Reusable plastic containers, small Mason jars, and segmented lunch boxes (like stacking metal carriers) are less wasteful than plastic bags and make food look as exciting as it tastes.

Stock up. Keep a cutting board and serrated knife at work, with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and a pepper grinder. This way, you can cut up fruits and vegetables just before you eat them and dress your lunch to your taste.

Get real. Keep a ceramic plate or shallow bowl, silverware, a water glass, and a mug at work. Eating lunch on a real plate with real utensils will change how you feel about bringing your lunch from home.

See also:
6 Tips for Creative School Lunch Packing
Late for Work? Stock These Quick Healthy Snacks

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