Everyone knows that packing your own lunch and snacks can help you maintain your diet at work and stay away from the candy jar or vending machine, but it can be really difficult to keep motivated after a few days.
t For me, the key to keeping motivated is to make lunch feel like a “real” meal and to vary my options so I never feel bored or deprived.
t Here are seven tried-and-true tips that help me stay on track.
1. Invest in a fun lunch box and some nice lidded containers
t I have a bright purple lunch bag with a fun pattern on it; it makes me smile when I see it and keeps me motivated more than throwing my food into last week’s plastic grocery bag does. Similarly, lunch containers have come a long way in the last few years. There’s no reason to use the same old plastic containers that you’ve had forever. Look for heavier containers that feel like real dishes. (Bonus: they clean up nicely and don’t warp in the dishwasher!)
2. Think outside the sandwich
t Sandwiches might be traditional, but they can get boring. If you have access to a microwave, bring a Mason jar filled with homemade soup to heat up. I also like to make veggie burgers or even baked potatoes stuffed with broccoli and salsa. Take advantage of the time your food is heating up to stretch your legs; I’ve been known to walk laps around the conference room while my lunch is in the microwave. If you don’t have a microwave, mix things up with tortilla wraps, grain-based salads or even cheese and crackers.
3. Pack multiple snacks
t One snack never seems like enough and the vending machine is tempting. I like to bring one healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or some cut-up vegetables with Moroccan-spiced carrot hummus, and one small treat. I’m much less likely to go to the vending machine if I have a homemade cookie or some trail mix to snack on. If you’re out of inspiration and feel like your snacking options are tired, think back to your childhood favorites. If you loved pudding cups as a kid, try bringing chia pudding.
4. Don’t eat while you work
t I know it’s tempting, but how many times have you gotten distracted by an email, only to find that you ate your entire lunch without realizing it? Minimize your computer programs and put on some music while you eat to make it a more enjoyable experience. If you pay attention while you eat, you’ll feel full longer.
5. Make a mini-pantry in one of your desk drawers
t I keep one of my drawers stocked with small jars of oil and vinegar, individual packets of croutons, hot sauce, salt and pepper and a few cans of soup. With staples like these, I can dress up whatever I brought that day and I’m always prepared if I forget my lunch. I also keep a small selection of tea and a pretty mug.
6. Buy a big water bottle
t I’m terrible about staying hydrated, so I keep a 2-quart water bottle at my desk. I try to fill it twice a day: once before lunch and once after.
7. Find an accountability buddy
t If you have a coworker who is on a similar quest to keep healthy, that’s great! You can share tips, tricks, frustrations and new meal ideas. If there are a few of you, you could even have a weekly or monthly healthy potluck lunch! If there’s no one in the office, a friend who you can email your daily lunch plan to is also really helpful and can keep you motivated to stay on track.