It’s the start of a brand new decade and that means new year’s resolutions that we actually intend to keep (even when January comes to an end). If your goals include being healthier, eating better and saving money, this list is for you.
Enjoying a healthy, balanced and diverse diet doesn’t have to equal boring - and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Our trick is to keep it colourful with lots of fruit and veg. Not only will bright colours make your dishes more appetising, but consuming natural pigments can boost your vitamin intake.
The right meal plan can help you stay on track with achieving your target weight, while improving your overall health and cutting back on unnecessary spending. So let’s get the new year off to the best start. Here are six healthy cheap lunches for work that will make your coworkers jealous.
1. Asian quinoa salad
- Red cabbage
- Edamame beans
- Red pepper
(Typical serving size is ½ cup of quinoa and as much salad as you like)
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp chopped green onion
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- ¼ cup chopped coriander
This is one of the most exciting healthy cheap lunches for work, and perfect for anyone who appreciates Asian food. While quinoa is generally more expensive than rice, it’s a grain that still makes meal planning very affordable. Quinoa is pretty inoffensive when it comes to the nasties too.
One half cup serving of has around 111 calories, 2g of fat, 0mg of cholesterol, 4g of protein and 3g of fiber. It does have about 19g of carbs, so may not be suitable for a low-carb diet. But it’s a much healthier replacement for other grains, and certainly beats bread or pasta.
To make your sauce, you’ll need to stock up on a few Asian staples. But once you have these in your cupboard, you can turn to them again and again and make lots of meals with them.
2. Ham and salad wraps
- Wafer thin ham
- Tortilla wraps
- A bit of mustard to taste
(Typical serving size is one tortilla wrap with 1-2 slices of ham)
This is one of the best cheap, healthy lunches for work if you don’t like the fuss of a knife and fork, and prefer to eat on the go. It’s also great on your purse strings, as ham is one of the most affordable ingredients you can buy and it can make a dull salad seem a lot more appetising. Wholemeal wraps are just as cheap and cheerful too. And as they usually come in a pack of eight, you’ll have enough for the whole week. They also store well in the freezer (just like bread), so feel free to stock up.
To make it even healthier, skip the ham and opt for cooked chicken breast instead. Buy your chicken breast in rather than buying ready prepared, as that will save a few pennies. And if you want to add a bit of crunch, make your own low fat coleslaw with greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise.
3. Hummus and veggie sandwich
- Wholemeal bread
- Sliced cucumber
- Slice tomatoes
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Grated carrots
(Typical serving size is two slices of bread with 2 tbsp of hummus)
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp cumin
- Pinch of salt
(This hummus recipe makes 6 servings)
Ditch the meal deal sandwiches loaded with butter and mayo. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to bread in the new year, make your own sarnie but stick with the stuff that’s good for you. The healthiest type of bread is often considered to be rye bread due to its lower GI. But wholemeal bread is also a good choice.
Hummus is low in carbs and is quite a good source of plant-based protein and fibre. It is high in fats though (the good kind). An ideal replacement for butter, it’s super creamy and goes well with any type of veg (cooked or raw). For low fat diets, remember not to overload - stuff your sandwich full of delicious vegetables instead.
If you’ve got a few extra pennies to spare, add some avocado too for a bit of millennial luxury.
4. Turkey and apple pita pockets
- Roasted turkey
- Sliced apple
- Wholemeal pita
(Typical serving size is 1-2 pitas)
Sticking to a ‘new year, new you’ diet requires willpower. It also requires a bit of flair in the kitchen - because no-one wants to be eating boring food when their colleagues are chowing down on crisps and chocolate. This savoury and sweet combo is one of our favourite cheap healthy lunches for work - it solves the problem for both sandwich addicts and dessert fans. It combines a lighter type of bread with meat and fruit for a satisfying (and interesting) lunch.
If you can’t find turkey, chicken is just as great. Often chicken can be very cheap to buy in bulk from supermarkets too.
5. Healthy pasta salad
- Wholemeal pasta (cooked)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Salad leaves (such as rocket)
- Fresh basil
(Typical serving size in 57g of pasta and as much salad as you like)
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- A pinch of black pepper
Pasta isn’t your enemy. Yes it’s carby, and yes it can be higher in calories than other options. But pairing a starchy carb with a protein, fat, and some fibre can actually regulate your blood sugar. It’s all about what you serve your pasta with (wave goodbye to full fat cream carbonara and say hello to a simple lemon-oil dressing).
In moderation, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a bit of pasta. Make sure you add plenty of salad and choose whole grain pasta. Because it uses all of the wheat kernel, more nutrients are retained along with fibre too. Pasta is also one of the cheapest cupboard ingredients you can buy and it lasts forever, so you won’t have to use it up in one go.
6. Edamame rice bowl
- Basmati rice
(Typical serving size is ½ cup or 90g of rice)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ clove grated garlic
Pick up ready-to-eat edamame beans from the lunch section in most supermarkets and you’ll be paying a premium. But the frozen version (still intact in their pods) is extremely cost-effective. Plus, they cook in about five minutes flat so meal prep isn’t going to take you forever. Edamame is a decent source of soy protein and also comes packed with antioxidants, vitamin K and dietary fibre.
You can’t go wrong with rice either as it’s such an affordable cupboard ingredient. Opt for wholegrain basmati rice if you want the lowest GI possible. Or to make your lunch extra fancy, choose a wild rice mix.