Nutritionist Bronwen King gets us out of our sandwich rut with easy, healthy ideas for work lunches.
Do you suffer from ‘bored with lunch’ syndrome? While taking lunch to work saves money, too often we get stuck in a rut, eating the same foods – in the same way – every day.
We took a list of 10 simple ingredients and created an array of quick and easy lunches to satisfy every appetite. We compiled 10 lunches you can assemble at work and another 10 lunches you can easily prepare the night before (or in the morning!). And with a little creativity, you can create a few of your own delicious ideas.
Our 10 ingredients
canned tuna in spring water (or salmon or sardines)
baby spinach or rocket
wholemeal pita bread
no-added-salt four bean mix (or reduced-salt baked beans)
Basic pantry items to add
seasonings and spices
low-fat salad dressing or light mayo
cooking oil spray
Lunches you can easily assemble at work
1. Cheese and bean baked potato
Microwave a medium potato for 4–5 minutes, or until cooked through. Score the top and squeeze to open. Top with chopped green onion, 1/2 x 400g can four bean mix or baked beans and 3 tablespoons grated cheese. Pop in the microwave for 1–2 minutes to heat beans and melt cheese. Serve with baby spinach and chopped avocado.
2. Pita pocket with tuna, baby spinach, tomato and avocado
Mix a 95g can tuna (drained) with a handful of baby spinach, a chopped tomato, 1/4 avocado and some chopped green onion. Stir through a teaspoon of light mayonnaise or salad dressing. Toast 1 pita bread, split to open and fill with tuna mixture.
3. Bean and cheese quesadilla
Split one pita horizontally. Spread one half with baked beans or four bean mix, then top with baby spinach and a few tablespoons of grated cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper before replacing pita top. Grill on a toasted sandwich grill until crispy and the filling is hot. Cut into quarters before eating.
4. Tuna, spinach, avocado and egg salad
Pile a generous cup of baby spinach onto a plate. Top with a small can of tuna (drained), sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced avocado and any other leftover vegetables you might have brought from home. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve with toasted pita bread.
5. Toasted pita chips with dip
Toast 1–2 pitas and slice into wedges. In a bowl, roughly mash 1 small avocado and mix with 1 small diced tomato, chopped green onion and 1/2 x 400g can drained four bean mix. Stir through a little chilli powder, if desired. Dip pita wedges into dip.
6. Grilled cheese and tomato pita toasties
Toast pita, then top with grated cheese, sliced tomato and chopped green onion. Microwave or place under a hot grill to melt cheese. Once melted, top with a handful of baby spinach and a little sliced avocado to make an open-faced sandwich.
7. Savoury potato and tuna stack
Microwave a large potato for 4–5 minutes, until cooked through, then cut into 5 thick slices. Top each slice with a slice of tomato, a little drained tuna and some chopped green onion. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons grated cheese over stacks and season with ground black pepper. Microwave for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Serve with baby spinach and sliced avocado.
8. Pita pocket with beans, avocado and tomato
Scramble 1–2 eggs with a little milk and microwave for 1 minute (keep an eye on it). Stir again to scramble and season with black pepper. Toast one pita bread, open it up and fill with eggs, 1/2 small avocado (cut into cubes), 2 sliced green onions, and a small handful of baby spinach. If you have it on hand, add a dollop of low-fat natural yoghurt or light sour cream.
9. Tuna and potato salad
Microwave a potato until cooked (around 4 minutes). Chop roughly. Mix with 95g can tuna (drained), a generous handful of baby spinach, 1 sliced tomato, 1/2 sliced avocado and 1 tablespoon chopped green onion. Mix well with a little light mayonnaise or low-fat salad dressing of your choice.
10. Tuna nicoise salad with croutons
Split pita bread and toast each half until crispy. Break or chop into small pieces. Pile a generous serve of baby spinach onto a plate, top with a small can of tuna (drained), 1 hard-boiled egg cut into wedges, 1 medium sliced tomato and a few tablespoons of chopped spring onion. A few black olives, if you have them, would complement this nicely. Drizzle with a dressing of your choice and top with crispy pita pieces.
Lunches you can prepare at home
11. Salmon and spinach frittata
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a 20cm baking dish with oil. Dice 3 medium-sized cooked potatoes and combine with 2 cups baby spinach, 415g can salmon, 3 finely sliced green onions, 1 cup grated cheese and seasonings (such as black pepper or chilli flakes). Transfer mixture to dish and pour over 8 whisked eggs. Bake for 30 minutes until set. Slice into quarters and serve with a rocket salad.
12. Eggs with potato pancakes
Grate a potato and squeeze out excess moisture. Mix with 1 whisked egg and pan-fry ‘potato pancakes’ for several minutes on each side, until browned. Top with cooked spinach (warm in the microwave, if necessary). Poach or boil 1–2 eggs and serve over spinach. Serve with a salsa made from chopped tomato, sliced green onion and a little chilli powder and cumin.
13. Tomato and cheese omelette
Beat 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon skim milk and 1/4 cup grated cheese. Spray a frying pan with oil and place over high heat. Add egg mixture. When nearly set, add 1 chopped tomato on half of the omelette, then fold over other half. Serve with salad made from 1 cup baby spinach and any other salad vegies you have on hand.
14. Poached eggs on pita with grilled tomatoes and spinach
Halve 2 small tomatoes, spray with a little oil and sprinkle with ground black pepper. Place under hot grill until cooked. Toast 1 pita, then top with 2 tablespoons grated cheese and grill until melted. Top with baby spinach. Meanwhile, poach or hard-boil 2 eggs. Serve over spinach and serve with grilled tomatoes and grilled pita.
15. Vegie scrambled eggs
Beat 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons skim milk and ground black pepper. Spray a frying pan with oil and place over medium heat. Add eggs, a handful of spinach and a chopped tomato. Stir occasionally until cooked. Serve with a toasted pita.
16. Bean and cheese nachos
Slice a pita in half horizontally then slice each half into small pieces. Bake at 150°C for 10–15 minutes, until they are crisp. Pile pita crisps onto a plate; top with some baked beans and grated cheese. Microwave or grill nachos until cheese melts. Top with a little mashed avocado and diced tomato.
17. Potato wedges with tuna and tomato salsa
Chop a large potato into wedges. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray, spray with oil and sprinkle with dried herbs or seasonings (such as lemon pepper or rosemary). Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Cool slightly and top with a 95g can tuna (drained) and a salsa made from chopped tomato, diced avocado and sliced green onion. Season with ground black pepper.
18. Tuna melt with green salad
Toast a pita and top with 95g can flavoured tuna and slices of tomato. Top with 2–3 tablespoons cheese and place under grill until cheese melts. Serve with a spinach, four bean, avocado and green onion salad.
19. Boiled egg with cheese and tomato toasties
Boil an egg to desired consistency. Meanwhile, toast pita bread. Top pita with sliced tomato and grated cheese and grill until cheese bubbles. Serve eggs with toasties.
20. Salmon ‘shepherd’s pie’
Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel and boil 2 potatoes until tender. Drain and mash with a little skim milk. Meanwhile, steam 200g spinach until just wilted. Combine with 415g can salmon and chopped green onion. Season with your favourite herbs and spices (such as lemon pepper or tarragon). Transfer to a baking dish, top with mash and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25–35 minutes, until golden.