Tired of the same old ham and cheese sandwich day after day? These easy lunch ideas will make you the envy of your colleagues.
Bread and toast
Sandwiches are a workday staple, but they can get a bit boring. These lunches make bread more interesting. Some you can prepare ahead and take to work, and some need a little cooking in the kitchen.
1. Pulled meat slider
Toast a wholegrain roll. Mix pulled pork or beef with a little BBQ sauce. Spread the roll with a mix of reduced-fat plain yoghurt and mayo, add pork, and top with salad and a dollop of sauerkraut or chutney.
2. Crunchy vegie wrap
Spread a wholegrain wrap with peanut butter. Top with carrot sticks, sliced cherry tomatoes, mixed salad greens and sliced marinated tofu, then roll up and cut in half.
3. Avocado toast tower
Spread wholegrain toast with avocado. Top with sliced tomato, rocket and reduced-fat feta. Sprinkle with toasted seeds and chilli flakes.
4. Vegie power toast
Top wholegrain toast with a generous dollop of hoummos. Add grated beetroot, grated carrot and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds. For extra protein, add a sliced boiled egg.
5. Chicken quesadilla
Top one half of a warmed wholegrain tortilla with mashed kidney beans. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes, chilli sauce and grated reduced-fat cheddar. Fold tortilla in half and press down to make a sandwich. Toast in a sandwich press until the cheese has melted.
Use pre-cooked leftover rice or convenient microwavable rice pouches to make these bowls. Brown rice and rice mixed with other grains add a fibre boost. Take all the ingredients to work and assemble them in a bowl, then heat in the microwave, when required. So simple!
6. Gado gado
Make a quick satay sauce: Combine peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce, a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce and hot water to make a smooth and creamy sauce. Reheat brown rice. Serve with sliced cucumber, carrot sticks, celery sticks, halved cherry tomatoes and a sliced boiled egg.
7. Beef bibimbap
Heat a mix of brown rice and quinoa. Top with leftover cooked, sliced steak and add vegies, such as grated carrot, sliced shallots and mung bean sprouts. Add a dollop of spicy kimchi and chilli sauce (optional). You could also pre-make a thin omelette, then slice and add it to the bowl.
8. Spicy vegan abundance bowl
Start with a mix of brown rice and chia, then add grated beetroot, grated carrot and baby spinach. Add a blend of soft tofu and chilli sauce (make this ahead in a processor or whisk together with a fork). Top the salad with chopped cashews or Brazil nuts.
9. Salmon poké bowl
Make an Asian dressing by combining sesame oil, lime juice, reduced-salt soy sauce and ginger. Add a splash of water. Combine chopped raw or canned salmon, chopped cucumber, shallots and iceberg lettuce in a container. Top with dressing, mixing through well. Chill. At lunchtime, put cold, cooked brown rice in a bowl and top with fish mixture.
10. Sashimi don
Reheat cooked brown rice in the microwave. Top with sliced raw tuna or salmon, chopped avocado, diced cucumber and finely shredded red cabbage. Drizzle with a dressing made from reduced-salt soy sauce, mirin and water. Top salad with shredded seaweed (optional) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Noodles and pasta
Noodles and pasta make for a nice change from sandwiches, and you can eat warm or cold. Load up with at least half a plate of colourful vegies to make a lunch that’s full of goodness.
11. Peanut and vegie noodles
Cook rice noodles to packet instructions, and rinse to cool. Make a dressing from a mix of peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce, thinned with boiling water to a smooth consistency. Add sliced zucchini, capsicum, carrot and asparagus. Dress noodles and vegetables with peanut dressing and top with cooked chicken, chopped peanuts and coriander. Add sliced chilli or chilli flakes, to taste, and serve warm or cold.
12. ‘Zoodles’ with raw green sauce
Make ‘noodles’ from zucchini using a spiraliser or peeler. Cook briefly in boiling water or the microwave. Make a sauce by blending spinach with olive oil, lemon juice, water, garlic and a dollop of cottage cheese. Toss noodles in sauce and top with chopped tomatoes, olives and chilli. Serve with a wholegrain roll.
13. Soba noodle salad
Cook soba noodles ahead and rinse to cool. Mix sesame oil, ginger, lemon juice and a dash of reduced-salt soy sauce in a bowl with a little water. Add ready-made coleslaw mix to the soba noodles, with toasted sunflower seeds and shredded chicken. Pour dressing over noodles and salad, and toss well to coat. Serve chilled.
14. Tuna pasta bowl
Combine cooked pasta with baby spinach or rocket, chopped cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon zest and blanched green beans. Add a small can of chilli-flavoured tuna and serve hot or cold.
15. Rainbow pasta salad
Cook pasta to packet instructions; drain and chill. Add diced capsicum and tomato, corn kernels, chopped celery, baby spinach or rocket and cooked chicken. Drizzle with basil pesto and a dash of lemon juice.
For a salad to be a satisfying lunch, it has to be substantial. These options tick all the boxes: they’re packed with protein and fibre-rich vegetables, and, most importantly, they taste delicious.
16. Sushi salad
Combine cold cooked brown rice with sliced pickled ginger, sliced toasted seaweed, diced avocado, diced cucumber, julienned carrots and sesame seeds. Dress salad with a mix of sesame oil, mirin and white wine vinegar. Top with tuna, salmon, chicken or sliced tofu.
17. Salmon Niçoise salad
Start with torn cos lettuce. Add blanched green beans, sliced cold boiled potatoes, black olives and boiled eggs. Toss with dressing made of mustard, olive oil and lemon juice, and top with canned salmon.
18. Roasted vegie and lentil salad
Add leftover roasted vegies, such as pumpkin and carrot, to drained canned lentils. Add chopped capsicum, tomatoes, reduced-fat feta and a few olives. Dress the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.
19. Tuscan bread salad
Roast red capsicums and eggplant in a hot oven until very soft. When cool, chop roughly and add to a salad of crunchy lettuce, tomatoes and crumbled reduced-fat feta. Add torn-up toasted sourdough and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat everything well. Add cooked chicken or canned tuna to the salad for more protein.
20. Boosted Caesar salad
Dress cos lettuce with a drizzle of store-bought Caesar dressing. Add blanched green beans, broccoli and edamame beans. Top vegies with a hard-boiled egg, grainy toast croutons, grated parmesan and cooked chicken breast or salmon.
Simple salad in seconds!
Toss together this quick salad to add 2 1/2 serves of vegies to your lunch:
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 cup baby spinach
2 teaspoons toasted nuts or seeds
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix all vegetables and seeds together in a bowl. Mix olive oil and lemon juice, and add to salad, toss well and enjoy!