What to Eat When You Have No Time to Eat

What to Eat When You Have No Time to Eat | CorporetteLet’s start by saying this:  eating is a Good.  Food is fuel for your brain and body, it’s yummy, and the act of eating gives you a nice break during the day.  There are metabolic benefits to eating small meals very often, and your subordinates will appreciate the consistent mood that comes from frequent meals.

However, sometimes just finding the time to eat can be very difficult — just getting downstairs to the deli to grab something and go can be taxing, not to mention unrewarding after realizing you’ve paid $10 for a sandwich that wasn’t fresh or healthy and spent 30 minutes of your time between elevator rides and cashier’s lines.

That’s why we’ve been a big fan of bringing food to the office. If you’re trapped at your desk, it’s easier to rationalize a 5-minute break to eat the food you’ve already brought. It’s also easier to lock yourself into a healthy choice — the all-too-often thought of “well, I’ll just treat myself because I’m so busy” never ends well — and it’s ultimately better for the budget as well.  (Pictured above:  soup season, originally uploaded to Flickr by looseends.)

While there are some who have made an art form out of bringing a beautifully packed lunch, we can only aspire to be in that group for the moment.  So we’ve come to specialize in what we’ll call the grab-and-go snack form of lunching. While none of them would normally be considered a meal, they take far less time to prepare or eat than a proper lunch, and if you eat 2 or 3 of them throughout the day you’re never hungry.  So, without further ado, our list of food staples for the busy working girl:

Yogurt — we strive for brands/lines that have no more than 100 calories per cup. If you can get a good deal, it sometimes pays to get the big containers (4 cups or so) of yogurt — bring it to the office and use a coffee cup to portion it out when you’re ready to eat it. We like mixing our yogurt with Fiber One — the cereal adds fiber, which boosts the feeling of fullness and helps you feel like you’re eating something substantive. It’s a great way to get your calcium in, also (but note that the calcium percentages vary widely among the brands, so check them out before you buy).

Hard-boiled eggs. (Yes, this one’s cheating a bit — it requires a bit of prep work at home in order to make the hard-boiled eggs.)  These suckers are great sources of lean protein — at least the whites are.  The yolks do seem to make it seem more filling, though, and last time we checked we thought the fat in the yolks was a healthy fat.  Still, for calories and cholesterol sake, we tend to eat one whole egg and two egg whites if we’re considering these a snack.  Be sure to a) check your teeth before venturing into the world again, and b) get the remnants out of your office (even if it’s just to the office kitchen garbage) as soon as possible.  We tend to bring only what we intend to eat to the office — i.e., take 3 hard-boiled eggs from the fridge, wrap them in a napkin, and stick in our purse before heading out in the morning.

Sandwich fixings (particularly if the idea of assembling a sandwich in the morning stresses you out).  Just grab about six slices of whatever low-cal bread you have on hand (or whatever’s easiest), and a packet of low-fat cheese to the office — voila, sandwiches for days. You can also bring a package of deli meat to the office — turkey or ham both tend to be low in fat — but be sure you’re not overdoing it on preservatives and sodium. (The other downside to deli meat is that it tends to get gross a day or two after you open it, which means you have to eat the same meal at least twice.) If you have reduced-fat peanut butter or almond butter sitting around, you can also add that to the bread — but watch your portions. Products like Better ‘n Peanut Butter or PB2 might be particularly worth looking into if you’re a little bit too much of a big fan of the peanut butter — they’re lower in calories.  Canned tuna fish or salmon can be something else great — we try to collect low-fat mayonnaise packets when we see them (Panera is our usual source) and save them, but if in doubt we think both tuna and salmon taste good when mixed with mustard.  Try to avoid eating tuna too often — the mercury content is bad for women (or perhaps people? chime in if you’re more up on this than we are) and, if buying canned salmon for the first time, be sure to read the label carefully — sometimes skin and/or bones are involved.  These can be eaten in a coffee cup or on bread; either way, get the remnants out of your office as soon as possible.  Sardines are something we’ve never tried to prepare ourselves, but we’ve read great things about them — if anyone has suggestions on eating sardines in a no-fuss way, do tell.

String cheese or other easy-to-eat forms of low-calorie cheese.  Mini Babybels, a Laughing Cow wedge, or, if you have time to pre-slice some 50- or 75-percent fat free Cabot’s cheese — they taste good, provide calcium and protein, and satiate.

Oatmeal — This can be a great and filling snack, and feels more indulgent than the 130 calories or so that you usually consume with it.  If you don’t have access to a microwave — try adding hot water (meant for tea) to the oatmeal; almost all brands, including plain quick-cooking oats, become oatmeal after a few minutes.  (With plain oatmeal, try adding a sugar-free packet of hot cocoa to it, or some raisins and cinnamon.)

Raw almonds. They’re a superfood!  We prefer them raw because there’s no oil involved in a roasting process — and, c’mon, a raw almond is far less tasty than a wasabi-flavored roasted almond (or any of the delicious new flavors they’re selling).  Count out 12 whole pieces or so and call it a snack.

Vitatops. We just ordered these again for the first time in a long while, and they’re just as good as we remember — filling, tasty, and yes, only 100 calories.  Sure, we could do a homemade version of them (we’ve taken a muffin mix and added powdered Fiber One to it and seem to recall it being similar) but sometimes it’s just easier to order them.  Even though they have to be frozen (no preservatives), if you don’t have access to a microwave you can bring them to room temperature or behind by placing one on top of a cup of tea or coffee.

Lattes. Even if you don’t have time to run to your local Starbucks, get some coffee from the office kitchen, and add skim milk until the coffee and milk are roughly 50/50.  It’s a great liquid snack that boosts your energy, adds calcium to your diet, and wards off hunger.

Soups. We had a lot of ladies write in to sing the praises of soups — we completely agree!  (If you don’t have ready access to a microwave at your office, try bringing a thermos — some of them are the perfect size for soup.)  (Including Thermos Nissan 16-Ounce Leak-Proof Food Jar, pictured, available at Amazon for $25.)  If you have time to cook your own, go for it –readers recommended recipe sites like Food Gawker and Taste Spotting — but if you need to buy prepared soup, so be it.  After all, $2 for a can of soup (or less, if you’re lucky) is a great deal compared to spending $6 or more on a cup of soup at the local Au Bon Pain.  (If you’re eating canned soup uber-regularly, you might want to opt for organic soups — if only to avoid preservatives and such.)  Manhattan clam chowder is usually a good, low-cal fix (our $.02: avoid New England clam chowder in a can at all costs); bean and lentil-based soups also tend to taste pretty good for the calories you’re consuming.  Chicken noodle soup is almost always a good bet, calorie-wise.  We’ve recently bought a few of the soups in Progresso’s High Fiber line and were impressed with the taste.

Salads can be a bit messy and complex for us — after all, it assumes we’ve had time to go to the grocery store and select fresh greens and other ingredients, and to prepare them for inclusion — rinsing, chopping, etc. — but obviously they are great for diet and health reasons.  Reader C e-mailed us, noting that she brought salads the entire year she clerked.

I just bought a clamshell of lettuce, a decent dressing, and a bag of pre-cooked shrimp.  To make the lunch I tossed lettuce in a gladware container, then put some shrimp in a ziplock baggie with some marinade ingredients.  I would do an Asian style with ground ginger, red pepper, soy sauce, and pepper, or scampi with lemon juice, olive oil, dried basil, and garlic.  I either covered the lettuce in dressing or put it in a separate little container.  Then at lunch just microwave the shrimp and toss them into the salad.  It’s filling, cheap, and easy.

Perfect!  Personally, when we have time to spare we tend to hit the local salad place and get the same thing:  baby spinach, crumbled feta, tomatoes, and a few black olives, tossed with balsamic vinegar.  Very low-calorie, high in antioxidants and calcium — when we want to add more protein we tend to add grilled shrimp.

Prepared meals. We’re not big fans of the frozen meal — they’re filled with preservatives, and they’re not as filling as eating 2 or 3 of the snacks above.  (Also, they require a trip to the microwave.)  Still, for dietary restrictions they may be the easiest way to go:  reader A wrote in to rave about the Gardein line for vegans, noting that each is less than 200 calories.  A tip:  if the prepared lunch is for you, you may want to try to boost the nutritional value of it by adding vegetables — most dinners are improved by adding a can of green beans or 1/2 a bag of frozen broccoli.  (We’ll admit, though, we love Amy’s Tofu Vegetable Lasagna and most any Lean Pocket — but they’re a rare treat for lunch.)

All right, enough of our lunch choices — what do you eat when you have no time to eat?



  1. Great post! I’m absolutely addicted to Odwalla Vanilla Protein drinks– I have one almost everyday for lunch. They are often on sale for about $2.50 per bottle, are chock full of protein and vitamins, and contain enough calories (~400) to keep you going all afternoon. Also, they are oddly very filling for a liquid and can be consumed in approximately 45 seconds in between meetings, if necessary. Pretty much hits all of my major requirements for a quickie meal.

  2. I bring almost all of these as parts of my daily packed lunch! I’ll put a plug in for greek yogurts–if you can get to Trader Joe’s, their nonfat greek yogurts are great, or you can get fage almost anywhere now. Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt, and mixed with Fiber One I find it really filling.

  3. This post depresses me a bit – not everyone is constantly counting calories and denying herself food pleasure (for the record >100 calorie yogurts are just NOT ENOUGH FOOD for me, and the wasabi almonds rock my world!).

    Anyway, for my two cents, it’s not very glamorous, but a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter and fruit spread left in the kitchen have saved my hungry butt many times. If you put the bread in the fridge it lasts for quite a while. Yes, it’s a little embarrassing to be making yourself a PB&J but you’d be surprised how many people have commented enviously on them!

    My other go-to meal is a microwaved veggie burger (I like Boca burgers) with soy or teriyaki sauce and frozen vegetables. For those counting calories you can get it down to, like, 200 or so and it feels like a real meal.

    My disgusting and totally unhealthy comfort food is cup o soup (the powdered soup that comes in an envelope). I know it’s 100% sodium+chemicals but sometimes I just get a craving for the cream of chicken!

    • This post depresses me a bit – not everyone is constantly counting calories and denying herself food pleasure

      True, but those of us who aren’t (I will never, ever go down that road again) generally don’t need to talk about it; we can just, you know, eat. :-)

    • I have a Panini maker squirreled away in my filing cabinet and I get tons of envious comments when I make my hungry self a grilled cheese.

    • Agreed. My experience, too, is that 100 calorie containers of yogurt tend to be made with aspartame. (And it’s not enough to do anything other than postpone eating for an hour.) Lately, I’ve been buying a 32 oz container of plain low-fat yogurt and then putting my own mix-ins (wheat germ, frozen fruit, granola, honey.) but that’s still part of the meal. Canned low-sodium soup is good to keep in your desk drawer for emergencies, but I try to make a big pot of soup/chili on Sundays to have leftovers to bring in every day.

  4. Lots of processed food on this list. I like Greek yogurt, apples, high-fiber oatmeal, all-natural peanut butter, precut fruit, and wheat crackers as my go-to snacks.

    • It’s virtually ALL processed. Yogurts that have around 100 calories (or less) have zero nutriotional value, are filled with artificial sweetner and rarely come in any “natural” flavor. Even Stonyfield organic low-fat yogurt is around 135 cal. Honestly, I would not eat the 100 cal yogurts like Yoplait, etc., if you paid me – you only get one body, you shouldn’t fill it with so much artificial junk.

      Same for all the low-fat cheese & mayo, etc. — there is a reason people in the States are getting so unhealthy while people in other countries eat “regular” cheese, butter, etc. and seem to be in much better shape.

      I am surprised that Lean Cuisine, etc. gets called out for being artificial! Almost everything save for the raw almonds on that list is beyond fake & processed!!

      • Agreed. I am a big fan of the real yogurt. Even the low or no-fat versions taste so much better than the disgusting Yoplait versions. And, I like the portion control and the veggie servings you get in the frozen meals. Kashi frozen meals and most of the Indian frozen meals are pretty decent, and I do read labels and ingredient lists.

        Also, best snack ever – raw almonds and dried bing cherries (I pick them both up at Whole Foods and mix about 15 each in a baggie in the morning). Sweet, tangy, satisfying. Snacking on that and a part-skim string cheese for lunch will be enough to get me through a busy workday.

        • Correction: raw almonds, dried bing cherries and chocolate chips (or M&Ms) is the best snack ever.

      • Anonymous :

        And “artificial” is bad, why, exactly?

        • Well, in my case, I’m sensitive to sulfites (which are used as a preservative in some processed foods) and I’m also concerned about high levels of sodium in many processed foods.

  5. These are some great suggestions – I love a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning.

    My recommendations to add: for yogurts, I eat organic, plain yogurt, but add either dried cranberries or golden raisins, or a spoonful of organic preserves (just keep a tiny jar in your fridge) for natural sweetness.

    I cook on Sundays, then individually Tupperware everything into grab-and-go portions. I get bored of eating the same thing every day (sandwiches), so this is key for me.

    Don’t forget hummus as a great, easy snack. You can whip up your own at home (takes 5 minutes, seriously!), or just buy a tub. It lasts for a good bit of time (less if you make it at home), and just bring carrots or pita chips or something to dip in it.

    Apples! Delicious and filling because of their water content.

    I hate the frozen lunches. I did this when I was interning one summer before I cooked, and not only do they not fill me up, they are chock full of so much sodium and preservatives…ick.

    But great suggestions! This is always a tricky part of the day, and it’s so much better to eat small portions of healthy food than to skip meals!

  6. I always try to keep the following on hand:
    – Apples
    – Cheese & Crackers
    – Oatmeal
    – Crystal Light packets
    – Couple of cans of soups

    I also recommend bottles of Ensure. It’s mostly associated with old people, but it’s packed with vitamins and is great when you need a pick-me-up and have no time. I can have one down in 45 seconds and one bottle keeps me full for several hours (and I’m pregnant, so that’s saying something!).

  7. Anonymous :

    I don’t think preservatives have been conclusively shown to be all that bad for us. Isn’t it just a risk of the unknown combined with the idea that something not “natural” is automatically bad?

    • I think it depends on the preservative, but something Michael Pollan said struck home for me: basically, we’re in a race to eat stuff with other organisms like molds, bacteria, what have you. When there are preservatives in a Twinkie that mean that your everyday household bacteria are no longer interested in eating it….that sorta freaks me out, you know? I try not to be too simplistic about food choices, but I don’t know if I want to be the only species that consumes a given product.

      • Wow. I honestly never thought of it that way. I guess I won’t be eating a Twinkie anytime soon… (or anything else with preservatives for that matter) Reminds me of the time my college roommate (notoriously picky eater) invited me to consider how old the chicken in canned chicken noodle soup is… Yuck!

      • Anonymous :

        We’re also competing with every other organism and beast for everything we eat, but it doesn’t really help to visualize a cheetah eating a fresh deer carcass, does it?

        Modern science has allowed us to preserve foods for later eating, just like it also provided us with stuff like pasturization of milk, and this is generally thought of as progress, not something to be reviled. Of course too much of it can be excessive but there’s something to be said for everything in moderation.

  8. Almonds and string cheese are my go-to snacks that I like to have on hand. Canned soups and tuna are good. I also like Lean Cuisine frozen meals. I love hard-boiled eggs, but the prep time and the fact that they don’t last nearly as long as all the previously-mentioned items means I don’t eat them as often. My boyfriend cooks a lot, so I’ll often pack up left-overs from his dinners to eat for lunch. Those are my favorite lunches. Seems like you’ve listed all my favorite in-office foods, and then some.

  9. The Kashi frozen meals really aren’t bad compared to your average Lean Cuisine – they use a lot of whole grains and veggies and it feels like you’re eating real food, not processed stuff (I mean, it’s more processed than from scratch, but they’re pretty decent).

    I’m not sure why raw almonds being LESS tasty than the roasted kind is a point in their favor, though…

    • Second the Kashi frozen meals . . . especially the lemongrass chicken. Most of them seem to have a good mix of protein and carbs.

      I try to bring lunch most days, which generally consists of about a cup of whole wheat couscous, quinoa, soba noodles, or whole wheat pasta, some sort of vegetables (usually spinach, sweet potato, or broccoli), and some sort of protein (i.e., edamame or leftover chicken). All this stuff is relatively easy to throw together the night before when/if I’ve fixed dinner. For when I can’t get it together to bring something, I take the Kashi meals referenced above, the occasional Lean Cuisine (which reminds me of airline food but which I will eat it anyway), or small containers of Imagine or Pacific vegetable soups. I also keep peanut butter at the office to spread on sliced apples, along with a couple of Larabars and wheat crackers.

      In the am, I’ll eat/ take a nonfat Fage with walnuts or almonds and some sort of fruit. When it’s cold, I have plain oatmeal with nuts and fruit instead of Fage.

  10. I’ll put in a second plug for Kashi’s frozen meals. I also like to keep a bag of rice cakes in my desk and some peanut butter. Easy and filling (without the PB the rice cakes don’t feel like much), especially if I add a glass of skim milk (my firm keeps the fridge stocked for the coffee). Fruit is also key for me – apples are easiest. For hummus I will bring carrots, almonds or even plain wheat tortillas to dip. Alternatively I’ll cut up some cheese to eat with the tortillas. But my favorite thing is to make Saturday/Sunday my plan ahead day and portion meals out in to-go tupperware so I can grab it on my way to work. I also really like FiberOne bars.

    • I second the FiberOne bars! They are super yummy and easy to eat – and do help with hunger.

  11. It takes me an extra 5 minutes in the morning, but I make myself a salad every day for my lunch. I put the salad dressing the bottom of the container, followed by veggies (tomatoes or cucumbers usually), then the protein (chicken, canned tuna, imitation crab meat, boiled egg, etc.) and whatever other fun stuff I want (avocado, some shredded cheese, beans, corn) and topped with lettuce. When it is time for lunch, I just shake up the container to get the dressing on everything (the layers between the dressing and the lettuce ensure that the lettuce doesn’t get soggy). Now that I am pregnant I also have something else on the side, usually carb-based (today is a soyjoy bar) to fill me up. Eat an apple and/or other fruit in the afternoon as a snack.

    This isn’t quite as quick as the things that C mentioned, but to me the extra few minutes in the morning are totally worth it so that I have something that I know is really healthy and doesn’t have any added junk.

  12. On the topic of eating enough to get through the work day, I ran into this Virginia Woolf quote the other day that I thought was fascinating:

    “It is a common thing to see the business girl contenting herself with a bun or a sandwich for her midday meal; and though there are theories that this is from choice… the truth is that they often cannot afford to eat properly.” (Careers and Openings for Women, by Ray Strachey, p. 74.) Compare also Miss E. Turner: “…many offices had been wondering why they were unable to get through their work as smoothly as formerly. It had been found that junior typists were fagged out in the afternoons because they could afford only an apple and a sandwich for lunch. Employers should meet the increased cost of living by increased salaries.” (The Times, March 28th, 1938).

    (From Three Guineas, p. 179, n. 20. Harcourt, 1966..)

    Funny how the causes of skipping meals at work (or skimping on them) have changed for career women, but the issue persists.

    • North Shore :

      Love it!

      For what it’s worth, I work from home, and frequently get so busy that it’s time to get my kids from school, and I discover I haven’t eaten all day. And my kitchen is only 20 feet away . . .

      • I would love to discover that I haven’t eaten all day. Unfortunately I get hungry along the way.

  13. i’m also a fan of cooking in bulk on sunday (usually in my slow-cooker) and splitting the contents into small, airtight containers. having casserole or stew for lunch is so much more satisfying than cold sandwiches or salads, especially in the winter!

  14. For me, it’s all about leftovers (am maybe a little spoiled on the microwave front). I cook plenty of Asian style food and make big portions that get doled out into tupperware. Some in the fridge and some in the freezer. I’ve usually got a couple of different stir-fries and curries around, so I don’t get bored. Love knowing that they’ve been made with skim coconut milk, a quarter of the suggested oil, super-lean meat, brown rice etc… If I’m adding something like snowpeas, I stick them in the tupperware raw on top of the rest of the stir fry: they cook up just right in the microwave rather than being soggy from being twice cooked.
    I’ve also been a fan of trail mix in my desk and, surprisingly, little, wrapped bits of chocolate. I find it’s much better to have a little chocolate on hand to nibble that going to the vending machine for a king size every time you crave.

  15. Campbell’s Soup At Hand is great. I particularly like the Creamy Tomato flavor and Veggie Soup with Mini Round Noodles, either of which I will bring to work and heat up in the microwave for lunch. Just that—combined with a tall glass of water, a cup of tea, or a mug of hot chocolate—can be a filling lunch for me. But, sometimes I’ll buy some of these small containers of pre-made salad (Chef, Chicken Caesar, or Waldorf) from my local supermarket and pair that with my soup. It makes for a very tasty lunch.

  16. Since others shared more of their packing habits, I will also note that if you can work up the time to cook up some larger recipes on the weekends, and invest in some serious Tupperware/gladware/whatever, it’s relatively quick to grab an assortment of home-cooked dishes, a few “side” snacks like yogurts and almonds (and I like the taste of raw almonds, thankyouverymuch!), and have a whole lunch and snacking smorgasbord in your briefcase. Of course, I am hugely committed to crunching and munching my way through the workday, plus I have relatively convenient access to a fridge and microwave.

  17. Campbell’s Soup At Hand paired with either a tall glass of ice water, a cup of tea, or a mug of hot chocolate. Sometimes, I’ll buy these small containers of pre-made salads from my local grocer (Chef, Chicken Caesar, or Waldorf) and pair that with my soup. It makes for quite a tasty lunch.

  18. I get the 90 second microwave brown rice, zap a bag of fresh broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, throw in some canned chicken or tuna, and add a sauce to it. Makes enough for lunch and dinner.

    Oatmeal, almonds, and low-fat cheese are also good and very filling.

  19. My favorite is Adam’s Crunchy peanut butter and 1/2 of a sliced apple. The combination of savory and sweet, protein and carbs ,is a great snack to tide me over until I leave my job for dinner or until lunch.

  20. Protein shakes. They are quick and something I grab when I know I haven’t had any protein in my diet that particular day.

  21. – Frozen brown rice and frozen steel-cut oatmeal from Trader Joes.
    – Greek yogurt with honey. Greek yogurt (if you buy the zero-percent kind) is low in calories but thick enough that it feels substantial.
    – Miso soup. High in sodium but I don’t have blood pressure problems, so I don’t feel bad eating it.
    – Brown rice crackers.
    – Baby carrots and cut-up celery last a long time in the office fridge.
    – Bananas and apples.
    – Soft goat cheese. Great on crackers, veggies or fruit and feels like a little indulgence.
    – Small packs of peanuts and a jar of natural peanut butter.
    – Slim-Fast canned shakes, the high-protein kind.
    I am not an instant-oatmeal person or a canned-soup person. Also not much of an energy bar person although I do keep one in my purse in case I need it for my son.
    I second the leftovers suggestion. Learning how to use my Crock-Pot has saved us a ton of money on eating out, both dinners and lunches. In 15 minutes one morning I can make something that will give us dinner that night, lunch for two the next day, and possibly even a little left over for another day that week. Throw in some bone-in frozen chicken breasts, scrubbed and cut-up sweet potatoes, chicken broth and spices in the morning and when you get home, you can either eat as-is or use as ingredients for a good dinner. Leftovers for the next day can be dressed up totally differently if desired. Cooking at home really solves a lot of “what to eat for lunch” dilemmas for us.

  22. For the vegan ladies–I don’t know about you, but I eat fruit, fruit and more fruit! Can be done with one hand, can sit on my desk overnight if I don’t get to it, and boosts my energy with some nice fiber, fructose and flavor throughout the day! And yes, I am certainly pro peanut butter; I especially like the ones with flax seed oil for the extra Omega-3s!

    • I am vegetarian, but I still totally agree. Fruit is the perfect go-to snack food.

      Have you tried the Gardein products? I really liked them.

  23. housecounsel :

    Am I the only sad girl who eats Atkins peanut butter protein bars at her desk? I will be eating them even more often, now that I have thought about how old the chicken in canned chicken soup is. I have a few of those microwavable soup containers in my desk, but I will seriously never look at them the same way again.

    Maybe I am hypersensitive to smells, but I just don’t want to cook or eat anything in the office that will stink the place up.

    • newassociate :

      that’s why i have a can of oust in my office! works great post-curry :).

      • Not be a total downer, but if the ingredients in can of chicken soup bother you, please consider what’s in your Atkins Bar:
        Soy nuggets (soy protein isolate, oat fiber), Peanuts, partially defatted peanut flour, gum arabic, milk protein isolate, rolled oats, polydextrose, natural and artificial flavors, salt, sucralose and vitamin mineral mix (tricalcium phosphate, calicium carbonate, magnesium oxide, vitamin A palmitate, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, D-L Alpha Tocopheryl acetate, niacinmide, biotin, d-calcium pantothenate, zinc oxide, foli

        I don’t know about you, but that sounds awful to me (Hydrochloride???). Eat things that are more natural (apples, greens, bananas, etc. . . . even actual peanuts!) and you will be much less “sad,” I promise :)

        • Anonymous :

          Except you *can’t* promise that.

        • For the record, pyridoxine hydrochloride is also known as vitamin B6. The “hydrochloride” just means that it’s supplied as the more water-soluble form of the vitamin. Vitamin B6 can be difficult for strict vegans to obtain in their diet, since it is not normally found in most fruits or vegetables. Many of the other ingredients listed are similarly just vitamins called by their chemical names.

          • Yes, and polydextrose is a fake fiber additive, sunthesized from glucose & sorbitol, that allows food manufacturers to market their foods as containing lots of fiber when in reality this stuff has not been proven to be effective (or beneficial) for human consumption.

            It is actually voluntarily being removed now from certain products now (like Cocoa Pebbles).

            Wow. Yeah . . . No thanks. I think I will still be by-passing the bars, the diet breads, and the etc. If it doesn’t bother you, though, by all means. . .

  24. love the recommedations I am on a full wholistic diet, so soup is big and I prefer obviously our no salt no sugar, no msg..20 min prep dry mixes..I really wanted you to know about us..since 1979

  25. A lot of salad fixings can be chopped up ahead of time. A lot of chopped veggies will last very well for a couple of days in a large gladware container lined (and covered) with a moist (not wet) paper towel. Then all you have to do is dump some salad mix in a lunch-sized glad, grab a handful of chopped veggies, toss in some cheese or beans or something, and you’re good to go. Fit-n-fresh (sp?) makes a wonderful salad doohickey that keeps the dressing (mostly) estranged from the salad itself until lunch – and it keeps everything cold with a removable ice pack.

    FWIW – you might have to play around with your fridge to optimize chopped veggie life. If I keep the chopped veggie box on the top shelf of my fridge, somehow it destroys bell peppers in 24 hours (too cold maybe?). Also, chopped cucumbers go to pot almost immediately – don’t even try.

  26. Anonymous :

    Does no one else here have an officemate? Mine would go ballistic at the sort of smells and sounds that these items would bring. I’ve really been struggling with this as it turns out that most of my favorite healthy foods are noisy (carrots, apples, crackers, etc.) or may smell bad to others (eggs).
    Totally can’t wait for my own office…

    • Can you talk to him/her and work out a time that’s ok for you to eat – maybe when he/she has a meeting or is running errands? Or slip into a conference room for 10-15 minutes? I’m not very effective at working when I’m actually eating but you could always review a document during that time. A person has to eat!!!

    • well it’s not like you’re chomping on noisy food all day or running a tuna factory out of your office! i think if you have an office mate, general courtesy means she needs to be tolerant of the fact that you need to, you know, eat every now and then. any nitpicking over the sounds of your crackers is her issue, not yours.

  27. I agree with Caitlin – this post is just depressing because of the emphasis on no-fat stuff, counting calories etc. Why can’t women just eat without guilt? IMO one of the main causes of the obesity epidemic in the US is the ‘feast or famine’ mentality that eating low or no fat foods and worrying about calories promotes.

    Anyway, my go-to foods at the office are:
    -leftovers from last night in the microwave
    -rice salads made from leftover rice mixed with (FULL FAT!) mayo, salt and pepper, a hard boiled egg, maybe some canned corn or leftover veggies and maybe some tuna (packed in oil – that packed in water stuff doesn’t taste as good!)
    -milk chocolate with nuts
    -full fat yoghurt – I can’t stand the low fat stuff. If you’re worried about calories just eat less of it
    -ryvitas with yummy cheese (full fat!!!)
    -peanut butter on ryvitas ( have them in my desk)

    to the last anon- why does your officemate have a problem with smelling food? What are you supposed to eat – pretty much all food smells like food and if it doesn’t that’s a bit scary!

    • I shop at Trader Joe’s on the weekend specifically for my office and reward myself for such virtous behavior by also buying some of their flowers to spruce up the office while I eat. The greek yogurt is the best–I chop up walnuts and drizzle some good quality maple syrup.

      With regard to the sardines, I forced myself to try them when I read about the health benefits. I chop them up with some onion and add a little dijon mustard and then place on whole wheat bagel with slice o f melted low fat cheese (This is not typically done in my office). THis is my go-to breakfast when I am scheduled to be in court all day and we may or may not break for lunch–based on the whim of the king ….uh, uh, I mean the judge.

    • -rice salads made from leftover rice mixed with (FULL FAT!) mayo, salt and pepper, a hard boiled egg, maybe some canned corn or leftover veggies and maybe some tuna (packed in oil – that packed in water stuff doesn’t taste as good!)

      That’s such a good idea; I never thought of doing that, thanks.

    • The rice salad is a great idea… never thought of it!

      • I make a variation on Italian Rice Salad at least once a month. It makes at least four servings (my boyfriend and I both try to take our lunches every day) and it tastes better on the second or third day than on the first.

        I am one of those people who cooks a lot on Sunday so that I have food for the whole week but the challenge I have is picking things that can be eaten at room temperature–although my office has a microwave, there is always a long line at lunch. The rice salad is a good option, as is risotto (although some people think it is weird to eat without warming it up) but I’m curious what other people think make good leftovers.

        • My favorite thing to eat at room temp is a variation on a baked orzo I saw in NY times food section.
          Make some orzo. Add some sauteed zuchini (2 med) & a roasted pepper & a sauce of canned whole tomatoes sauteed w/garlic for a few min. Mix all. Sprinkle with some parm or a little goat cheese. Put into a 375 oven for about 40 min. It’s a fantastic easy dinner & makes for great room temp leftovers (I actually think it tastes better next day at room temp). I usually make this once a week and the leftovers are good for a few lunches. You can also add things to make this more fun through out the week (e.g., eat asabove once, then next day add some cooked shrimp or chicken, or sprinkle with other veggies, or wrap in a tortilla for a faux-sandwich . . .)

  28. In the “exotic” foods section at my grocery store (Wegman’s) there are microwavable packets of Indian food. They don’t contain any added salt, sugar, or preservatives. We eat a lot of rice at home, so I’ve often brought leftover rice and one of those packets in – there’s enough in them for at least two helpings, so I can eat once at 11 and again at 1:30 or so (I’m one of those “lots of smallish meals” people by nature).

    They’re relatively cheap, too – between around $2 and $3 a packet.

    I also tend to buy a dozen bulk rolls and stick them in the freezer. Then, if I want a quick snack, I take one out and microwave it for 45 seconds until it’s nice and warm. With butter, a bit of cheese, or ranch dressing, it’s a delicious snack.

  29. Anonymous :

    I buy Campbell’s Chunky or Progresso when it is on sale, that way I always have something available. I bring in an apple to eat daily and keep a bag of hard pretzels in my office for mid-afternoon munchies.

  30. Does anyone have any other recipes for crock pot cooking? I like the idea that one reader suggested — making something quickly in the morning so that you can eat it that night and have leftovers for a few lunches later in the week.

    • Try A Year of Slow Cooking: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/. I have made some of her recipes and really like them. I have been trying to break out the crockpot more for just this reason.

    • Basic Pot Roast
      3-4 lb. rump roast or eye round roast. Cut up carrots and onions into 1-2 inch pieces. If you hate chopping, use baby carrots and pearl onions or the pre-cut stuff they have at the store. Smash 3 cloves of garlic. Add about 2 cups beef broth and 1 cup red wine or enough to just cover the roast. Add spices- I like thyme and 2 bay leaves. Slow cook for 6-8 hours on low setting.

      The best part is you can throw all of this stuff in the pot the night before. Stick it in the fridge. In the morning, all you have to do is take it out of the fridge and flip on the switch. Pot roast freezes well.

      I like to serve it with roasted potatoes and parsnips- peel, chop into 1-2 inch pieces, olive oil, and bake in a pan for 20-30 min at 400 degrees. If you are ambitious, you can turn the left over liquid into gravy, but I usually skip this step. Added bonus- you can drink the rest of the red wine at dinner.

      • I forgot to add- you can also use a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or Worcestershire sauce to give it some extra flavor.

    • I just found this “Cook Once, Eat Twice for the Slow Cooker” cookbook in the clearance section of our local bookstore. It appears to be out-of-print but Amazon is showing some used copies for sale, I am sure AbeBooks has it too. I love, love, LOVE it. The recipes are scaled large so it ends up being more like “cook once, eat four times” which is fine with me :) The recipes are fairly healthy without too much reliance on canned soup, which can be the downfall of a lot of slow-cooker cookbooks.

      • oops – linky: http://www.amazon.com/Twice-Cooker-Recipes-Bertter-Gardens/dp/0696230534

    • Eatingwell.com has a bunch of slowcooker recipes that are healthy and delicious.


      I eat the Squash, Chickpea, and Red Lentil stew pretty often and the Turkish Lamb and Vegetable stew is a favorite as well.

    • Two of my crock pot favorites are as follows:

      Pumpkin Black-Bean Turkey Chili
      (Makes 10-12 Servings)
      1 lb ground turkey
      1 chopped medium onion
      1 chopped bell pepper (green or yellow)
      3 gloves minced garlic (I usually throw in a little extra!)
      1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
      1 1/2 to 2 tsp ground cumin
      1 tsps. chili powder
      (2) 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
      16-oz can pumpkin
      14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
      3 cups chicken broth (I use low-sodium)

      1. Saute ground turkey, onions, bell pepper, and garlic until turkey is cooked through.
      2. Stir in oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Cook 1 minute. Transfer to crock pot.
      3. Add remaining ingredients.
      4. Cover. Cook on law 7-8 hours (If I don’t get mine mixed up until lunch time, I also cook it on high for a few hours instead – since everything goes in cooked, it works out fine.)
      5. Can garnish with some shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or whatever floats your boat.

      Crock Pot Turkey Lasagna
      1 lb ground turkey
      1 tsp. dried oregano
      1/2 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
      15 ounces ricotta cheese (I use the low-fat kind)
      2 cups shredded Italian-blend cheese (8-oz package)
      10-oz package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
      10-12 lasagna noodles (uncooked)
      26-oz jar pasta sauce
      1/2 cup water

      1. Brown turkey until cooked through. Add oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes.
      2. In medium-sized bowl, mix ricotta, Italian-blend cheese, and spinach.
      3. In crock pot, layer half the noodles (I have an oval crock pot, and I break the noodles up a bit to fit and create one layer, overlapping a little bit), Spoon on half the turkey mixture. Pour on half of the pasta sauce and half of the water. Spread half of the cheese and spinach mixture (I dot it on in dollops). Repeat layering.
      4. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 1/2 hours.

      I make these regularly, and my kids and husbands love, love, love them!

  31. Love greek yogurt — especially in the packages where it comes pre-packed with honey so I don’t have to make a mess with a honey bottle somewhere.

    Also, this time of year I bring a carton of clementines to keep in my drawer. And apples.

    If I want a little sweetness, I buy a pack of dark chocolate hershey’s kisses. They’re definitely satisfying, and dark chocolate is good for you — it’s an antioxidant!

    So I usually have yogurt and fruit in the morning as a snack, a lean cuisine (I know it’s packed pull of sodium, but I eat almost nothing else with sodium in it over the course of the day), and sometimes an afternoon snack.

    I have also found that a little baggie of whole grain cheerios is enough to keep me full without ruining my lunch or dinner.

  32. Wonderful post! Seems like a lot of you eat yogurt. Any recommendations on a fruit yogurt that doesn’t have a ton of sugar? My favorite is Wallaby’s low fat strawberry yogurt, but it has something like 20 grams of sugar and that can’t be good. I know others recommend getting plain yogurt and adding fruit to it, but I don’t always have my act together to remember the fruit. Any ideas would be appreciated.

    In addition to everything already mentioned, I like to munch on raw walnuts, some low fat cheese and water crackers, and I have a cup of de-caf green tea in the afternoon. Tea isn’t a snack per se, but everyone these days talks about how good it is for you so I have added that to my afternoon sipping schedule.

    • Try Nancy’s fruit-on-top yogurt. With the fruit in its own little separate container, you can choose how much fruit/sugar to add. I find that I usually use less than half the fruit. Plus, Nancy’s fruits are nothing but fresh fruit and honey so the sugar isn’t the same kind of processed, refined sugar you find in other yogurts.

      I think their website is nancysyogurt.com or something like that.

    • Try keeping a jar of low-sugar jam in your desk drawer and adding a spoonful to plain yogurt.

    • This isn’t fruit yogurt, but I buy the plain Fage 2% yogurt and then add some honey to it. It’s really yummy! I also like the fact that I can control how sweet my yogurt is. We have honey packets in our office, I suspect that many offices would have these as well.

    • Fage 2% yogurt with the fruit in a separate container. My grocer carries this – you can get it with honey, cherries, strawberries, peaches . . . it is super yummy.
      I never would remember to buy fruit either!

  33. Does anyone have any recommendations for a lunch bag that won’t make me look like a 12 year old? Maybe something sophisticated but with some bells and whistles too (such as a cold-pack and multiple compartments)? How about a fancy piece of tupperware or something for salads? I’m always in the market for something that will encourage me to eat healthier!

    • Try a lunch purse… There are a ton of options…


    • I love my Built lunch bag, which is one of the ones on the Amazon list. Keeps food pretty cold, scrunches up well so when I’ve eaten all my food I can shove it in my bag, and it holds everything. And I just buy Rubbermaid or Tupperware containers (the seasonal colors are ALWAYS on sale at the end of a season!) with lots of little nooks and crannies.

    • Yes, Built.


    • I got a very cute Thermos brand one for Christmas that looks like the Built model without the bottle holder. My husband very happily threw away the fugly tote I had been using that was a convention freebie about 15 years ago!

    • There’s a line of plastic Tupperware-type containers – the brand is “Fit&Fresh” – that’s sold at Amazon and Target online and they are great for packing lunches. Most come with a removable cold pack in the lid or container, and lots of partitions and compartments for dressings, dips, etc. I have one made for cereal where you can keep the milk and the cereal separate until the last minute and then put them together in the lower bowl – it comes with a spoon built into the lid. Here’s a link to one product if that helps: http://www.target.com/Medport-Fit-Fresh-Breakfast-Chiller/dp/B00117OWI2/ref=sc_ri_2

  34. I have both a private office and access to a full kitchen (full size fridge and microwaves etc) and I usually cook real meals at home, so I bring leftovers frozen and stock them in the office freezer so I have a choice on those days I can’t get out. I have found soups, pot pies, pasta, and even entree/veggie/starch combos can all freeze well and reheat fairly quickly. Despite the occasional surprise (“hey, this burrito is actually moussaka”) it is normally a good, convenient meal. I do avoid fish for the office smell sensibility, though…

  35. For those of us who don’t want to chance hard-boiled eggs running rampant in our purses, how about a post on trim low-profile lunch bags/boxes that will fit into our business totes or extra large purses?

    • I love the Built lunch bags. I have used it for the last year and always get compliments on how stylish and non-lunch bag it looks. You can get it in different colors or just in plain black. I have the polka dots one. :)

  36. I eat between OR cases, so a variety of small snacks that can be consumed very quickly are a godsend. Some things that I love

    -Trader Joes has amazing frozen Indian food (especially the Paneer Tikka Masala). This wouldn’t work if you have issues with smelly food, but most comments I get are about how good it smells
    -Trader Joe’s frozen steel cut oats, with dried fruit and low fat milk. Yummy filling breakfast can get me through the morning OR case without a second thought.
    -Mojo Bars from clif — salty sweet and a little more filling then some
    – Greek Yogurt, especially the Fage with cherries or honey (not low fat but yummy, and filling)
    – Dried fruit and nuts; mainly from Trader Joes because of the price/quality intersection
    -Low fat kettle corn from Trader Joes. Comes in individual servings; great for an afternoon pick me up and doesn’t stink up the office of microwave popcorn
    -I boil a package of frozen edamame on Sundays and leave them in the fridge, taking portions out each day. I’ll add salt, granulated garlic or other seasonings to pep them up.
    -leftovers: my husband and I eat a lot out of Ellie Krieger’s cook books and leftovers from dinner are very yummy.

    As you can see, a sucessful week of not eating crap for lunch for me is dependent on getting to Trader Joes on Sundays for a stock up.

    • I have to second the Trader Joe’s praises. It’s great for snacks, healthy foods, and even frozen meals that are better for you than the mass market versions. And it’s usually cheaper!

      Only problem for me is that the line at the NY store is hours long (seriously) and I just do not have the time to go . . . pretty much ever.

      [If the TJ folks are reading this, somehow, please open many more stores in NYC!!]

      • Not just NYC – Trader Joe’s lines are ridiculously long everywhere. I swear they could easily triple their market presence and still have full stores.

        • The NYC store on 14th sometimes has a line just to get into the store! Once you get in, another line starts right at the entrance and snakes through the whole store.

          • They have a store in Brooklyn that gets less crowded though, and they’re opening up two more stores-one near the Fairway on Broadway, and one in the East 20s. Hopefully that will help with lines!

          • I know about the BK store. There’s also one in Queens. But both would be totally out of my way & so any time saved not waiting on a line would be instantly lost. But so happy to hear they are opening up 2 more stores!!! Hopefully people will then disperse a bit & that will solve the problem of waiting on line just to get into a store and wait on another line! Thanks!

  37. I don’t mind the low-cal/low-fat suggestions – like most folks here, I am chained to my desk most days and simply just cannot find the time to exercise as much as I’d like. I also tend to put on weight pretty easily. It’s not a matter of “guilt” for me, but rather a matter of trying to use my calories wisely and keep myself as healthy as possible.

    That said, one of the best snacks I’ve found is Trader Joe’s raw unsalted mixed nuts. I’ll measure out a quarter cup into a zip-top bag in the morning and have the nuts over the course of the day. For me, the trick to making nuts into a satisfying snack is making sure they are raw and unsalted. Without the salt, I don’t end up overeating. In fact, cutting down on salt in general has helped a lot with improving my energy level and even some weight loss, so I would offer that as something else to consider when planning your at-work meals.

    • At least for me, the criticism of the list had nothing to do with low-cal, low-fat and everything to do with how UN-healthy it is to eat things that are artificially low-cal and low-fat (like all the low-fat mayo & low-fat cheese, and under 100 cal yogurt).

      • AIMS, good point! I have also been trying to incorporate more wholesome foods lately even if they’re higher in calories (like the nuts) because the low-cal stuff can have some pretty weird ingredients. But I know plenty of people who do just fine on the low-cal items … different strokes, I guess! :)

  38. Liz (Europe) :

    Ughh not again with the oatmeal. It looks like someone puked it up, it has a texture like the snot bits that come out of your nose when you have the worst cold ever, and it tastes like cardboard…

    • Wow, that’s deep. It’s just oatmeal! LOL.

      • It is just oatmeal. But I feel the same way. Been that way since grade school. More power to you if you like it, wish that I could say the same . . . but I’d sooner subsist on hard boiled eggs alone ;)

    • LOL. I LOVE oatmeal, but that was hilarious!

  39. Liz, try putting craisins and brown sugar in it and/or play with the amount of water you put in it. I hated oatmeal for years but somewhere along the line I changed my mind and especially now that it’s freezing out, I love it as a midmorning snack.

    Dried fruit is loaded with sugar (for those who care) but I find it’s a great “eat at your desk” snack and can be mixed with nuts or oatmeal to give that little something extra.

    • I think that instant oatmeal tends to give all oatmeal a bad name, the oats are dehydrated and never seem to fully cook. I make regular, old fashioned oatmeal with loads of cinnamon and some almonds about 3 times a week. Its really filling.

      In the summer I tend to eat cottage cheese for lunch. It has a ton of protein and is also filling.

      It sounds like a lot of you routinely bring lunch. I end up running to a salad bar or Au Bon Pain way more often than I like to admit.

      • i use steel-cut oatmeal because it is high in protein and i like the nutty texture. if im being fancy, i throw in some shredded coconut, walnuts, and banana slices. otherwise, it’s whatever fruit i have on hand -blueberry or raspberry usually.

        • love the idea of shredded coconut! I have an almost-full bag in my freezer that I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with. Brilliant!

  40. Any suggestions for lunches that doesn’t need to be refrigerated? My law school only has microwaves and I’m a little tired of PBJ, instant oatmeal or soup.

    • Freezer Packs! My mom used to put them in with my packed lunches when I was in elementary school, and when I got to law school they suddenly became useful again. I would just stick my packed lunch in my locker with a freezer pack. Nothing ever got stolen or spoiled.

      Also, things like frozen meals are fine if you let them thaw out during the day, and they actually heat up faster in the inevitable crappy low-wattage law school microwave.

    • A trick I use to keep my kids’ school lunches cold: put frozen yogurt tubes in their insulated lunch boxes. It keeps things cold, but it thaws by lunch time. (Our store has a generic brand that doesn’t have pictures of cartoon characters on them, which might be a little odd at the office!)

  41. When I was in law school, it was risky to use the fridge (seriously, all kinds of foods would be stolen). As part of my lunch, I used to bring a tupperware container of yogurt mixed all kinds of frozen fruit – cherries were my favorite. By the time I was ready to eat it, the fruit had thawed and kept the yogurt cold. I also used to sprinkle uncooked oats on top. I found cereal got too soggy but I’m sure you could add it in when you’re ready to eat.

  42. Here’s another vote for Hummus. (Costco has boxes with a ton of individual serving cups) And for the (full fat here!) greek yogurt. Sometimes, I’ll add sugar or fresh fruit if available and call it PinkBerry.

    Also, I’ve been known to just eat the deli meat. It’s way easier to prep than a sandwich, faster to eat, and protein rich. I might add string cheese, or cheddar slices sometimes.

    I’ll cook up a bunch of whole wheat pasta and then make tuna pesto pasta salad (tablespoon or so of premade pesto, 1/2 can of tuna, 1+ cup of pasta). It’s good hot or cold or room temperature and very filling. I seal the dirty tupperware back up and put it back in my Built NY bag and it isn’t too smelly.

    I’ll also eat those tube packs of trailmix from Costco. Not a lo-cal option, but yummy, filling, easy to keep in your bag for emergencies, and quick to eat.

    Has anyone tried any of the new “eat at the desk” meals that are marketed for this? I know there are healthy choice pasta/rice + something meals (Cafe Steamers), and another brand. Are they any better than a frozen dinner?

    • I don’t love the Cafe Steamers, they’re similar to a Lean Cuisine, etc., but I’ve not made them without getting SOMETHING on me wet when I pour in or out the water (could just be me …)

  43. Does anyone have suggestions for glass containers with secure lids? I’ve been looking for glass containers to take homemade soup to work but haven’t found any with lids that are secure enough to consistently prevent leaking.

    • How about reusing a pasta sauce or salsa jar?
      I find that the plastic containers from takeout Asian food are more secure than Tupperware or its competitors.
      Just wrap it in a bag and keep it upright on your way to work .

    • Pyrex.

      • I bought these a few months ago and have never had a leak, even with soup: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=11003822&sourceid=1500000000000003260370&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=11003822

      • I second the Pyrex. I bring in lots of saucy dishes/stews and they never leak.

    • You want ones where there’s some kind of locking mechanism on the lid that snaps into place.


      I went through the same issue when trying to bring soups/saucy meals to work.

    • newassociate :

      we got our glass containers + plastic locking lids pack at costco. they’re great, though note that the plastic lids aren’t microwave-save (they warp), so i just put a paper towel over whatever i’m heating.

    • Thanks for the suggestions! These are really great ideas.

  44. divaliscious11 :

    Haven’t read the above but my go to meals are:

    1. 2% cottage cheese and (X), cherry tomatoes/broccoli florets with a dash of salt & pepper, apple sauce, fresh fruit;

    2. Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and some raw sunflower seeds;

    3. Handful of brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans etc… I buy the big bags and then mix together in tupperware. I can grab a handful at home, or throw a handful into a baggie or smaller tupperware to go;

    4. Small can of tuna – the flavored ones are pretty yummy;
    5. Protein drink – Bolthouse Farms (have to be refrigerated-usually leave one in our work fridge) or… another from whole foods…but it doesn’t have to be refrigerated.

    6. Kashi go lean cereal..

    Now I am going to read others and see about getting some good ideas and other stuff to pair for an actual lunch!

    • divaliscious11 :

      I don’t really count calories but eat a version of low carb, in that I keep track of my protein intake. Plus protein is more filling.

      I’ll second or third the crockpot! I’ll always take 2-3 servings out of the crockpot and put in individual servings and freeze. And the Trader Joe’s indian meals are yummy. also, I try to make a pot of quinoa or brown rice on Sunday, helps when putting together a lunch.

      Is anyone else grossed out of the idea of rice and mayonnaise????

      Oh yea, and edamame is great when you are in a snack-y mood!

  45. I’ll second the cottage cheese – I prefer it over yogurt and it has less sugar/sugar substitute.

    Also – precooked frozen edamame – TJ has a it reeeal cheap. Throw it in a ziploc, one crank of salt, shake and it thaws out by lunch. Super healthy and filling.

    Tried those non-refrigerated health choice meals (pasta, rice, etc.) – pretty gross. I’d stick with those Annie Chung noodle bowls if you need a non-refrigerated option.

  46. Also – I don’t eat a big lunch bc it makes me super tired and uncomfortable at my desk – not bc I’m watching calories.

  47. I highly encourage those who are adverse to cooking to give it a try. I used to hate to cook because my none of my food ever came out well, but I love it now and I have saved SO much money and feel 200% healthier now. I make 2-3 dishes every Sunday and then eat those until about Wednesday, then cook again on Wednesday night. Yes, it takes time (maybe about 3 hours on Sunday) but it’s worth it.

    I mostly cook Indian food (I highly recommend any cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey) such as lentils, rajma (kidney beans), aloo gobhi (potato cauliflower curry), etc. I use very little oil, amp up the spices, and am a happy woman during the work week. Both my husband and I have lost about 10 pounds each since we’ve stopped eating out for lunch.

  48. I don’t have anything against the foods recommended in the article, but they all seem to be pretty dietetic, and unnecessarily so. It’s okay to have more than 150 calories at a time, and having a filling lunch (one that actually fills you, rather than leaving you hungry again an hour later) means you’ll be less likely to snack on vending machine fare later in the day.

  49. i eat a banana with peanut butter for an easy, filling, no-mess snack. and if you’re not a banana lover (i’m not) the peanut butter mostly overwhelms the banana.

    thanks for all of the tips, ladies.

  50. As with most women who work (more than) fulltime, I’ve found it impossible to regularly make it to the gym. I do what I can but the only way to avoid blowing up is to monitor and limit cal intake. I don’t think anyone on here is suggesting that you only eat one of the 100-calorie items mentioned – but mix and match 4 or 5 of them and you have a decent lunch with measurable calorie intake and you won’t find that a busy month at work left you not only exhausted but 10 pounds heavier.

  51. The VitaTop suggestion is right on point… seriously, so, so delicious. The Banana Fudge, Dark Choc Pomegranate, and Choc Mint are my faves right now- a hint is to buy them on Amazon, though, not the website- since a pack of them is usually over $25, you get free shipping on Amazon whereas you have to pay for shipping at the VitaTop website.

  52. Raw almonds, and I usually stop by one of the fruit stands in the morning to grab a banana or apple for during the day. Also I usually keep hummus and olives around.

    And yea, pretty much anything at Trader Joe’s, though I’ll agree the line at the Manhattan one is so, so long that I have to basically have to block out an entire weekend afternoon if I want to go.

  53. http://www.reusablebags.com/ has some nice items for carrying and storing food. I use the Wrap-N-Mat instead of a plastic bag when I bring a sandwich for lunch and have found it works pretty well.

  54. Don’t knock C for suggesting some low-cal/low-fat options, we can always substitute in higher-cal/higher-fat options of similar items if we want to!

    In general, I love oatmeal, yogurt and bananas… all mushy foods that I am glad to see so many other lovely ladies also loving! So many people have an aversion to mushy foods that seems to be a holdover from childhood. (Anyone else remember being the only kid to like mushy foods and having all your friends grossed out by it? Well, that was me.)

    For emergencies I keep a big thing of GNC protein shake mix at my desk. Just stir into a glass of water and have something healthy to either act as a lunch, or a snack to stave off hunger until you can get something else.

  55. I am also one of those people that makes a couple big pots of food on Sunday and then eats out of it for the rest of the week. I’ll usually do one meal in the slowcooker and another in a pot or dutch oven. Right now, the farmers markets have a lot of root veggies, so I’ve also been roasting a couple trays of chopped carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips and then taking those to work as well.

    Total active cooking time for 2 meals and roasted veggies is about 1-2 hours — definitely worth it. Then I supplement those meals with things like:

    – Trader Joe’s individually wrapped pieces of cheddar cheese
    – Cashew ginger soup (Imagine brand – comes in a box handy for keeping in the fridge at work and then microwaving in a coffee cup for a quick snack)
    – Trader Joe’s individually wrapped mini bags of trail mix
    – the occasional frozen meal from Trader Joe’s or Ethnic Gourmet
    – Green or red pepper strips
    – Fruit
    – Turkey or smoked salmon wraps with avocado, spinach, and tomato

    I also like to make little crustless quiches in a muffin tin and then microwave them for breakfast. Put spinach, onion, garlic, sundried tomato, little bit of feta/goat cheese/ or cheddar, and egg in muffin tins and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until it’s set.

  56. Ugh, diet bread? I’d sooner die. How about some healthful sprouted grain bread? It has more than 20 calories, but it also has fiber and other good things for you.

    Also a bagel every once in a while never killed anyone.

    • I agree that one bagel never killed anyone, but some of us do have trouble eating things in moderation, and a little less disgust wouldn’t hurt…

      • If eating in moderation is the problem, the solution is eating things that are healthful (like fruits & veggies), not eating things that are synthetic (like diet bread) to excess. Studies consistently show that eating diet foods is only going to make you eat more per portion, and may even raise your appetite & contribute to excess weight overall (as is the case with diet soda, for instance).

        I don’t think the original poster was exhibiting disgust with your choices, but rather commenting on the idea of putting something so fake in her body. I completely agree. And, given that the premise of this whole write up is that food is fuel, I think it’s entirely appropriate to point out that if fuel is what you’re after, diet bread is not going to give you that.

  57. I will make huge batches of turkey or vegetable chili and soup (butternut squash and potato leek are my favorites), then freeze them in individual serving containers. Grab them out of the freezer on my way in, and since they are frozen, there is no risk of them leaking during the commute. They thaw on my desk when I get to work, so it’s just a quick hit in the microwave, and voila, lunch.

    I also make giant pasta salads with some protein (beans, chicken, nuts, or cheese), fresh vegetables, and things like olives and artichoke hearts. I’ll mix up the combos of ingredients and the base (pasta, rice, couscous, orzo). I make it on Sundays and portion it out in individual containers. Something like that can last both me and my husband all week long. Same goes for a big batch of tabouli.

    Stuffed grape leaves, hummus, pita, tzatziki, etc are all good quick lunch ideas…get them at prepared Whole Foods or TJs.

    Finally, a box of cereal and a carton of soy milk in the office for emergencies.

  58. It would be really, really nice if someday, I could read an article about healthy eating that didn’t have “low-cal” and “low-fat” in every suggestion. Guess what folks? Low calorie options are less filling, don’t taste as good, and are often full of chemicals. Most low fat foods have more sugar and artificial flavors. If your goal is to nourish your body, eat real food, not chemicals!

    • Hear, hear!!!

    • Sometimes the goal isn’t just to nourish. It’s also to diet or prevent weight gain in whatever way works for you. A lot of people have success by saving calories here or there, on foods which they think taste just fine as low-cal, then spending their daily calories on other foods, that they prefer in a high-cal version. There isn’t just one way to eat.

      • Fine, but I think it’s unhealthy culturally to make diet foods the default. Dieters can presume that if yogurt is recommended, they can probably look for a low-fat version that serves the same purpose; similarly, they could just as easily derive low-calorie bread from regular bread. But to presume that everyone is looking for a diet version is to suggest to readers that they are abnormal if they don’t diet. I think that’s a bad lesson, and especially sad to see it being taught by “regular women” instead of, say, food manufacturers, clothing companies, pill packagers, or plastic surgeons.

        • Amen

          • Agreed. One of the saddest sentence I have ever read is the one about a Lean Pocket being a “rare treat for lunch.”


        • Well said.

        • divaliscious11 :

          But who made it the default? C asked her posters what THEY ate, when they didn’t have enough time for a whole meal. Just because the readers of this blog may prefer lower caloric intake and/or healthier food doesn’t make it a default. Perhaps in this narrow demographic, but we are hardly the norm… most people don’t work the kind of jobs where they don’t get time to eat, or feel pressured not to take that time, or pull all nighters working on projects etc…

          At any rate, I like when someone designates a particular version … it suggests that there may be no taste/flavor issues. I like 2% cottage cheese…whole fat tastes too rich/thick, plus it has more protein.

          I think part of the problem is with the word diet. Diet is the what you eat. Doesn’t have to be, but often is used for, a restrictive eating plan. but to be fair, what is really unhealthy culturally is the massive increase in obesity and obesity related health issues.

          • but to be fair, what is really unhealthy culturally is the massive increase in obesity and obesity related health issues.

            That’s really minimizing of issues such as eating disorders which affect huge numbers of smart, professional women.

          • divaliscious11 :

            I’m not minimizing the issues of women with eating disorders. I personally think the idea of consuming 1200 cal per day for any significant period of time alarming and cause for concern. That said, I still believe obesity and obesity related issues to be far more prolific and wide-spread, and have more impact on us as individuals if for no other reason than the impact on health care/health insurance expense. Healthier versions of food don’t cause eating disorders, they are just, sometimes, tool for self abuse.

    • Definitely! Here’s a great link to the ‘world’s healthiest foods’… note, they are all whole foods – fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains.


  59. I keep a box of All-Bran crackers in my desk drawer for snacking. They are full of fiber and really filling. I usually get out just one serving’s worth so I don’t plow through the whole box. They come in the regular flavor (which is what I like) and a garlic and herb flavor. I know that All Bran crackers sound like cardboard, but they are delicious.

  60. I have a whole grain bagel with cream cheese and coffee (with 1/2 and 1/2) most mornings when I get into work around 7:30-8:00. It keeps me full well past noon, at which point I snack on little things for the rest of the day. My favorites are apples, oranges, grapefruit sliced like oranges, grapes, raw almonds, Larabars (all natural, mostly raw ingredients), Babybel cheese and wheat crackers, and cut up carrots and celery. I keep a jar of Nutella in my desk and have a small spoonful when I’m craving something sweet – it keeps me away from the vending machines!

    I typically do not bring lunch lunch. If I do, it’s usually a small portion of leftovers from the night before or some soup and then several small snacks – I tend to eat mindlessly through the afternoons, so I need to keep my portions smaller. Even if I have a huge sandwich for lunch, unfailingly I end up in my snack drawer or at the vending machine by 3:00!

  61. Oh, and I should add that I wholeheartedly agree with those who have decried the low-fat, low-cal craze. Full-fat cheese is FAR more satisfying than any low-fat alternative!

    • I agree, I can’t eat low-fat cheese or low-fat ice cream. Low-fat ice cream (not frozen yogurt, that’s different) is so unsatisfying that it makes me crave real ice cream even more, and I would be happier having a smaller amount of full-fat Ben & Jerry’s!

  62. I understand the ‘having no time to go to the gym’ thing since I work full time and am the mother to a toddler. But there are other ways of getting exercise. In my case, I don’t own a car (I live in the inner city of a large city – not NY). Anyway I take buses (with the stroller and heavy toddler) on weekends and walk pretty much everywhere including to and from work (half hour brisk walk each way). Works for me.

    I understand that not everyone has self control re eating – actually i’m pretty bad myself and tend to demolish entire blocks of chocolate if they’re lying around. But I do think that eating unsatisfying, chemical laden lowfat foods and having that mentality of restricting calories can lead to a starve and then binge (or ‘blow out’ as someone said here in the comments) mentality. Why not just eat normal meals when you’re hungry? If your clothes start getting tight cut down a bit on the chocolate or wine or whatever but don’t go on a ‘diet’. Diets rarely work and just lead to misery IMO. Food is one of life’s pleasures – enjoy it! I just get rather annoyed (especially as the mother of a daughter) at the way women are often given the message that restricting food intake and striving to be thin or even underweight are the norm.

    • Amen.

      • Just to add to the above — you could also take the stairs more (whether at work, or wherever instead of standing on an elevator/escalator); walk more briskly, & move more generally, etc.

        I find that not being sedentary is key. When I am feeling sluggish in the afternoon, the best energy boost for me has been to walk from one end of my floor to another (it’s a large floor) — I don’t know of any raw almonds that would revive me as much ;)

    • kat – LOL to the “heavy toddler!” My youngest is one, and weighs almost 30 pounds. Carrying him around has done wonders for my biceps!

  63. For those who like yogurt but don’t like all of the chemicals in the ones from the grocery store, consider making fresh yogurt at home. My mother in law always makes it when she comes stays with us and it tastes way better (and very different) from what you would get in the store.

    Just google yogurt recipes and you’ll find a bunch — all it takes is boiling milk and adding a bit of yogurt culture, letting it cool overnight, and voila — creamy fresh yogurt the next day!

  64. corporate-chickee :

    I haven’t read all the other comments, so apologies if this a repeat! However – I am a huge fan of the Amy’s Kitchen line of pre-packaged foods. Everything is organic and they offer all different products for different dietary needs. I can’t eat dairy, and they have loads of non-dairy products, as well as vegetarian, vegan, soy-free, nut-free, G-free, and the list goes on.

    In my area – the midwest, I can easily find Amy’s Kitchen products at regular grocery stores & Super Targets, which is nice not having to go the local natural store for these lunch-time staples!

  65. What an excellent list of suggestions! I always carry a bar in my purse because in my profession, the client comes first and I don’t always have time for real meals. Thanks for expanding my horizons!


  66. I see the importance of eating healthy food. It’s important because it gives us the energy we need to do the things we ought to accomplish especially in our every day life. Bringing a packed lunch with you is a great idea. There are many kinds of food stacking container online. But you might love more the design of a stainless steel container at Happy Tiffin. Because the steel tiffins there are all eco-friendly, stylish, hip, safe to use, are made of high quality steel food grades and also very handy. I mean its not difficult to carry it around with you because its portable and spill-proof. So the idea of packed lunch would be good for you.

  67. My favorite quick lunch (or dinner) is brown rice with barley, rye berries, or wheat berries. I just stick it all in my rice cooker with water, a bit of Smart Balance margarine, and a dash of salt. It’s delicious, high in protein and fiber, cheap, and really easy. It does take about 40 minutes to cook, but you don’t have to do anything with it during that time. It also reheats well, and if you don’t have access to a microwave, it should stay warm in a thermos.

  68. Seventh Sister :

    The YoBaby full-fat yogurt cups are really tasty and a decent amount of calories. I don’t like the apple or banana flavors, but my toddler does. I think you can also get plain cups at some stores.

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