12 Homemade Lunches To Take Into The Office

Back in the office and keen to avoid the crowds? Whether you’re looking for fresh, portable ideas, or ways to keep up those healthy habits formed during lockdown, here are 12 meals to eat at your desk…
Quinoa and Sweet Potato Kitchari
Jasmine Hemsley, Wellness & Nutrition Expert

Get up early and cook this on the hob, or pop all the ingredients into a slow-cooker the night before, ready to pop straight into your thermos the next morning for a hot lunch. A good stainless steel thermos will keep your food hot for up to ten hours. You can look forward to a delicious, freshly made, easy on the pocket lunch without the need to stand in line, giving you the chance to head out to a quiet spot, well away from your desk and make a proper break of it.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

40 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

200g of yellow mung dal
100g of white/pearl quinoa, soaked overnight
1 sweet potato, peeled if the skin is tough and chopped into chunks
2 tbsp of ghee (or coconut oil)
1 litre of water
1 tsp of: black pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, sea salt
2 tsp of: black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, fennel seeds, ground ginger or finely chopped fresh ginger

Method

Step 1

Soak the quinoa overnight in double the amount of water. When you’re ready to cook, rinse the quinoa and rice until the water runs clear.

Step 2

Measure out all of the spices into a cup — this makes it less likely that you'll burn your spices while searching for the others.

Step 3

Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot. Add all the spices and sauté together on medium heat for a minute until fragrant. Be careful not to overdo this stage – it's better to err on the side of caution on your first attempt than risk frazzling the spices and making them bitter or burnt.

Step 4

Stir in the mung dal and quinoa. Add 4 cups of water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, lid on.

Step 5

Cook for 10 minutes, then add the sweet potato. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes (longer if using whole green mung beans), or until the dal is completely soft (easily squashed between finger and thumb), the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency and the ghee has risen to the top, adding more water if necessary.

Step 6

Adjust the seasoning and garnish with fresh chopped herbs or the fresh green chutney if you like.
Rasta Daal

Hot meals are great, especially at this time of year, when a salad or other raw or cold foods won’t always cut it. This recipe features dal aka split lentils — protein-rich, easy to cook and affordable. Stock up on mung dal and red split lentils as these are the easiest to digest and quickest to cook. If you struggle with time in the morning and don’t have a slow-cooker, then batch-cook it one evening and reheat in the morning.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

40 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

1 tbsp of ghee or coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3cm piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1 tbsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of wholegrain mustard
½ tbsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
Pinch of chilli powder
1 carrot, chopped
250g of red split lentils, rinsed
500ml of water
400ml tin of full-fat coconut milk
4 fresh tomatoes, skinned and deseeded, very finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coriander leaves and toasted cashews to serve

Method

Step 1

Melt the ghee and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic, if using, and cook until soft. Add the ginger, cumin, mustard, turmeric, cinnamon and chilli and cook for 30 seconds. Add the carrot, and stir through.

Step 2

Add the lentils, water and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20—30 minutes, lid on, but stirring from time to time, until the lentils are cooked.

Step 3

Add the tomatoes and cook for few more minutes until they are soft. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with coriander and toasted cashews on top, if you like.
Winter Sunset Soup

The beauty of soups, stews and dahls is that you can’t really mess them up. They’re easy to tweak and you can taste as you go; just be sure that everything is wonderfully tender (whole lentils take much longer from scratch, but freshly cooked is always better than tinned) before serving, for best digestion.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

30 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

1 tbsp of ghee (or coconut oil for a vegan option)
½ large leek, sliced
2-3 tbsp of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp of cumin powder
2 medium parsnips, chopped into small chunks
1 large or 2 small beets, chopped into small chunks
1 large sweet potato, chopped into small chunks
750ml-1lt of bone broth or veg stock
3 small sprigs rosemary
½ cup of red split lentils
½ tsp of sea salt (if using homemade bone broth, otherwise adjust to taste at the end)
Generous grind of black pepper

Method

Step 1

In a large pan, sauté the leeks in the ghee until soft. Add the chopped ginger and cumin and sauté again.

Step 2

Add the parsnips first and cook for a few minutes, then add the beetroot and sweet potato.

Step 3

Add 750ml of bone broth or veg stock, and the rosemary, split lentils and sea salt if using.

Step 4

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are completely tender. Carefully remove the sprigs of rosemary and discard.

Step 5

Use a stick blender to purée the soup to your liking, adding more hot water, broth or stock if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning, stirring in a generous grind of black pepper and ladle into bowls.

Step 6

Dress with extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a final grind of black pepper to serve.
Coco’s Coronation Chicken
Louise Parker, Sustainable Weight Loss Expert

This salad is so speedy. I often make a batch of this for work and midweek suppers, then pop the mixture into wholemeal wraps to add variety. Great for making in batches. You can prepare it the night before but add the chicken mixture to the beans and lettuce just before you eat.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

15 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

100g of low-fat Greek yogurt
1 ripe peach, stoned and chopped
1 tbsp of mild curry paste
¼ tsp of sea salt
150g of cooked chicken, cut into strips
1 apple, cored and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
50g of walnuts, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Handful of parsley leaves, chopped
200g of green beans, cooked and cooled
1 baby gem lettuce, thickly sliced

Method

Step 1

Whizz the yoghurt, peach, curry paste and salt in a blender until smooth.

Step 2

Empty into a large bowl and mix in the chicken, apple, celery, walnuts, spring onions and parsley.

Step 3

Serve the chicken mixture on a bed of beans and lettuce.
Crunchy Crab Salad

The richness of crab works well so with the crunchy veg. If you have time, toast the cashew nuts too, but you can do that the night before and add them at lunchtime. You can also prepare the dressing the night before and bring into work in a small bottle or container.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

10 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

1 little gem lettuce, shredded
½ cucumber, chopped
2 carrots, coarsely grated
100g of beansprouts
150g of white and brown crab meat or just white if you prefer
1 tbsp of chopped chives
1 tbsp of white or black sesame seeds
25g of unsalted cashew nuts, chopped
For the dressing:
½ tbsp of groundnut oil
½ tbsp of toasted sesame oil
½ green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp of reduced-sodium soy sauce

Method

Step 1

Place all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Step 2

Add all the salad ingredients, toss well to combine and taste, adding a little more soy sauce if you like.
Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

Top this soup with crumbled goats’ cheese. You can add it just before you eat. This is another soup that lends itself to batch-cooking and freezing in portions for an instant meal. You can simply heat up at work.

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

30 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

1 tbsp of rapeseed oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 onion, finely chopped
3 large carrots, finely chopped
1 tbsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of paprika
½ tsp of ground turmeric
300g of dried lentils, rinsed in cold water
800ml of good vegetable stock
2 tbsp of pumpkin seeds
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Method

Step 1

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and gently sauté the onion and carrots until the onions are translucent.

Step 2

Now add the spices and lentils and fry until the spices are fragrant and toasted.

Step 3

Stir in the stock and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender. I like this soup as it is, but feel free to blend it if you prefer a smooth texture.

Step 4

Season to taste and serve sprinkled with the pumpkin seeds and a little drizzle of oil.
Savoury Granola

This recipe for seedy savoury granola is great for chucking on salads or sprinkling on a soup. A handful of these and a piece of fruit makes a fast, delicious snack.
 

Yield

Makes 1 Jar

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

25 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch/ Snack

Ingredients

50g of pumpkin seeds
100g of jumbo oats
1 tbsp of sesame seeds
50g of pecans
1 tsp of fennel seeds
¼ tsp of dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp of reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/8 tsp of sea salt
1 egg white

Method

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, mix well and bread on a small baking tray lined with baking paper – not too thinly or the mixture may burn.

Step 2

Bake for 15-20 min minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden.

Step 3

Allow to cool completely on the tray. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Mini Egg Muffins
Gabriela Peacock, Nutritionist

These are great as a portable snack or meal, served with a large mixed salad. They re-heat easily. You can vary the vegetables and add some chorizo, or pancetta if you want, or some grated cheese on top but I like to keep them simple.

Yield

Makes 6

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

30 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch/ Snack

Ingredients

Small onion, chopped
Red pepper, chopped
Large tomato, chopped
Bag of spinach
6 eggs
100ml of milk
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of chilli
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Method

Step 1

Chop the onion, red pepper and tomato and fry until soft.

Step 2

Add the spinach, and wilt down, then remove from heat.

Step 3

Break the eggs into a large bowl, then add the milk, paprika, chilli, salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

Step 4

Mix in the vegetables.

Step 5

Grease a muffin tin and divide the mixture between the cups. Bake for 15-20 mins until they are cooked through.
Seed Crackers

If you take rye or buckwheat crackers with you, you’ll find you don’t have to eat bread as much. This seed cracker recipe by Anna Jones is a winner.

Yield

Makes enough for one-week’s worth of snacking

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

30 Minutes

Meal Type

Snack

Ingredients

100g of sunflower seeds
100g of pumpkin seeds
100g of sesame seeds
50g of poppy seeds
50g of chia seeds
200g of rolled oats
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of maple syrup
3 tbsp of melted coconut oil
350ml of water

Method

Step 1

Preheat your oven to 190°C. Get all your ingredients together, and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Step 2

Combine all the dry ingredients, including one of the optional flavourings if you are using them, and stir well.

Step 3

Mix the maple syrup, coconut oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add to the dry ingredients and mix very well, until everything is completely soaked and the mixture becomes very thick.

Step 4

Divide between the two lined trays and even out a bit, then put another piece of greaseproof on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the mixture until it is about 1⁄2cm thick.

Step 5

Take the top layer of greaseproof off and use the tip of a sharp knife to score the mixture into rectangles.

Step 6

Bake the crackers for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the sheet over, then peel off the greaseproof to expose the underside of the crackers. Put back into the oven for another 20 minutes. They are ready when they are firm and golden round the edges.

Step 7

Allow to cool, then break along the lines where they have been scored.
Simple Mackerel Salad

Another easy one for the office is based around a tin of mackerel. Keep these in a work drawer just in case you’re hungry. It’s loaded with green veggies, too.

Yield

Serves 1

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

10 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

Green beans
Spinach
Rocket
Cucumber
½ avocado
1 tin of mackerel in tomato sauce
2 tbsp of toasted seeds (sunflower or pumpkin)
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Step 1

Make the dressing by mixing the lemon juice with the tomato sauce provided with the mackerel.

Step 2

Add and the ingredients together and combine. Simple.
Wholegrain Penne Salad with Tuna & Avocado
Barilla

Yield

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

15 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

160g of wholegrain penne
1 avocado
2 Italian tomatoes
100g of canned tuna
1 lemon
1 bunch of chopped coriander
1 tbsp of chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp of oregano
Extra virgin olive oil

Method

Step 1

Zest the lemon. Cut the tomatoes into 1cm cubes. Drain the tuna oil.

Step 2

Peel the avocado and cut into 1.5cm pieces. Season with the juice of a lemon.

Step 3

Cook the pasta in an abundant amount of salted water, following the package’s timing instructions for al dente. Cool in running water.

Step 4

Add all ingredients, season with salt, ground black pepper, lemon zest, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.

Visit Barilla.com

Broccoli, Bulgur Wheat, Chicken & Artichoke Salad
Tenderstem

Yield

Serves 1

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

20 Minutes

Meal Type

Lunch

Ingredients

2 tbsp of rapeseed oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
½ chicken stock cube, made up to 400ml with hot water
1 chicken breast or thigh, sliced
60g of bulgur wheat
5 artichoke hearts, tinned, sliced into 4
4-5 tenderstem broccoli stems, heads removed and stems thinly sliced
1 zest and juice of lemon
Knob of butter
Large handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

Step 1

In a non-stick pan add the rapeseed oil and fry the red onion until soft and translucent, then add the chopped garlic and stir.

Step 2

Add the bulgur wheat and stir again. Add the stock to just about covering the ingredients and stir. Keep adding the stock as the bulgur wheat absorbs the liquid, if it needs more liquid then top up with water.

Step 3

When the bulgur wheat is soft but not fully cooked add the chopped tenderstem broccoli stems to cook for about a minute until bright green. Take off the heat.

Step 4

Stir in the knob of butter, artichoke hearts, zest and juice of a lemon, parsley, salt and pepper and leave to cool.

Step 5

In a separate pan, fry the chicken slices in 1 tbsp of rapeseed oil until golden brown. Either fold into the bulgur wheat mix or chop into small pieces. Thoroughly cool and leave in your fresh box in the fridge for the next day.

Step 6

To reheat add 2 tbsp of water to the fresh box and loosely cover the lid and microwave for 2-3mins or until piping hot.

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