While you're not brown bagging it or buying lunch, there are so many ways to eat a healthy meal in the middle of the day.
Greek mezze salad
Credit: Armando Rafael

Working from home brings a whole new lunch scenario. Rather than grabbing something on the go or bringing it in a container from home, you can prepare lunch in the moment with whatever is on hand and doesn't have to be transported. You can also repurpose leftovers in all kinds of creative ways.

Putting together a delicious, well-balanced lunch at home doesn't have to mean lots of from time away from your desk. Prepping ahead while making other meals, adding fresh finishing touches, and putting together creative mashups gets a bright, delicious lunch on the table fast. Read on for four quick and easy lunch ideas.

Assemble a Mezze Platter

Customize a Mediterranean spread by combining ingredients you have on hand with leftovers. Start with a base recipe like this healthy vegetarian mezze lunch recipe, then change and adapt from there. For an exciting spread that doesn't overwhelm, select five to seven components.

Select with at least one dip, like hummus or labneh. Babaganoush is another great option, adding a creamy, smoky flavor to the mix. Slice a handful of raw, crunchy vegetables, too. Whatever you have on hand, such as cucumber, carrots, radishes, or romaine lettuce, will work. Next, add whatever leftovers are in your refrigerator—a spoonful of last night's roasted vegetables, a sliced hard-boiled egg, or a few cooked shrimp. Top everything off with olives, a crumble of feta cheese, store-bought stuffed grape leaves, or roasted chickpeas, then finish the plate with a drizzle of oil, flaky sea salt, and a sprinkle of za'atar spice. If you'd like, you can serve your spread with toasted pita, bread, or even pita chips.

Use an Ingredient from Last Night's Meal for Today's Lunch

Cook off extra pasta, grains, and rice when you are making dinner. Go-to lunches for our Deputy Food Editor Greg Lofts involve riding on the coattails of dinner the night before. "I've been doing larger batch prepping to minimize time and effort (and dishes) involved for each meal. I made a red sauce pasta one night and boiled off extra penne for pasta salad the next day. Simply dress the leftover pasta with oil and vinegar and tossed with canned tuna, arugula, capers, and cherry tomatoes," suggests Lofts.

You could also make an extra piece of protein, like salmon or chicken, when you are cooking dinner. Save that portion and turn it into a salad, or slice and sandwich the protein between two slices of bread with your favorite condiments. If you're not feeling creative, simply enjoy it exactly as you did the evening before.

Whip Up Soup or Chili

Hearty soups fill you up but won't weigh you down, and they're so easy to make in batches. Adding a few extra finishing touches right before you eat is a simple way to turn an otherwise basic bowl of soup into an indulgent lunch. Feel free to get creative: Finish the soup with a spoonful of yogurt or pesto, add a crunchy topping like toasted nuts or fried shallots, sprinkle on a few shavings of parmesan or sliced chilies, or drizzle the bowl with oil. And don't forget to toast some bread to go alongside it.

The easiest way to enjoy a warm lunch at home in no time at all is by keeping individual portions of your soups, stews, and chilis in the fridge or freezer. Then, all you have to do is heat them up on those busy work days when you don't have much time to think about lunch. Stock your freezer with vegetable and bean soups like minestrone or this Kale, White Bean, and Farro soup. A 30 Minute Chili won't take much time to make for a last minute lunch or you could put on the slow cooker first thing in the morning and have freshly made chili by lunch.

Make Salad a No-Brainer

Lofts suggests buying and washing greens at the start of the week and shaking up a vinaigrette in a resealable jar to use all week. "Just switch up the protein, like canned tuna, cooked shrimp, shredded chicken, or sliced steak (usually leftovers from dinner the night before), or poached egg, hardboiled egg, or beans. With most everything prepped ahead or utilizing leftovers, it's just a matter of tossing everything together," says Lofts.

To keep salad from feeling repetitive, try adding interesting finishing touches using ingredients you have on hand. A few ideas to get you started: add a dollop of ricotta, a handful of pepita seeds, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or fresh herbs to your daily mix.


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