Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Lazy Person's Tip for Organising Healthy Lunches

As I mentioned a while ago, I've been healthifying for some time, and it seems that everyone and his dog is doing it these days too, so I thought some of you (non-vegetarians - warning veggies, pics of raw chicken follow) might find this useful. I'm generally a pretty healthy eater, but I do get slack if I'm not organised, and one of my most dangerous slack-off points is lunch. If I don't organise my own lunch and it's filling enough to last me through until a (healthy) snack late afternoon, I will be invariably finding an excuse to hit up the sausage rolls and baked potatoes, or even a big chunk of some fat-laden zucchini slice while kidding myself it's healthy because it has zucchini in it.

I don't know about you, but I need protein at lunch, and that's what makes it hard for me. It's easy enough to throw together a green salad or a pasta salad but on their own they're just not filling enough. I could add cheese, but I try to limit that due to the saturated fat. I could add hard-boiled eggs but I have to cook them the night before and I always forget. I could add tuna, but I don't want to be that person who stinks out the office with tuna...

Eventually I hit on the perfect idea - chicken. At first I was buying chicken breasts, cutting them into 100g-ish size tenderloins and freezing them, then cooking up a small amount each night for my salad the next day. But then I'd forget to take it out of the freezer, or I couldn't be bothered cooking it, or it seemed like such a palaver... so finally I had an even better idea: cook it first and then freeze it. I am a genius. No, really.

When I do my market shop each week I buy enough chicken breast for lunch for Noodles and myself for about a week - there's a bit over a kilogram in that picture, I guess. I bring it home, cut all the scuzzy bits off, then put it in a ceramic dish (easier to clean than a metal pan) with some lemon and some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves. The lemon is to keep it the 'm' word (I can't say it), and the garlic just adds a bit of flavour. Lately I've also been sprinkling it with some salt-free seasoning as well for a bit more zing. You could do whatever you like, really.

Throw it in the oven until it's cooked through - how long and what temperature is hard to say, you know your own oven better than I do. You can cover it with foil if you like (I don't). For thick breasts it usually takes about 35-40 minutes in my oven at 190 degrees, but my oven is pants, so if you have a decent one you're probably looking at about 30 minutes or so. Once they've cooked, put them on a plate in the fridge to cool down.

Once it's cooled you can chop it into chunks or slice it thinly and then bag it up in zip lock bags in whatever amount you like. I usually do bags of 80-100g, depending on what I'm planning to do with it. Then put the bags in the freezer. All you need to do is take one out and defrost in the fridge overnight and then in the morning throw it into your salad or make your sandwich or wrap or do whatever you want to do with it and there you have it. Protein for your healthy lunch!

Things you can do with it:
  • add to a salad (as above) to make it more filling
  • slice thinly and add to a wrap with whatever you fancy - Noodles likes to do that with multigrain tortillas and add baby spinach, capsicum, grated carrot and snow peas
  • make a pasta salad with cooked macaroni, capsicum, red onion, peas, corn, olives (whatever you fancy) and add a bag of the chopped chicken
  • throw it into an omelette with some mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

So that's my tip for organising healthy lunches with minimal effort. What's yours?


  1. Genius! I need to start doing this, I'm stinky fish lady but only the kids have to put up with the smell lol. No tips here apart from buying 1kg bags of frozen berries lol I love me some berries! :D

  2. Thanks, Gaelle - the desire to do as little work as possible makes me innovative at times. ;-)

    Jade, I have a freezer full of berries. Fruit in general annoys the hell out of me - it's so much work and mess. With berries I can just thaw some out over night and throw them in my muesli or yoghurt and then feel smug because I've eaten some fruit.

  3. I need to do this!!! I'm the worst and laziest lunch planner and do end up being the smelly fish lady in the office because it's so easy (but tuna gets so boring!) Nice one Dee!

  4. Thanks for this tip Dee! Even I can get my head around this one - so useful!!

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