Healthy Desk Lunch Ideas If You Have Zero Time, According To A Nutritionist

While a healthy breakfast will get you off to a great start on your day, a healthy lunch is also important to make sure you don't crash and burn by afternoon. Dr. Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS, the Director of Nutrition at meal prep service Freshly, says that lunch is often a meal that tends to be overlooked when busy people are in a crunch for time. With no time to go out, or even order out, lunch often consists of unhealthy "eat on the run" choices like a candy bar from the break room vending machine.

The trouble here lies in the fact that while Snickers may satisfy at the moment, that short-term sugar rush is soon to be followed by a sugar crash that could have you snoozing at your desk before the end of the day. A healthy lunch, on the other hand, can be quickly prepared the night before, providing you with a "grab and go" option more nutritious than anything that can be purchased for a handful of pocket change.

An easy oven-cooked meal

One easy option Scheller suggests that works particularly well for home office lunching consists of either dinner leftovers or "planned overs," something she calls a "one pan lunch." Scheller admits she's "a big fan of a 'set it and forget it' method, like the crockpot," but says that "a sheet pan lunch can be a great way to get your fill of protein and veggies without having to stand over the stovetop." All you need to do in order to make one of these is to fill a pan with fish or chicken and an assortment of vegetables (Scheller says she likes using sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts), then toss these with olive oil and your choice of spices and seasonings.

Just bake the pan of meats and veggies at 400 degrees for about half an hour, then lunch is ready. Scheller even suggests that you set the whole thing up prior to taking your lunch break, so while the meal is cooking, you can use the time to take a nice healthy outdoor hike in the fresh air. (Or perhaps you could catch a quick nap instead.)

A nice big salad

A salad is always a nutritious lunch option, at least as long as you mix in plenty of fiber-rich veggies and use a "good fat" like olive oil as the base for your dressing. Scheller says that salads are super-convenient since you can just chop up the lettuce and vegetables ahead of time, either the previous night or even over the weekend. She also says you can also use grocery store salad mixes to save even more time (though not money, as these do come with an upcharge).

Come lunchtime, simply toss the veggies together, add in some protein like maybe a nice omega-3 rich piece of salmon, some grilled chicken breast, or a budget-friendly boiled or poached egg, then top your salad off with a delicious dressing. Scheller's favorite is "a quick homemade dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a hint of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper," but here's a list of other healthy homemade dressings you may enjoy.

A portable salad alternative

If you think you might like to combine your lunch with a walk, or you are literally eating on the go, you might want something a bit more conducive to carrying along with you than a salad. While you can always try salad in a cup, those early '00s McSalad Shakers were a big old flopperoo for a good reason since they weren't all that easy to eat. Instead, may we suggest lettuce wraps? You can make them with ground beef or barbecue or minced chicken a la P.F. Chang's, or if you want a super-healthy wrap, Registered Dietitian Meghan Sedivy shared with Better her lettuce wrap recipe using tuna, avocado, onion, and red pepper seasoned with lemon juice.

You don't even have to stick to using lettuce, either. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Chelsey Amer uses collard greens to make nice sturdy wrappers for any protein or veggies she has on hand. As she told Better, "This combo keeps me full, without weighing me down, plus it's a great way to use up leftovers."

Meal prep services to the rescue

One option that's becoming increasingly popular for dinner can also be used to provide lunches, as well — meal delivery services. While some meal delivery providers may just send pre-portioned raw ingredients for dishes that require quite a bit of effort to prepare, others, such as Scheller's company Freshly or Kroger's meal delivery service, can bring you lunches that are pretty much ready to eat.

Scheller says that with Freshly's food, "all you need is a microwave, fork, and plate (optional) to get a lunch ready in three minutes." You won't even need the microwave with Kroger's, should you be in one of the limited number of cities where they've rolled out the program, as their food comes to you fresh and hot from the Kroger kitchens. While meal delivery isn't going to make for the cheapest lunch, it could be a nice occasional break from cooking for yourself or surviving off salads.