Someone on the list asked about quick, vegetarian fat-free work lunches.
Lunch was the thing I was most worried about; how could I eat realy
low-calorie satisfying lunches that didn't take a long time to prepare.
Below I've compiled twenty-six ideas. I've been taking mostly vegetarian
work lunches now for four months and making the same for my boyfriend's
lunch. His co-workers are convinced he has a stay-at-home wife, but
actually, I have a long work day and a lot of commitments in the evening
too. I just decided to put the creative juices to work.
Here's what I've tried that we've liked:
1. Cook one of the bean, lentil, grain or rice stews fr om the fatfree
archive in crockpot overnight. Spoon into thermos or microwave-safe
container in the morning.
2. Cook rice or rinsed quinoa in rice cooker in the morning when you first
get up. Spoon into microwave-safe container. Keep a can opener at work and
several cans of favorite vegies. Heat the vegies with the rice at lunchtime.
3. Stir-fry favorite vegies at night in vegetable broth or balsamic vinegar
or wine. Add a drained can of beans, pour in microwave-safe container.
4. Microwave frozen vegetables with 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce per 16
ounces of frozen vegie.
5. Make yummy bread in bread machine or purchase some flavorful fresh bread.
Spread slices with yogurt cheese that you've flavored with favorite herbs.
Wrap in plastic wrap and heat briefly at lunchtime in microwave.
6. Bake potatoes in your oven at night while you watch TV. Split, fill with
salsa, mustard, barbecue sauce, ff cottage cheese mixed with ff yogurt and
herbs, grated ff parmesian cheese, ff sour cream, yogurt cheese, etc. I like
to fill each half with a different condiment. Wrap in plastic wrap for
7. Microwave carrots, cut into coin-sized pieces for about four minutes.
Drop the hot carrot coins into a bowl of seasoned plain yogurt and
refrigerate overnight. In the morning put the carrot coins in a baggie for
munching all day long.
8. Microwave a sweet potato. Slice. Combine with sugar-free maple syrup in
micro-wave safe container. Or sprinkle with some maple extract for lunchtime
9. Brown some of those morningstar saussage patties or equivalent as usual.
Crumble. Mix with cooked vegetables. If you feel ambitious, cook some pasta
and add to mixture to make meal more filling.
10. Make a quick potato salad by chopping a cooked potato, mincing some
onion, chopping cellery and stirring in 2 parts balsamic vinegar and 1/2
part mustard. Or check out all the quick bean salads in the fatfree archive
and mix up one of them for overnight marinating.
11. Wrap an apple in plastic wrap. Poke a hole in the wrap. At work nuke for
about a minute, covered with a paper towel because gooey juice spurts out. A
great thing to enjoy when your co-workers are wolfing down morning
12. Marinat vegetables in all kinds of stuff: leftover pickle juice from the
empty pickle jar (lots of sodium), yogurt, salsa, barbecue sauce, lime juice
(squeezed fresh limes -- yum!), catsup, vinegar, ff salad dressing, leftover
soup broth strained ... some vegetables are better if you steam them first,
others are good raw. Good, is relative, so experiment. I love marinated raw
mushrooms, and marinated steamed cauliflower. I love slightly steamed bell
pepper strips marinated for a day in italian ff dressing.
13. Mix up a jar of cinamon, equal and cocoa powder (unsweetend baking
cocoa) and keep it at work if your vending machines sell fatfree milk. You
can make great hot chocolate this way. The proportions tend to vary
depending on the unsweetened baking cocoa. I actually mix in a teaspoon of
cinamon for an 8-ounce can of cocoa, put in a jar, and add a tablet of equal
into the hot cup when I'm ready to drink it.
14. Toast corn chips on the oven rack, (preheated DG350 oven for about 8
minutes.) Break into chips, seal in a bag, take a jar of salsa with it to
work for afternoon snack dipping. Or, make a double batch of air-popped
popcorn next time you snack at night. Combine in a ziplock when it is really
hot with a spurt of butter-flavored cooking spray and a tablespoon or two of
ff parmesian cheese. Shake. More work munchies.
15. Slice potatoes thin with a food processor. Stirr around in large bowl
with a spurt of cooking spray and favorite seasonings. Bake on nonstick
cooky sheet at DG400 for about 20 minutes. Put in a sealed ziplock for
afternoon munching at your desk.
16. Buy one of those miniature ten-dollar crockpots you can find at the drug
or hardware store. Some have removable crocks and some don't. Keep it in
your lunchroom for cooking beans with say the Yves vegie dogs, or even
heating canned soup with fresh herbs. Brown rice is great added to canned
soup, if you don't cook it over 3 hours -- it turns to mush left in a
crockpot too long. I also enjoy the steel-cut oatmeal, or the 7-grain cereal
from Arrowhead Mills -- cooked with water and a tablespoon of apple juice
concentrate. I also use my crockpot for impromptu vegetable medleys,
especially at work. The miniature crockpots consume very little energy so
you can even leave one in your car plugged into an inverter. You can also
use the sun, shining into your car through the windshield to heat a
foil-wrapped package of something for your lunch.
17. Before you go home, buy a bottle of water from the vending machine and
pop in a teabog. Leave it on your desk or in the fridge. You'll have
delicious iced tea for next day's lunch that isn't bitter and does not have
calories. This provides an unlimited variety of interesting drinks because
the modern supermarket seems to have thousands of teas. Even if you don't
like tea, try this; I didn't like tea, but making it this way keeps it from
becoming bitter or strong.
18. Try to buy a different fresh herb at the store every week and just try
chopping and adding to things. You can stand an herb with a stem in a
covered jar in the fridge with an inch of water if you remember to change
the water daily. If you aren't good at remembering this kind of thing,
accept the fact it will spoil a little faster. Try different spices and keep
a list of what you like. I don't mention garlic here, because though I love
it my boyfriend does not. The important thing is to develop a list of what
you personally like in the spice department and ignore things you don't like
even if recipes call for them.
19. If you don't have time for breakfast, you'll be too hungry for lunch. So
put some frozen berries in a thermos in your car before you go to bed, and
at your desk add dry cereal and milk. Or soak some dried fruit in the
thermos in a little apple juice, and add the cereal and milk to that in the
20. Don't get bogged down by the idea that lunch needs to resemble what
you'd eat if you ate out, a sandwich, fries/chips and a drink. Lunch can be
toasted frozen waffles with pear butter, which is what I'm eating now while
I write this.
21. Don't think will power will keep you from munching. Instead of waiting
until the will power is gone, be sure you pack stuff to munch on that is
22. I make yogurt cheese with a gizmo I bought mail-order from an ad in
Cooking Light years ago. But you are supposed to be able to make it by
straining yogurt through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, keeping the
"cheese" that remains. I don't discard the liquid, I use it as marinade. I
season the chese with fresh chives, green onions chopped, or chopped basil.
My gizmo, a plastic funnel, lined with a fine mesh screen makes it trivial
to make the cheese.
23. Internet grocery stores are another great time-saver. I shop with
peapod, netgrocher, webvan and wholefoods. Add a .com to all the names. They
all deliver. Different parts of the contry work best with different internet
froceries. Even if you cannot make something ahead, you can save a lot of
time if you don't have to go to the store.
24. Keep napkins and baggies in your car and in your desk. It encourages you
to eat fruit because you can drip into the baggie and throw orange peels and
apple cores neatly away. Baggies have saved me from food truck muffins!
25. You can make a vegetarian fat-free lunch seem more filling by being sure
to include some fruit. I've gotten in the habit of always dropping an
orange, apple or banana into the lunch sack. As spring happens, more fruits
will be added to this good habit.
26. Keep a desk drawer at work stocked with paper bowls, plastic utensils, a
can opener, a paring knife, cans of vegies and fruit and packages and cans
of ff soup. You can also stock things like rye crisp, puffed corn, Kashi
ceral, dried fruit and rice cakes, instant oatmeal and the like. Keep a few
jars of spices too. My drawer has Mrs. dash, molly mcbutter, dill, curry,
marjoram and onion powder. I can mix any of them into a can of soup or
vegies for a quick lunch any time that hunger strikes.
I can't resist adding a bit of editorial, albeit off-topic paragraphs, here.
It is hard to get motivated to prepare food like this but it doesn't take
any longer than getting ready for bed, and you can do it even when
I am disabled, unable to drive and don't work near anywhere I can walk to
get lunch. Sometimes I have to work late or come in early. But when I
decided to really make healthy eating a priority, none of this seemed
Before I started eating this way I felt very limited. I used to go to the
food truck that parked in front of our building and have a big burrito for
breakfast and a burger for lunch. Then I'd have junky snacks from the
lunchroom vending machines in the afternoon. Now I cannot imagine even
wanting any of this stuff. If you give it time, your cravings do change.
Also, one thing I've learned is that my limitations have caused me to be
better organized and to plan more. I don't have any more time than a lot of
people but my co-workers are envious of my lunches -- after all they're
still eating the fried junk from the food truck!
* Every working woman needs a wife. But if you can't get a wife, become a
born-again organized person.