No time? No problem. Make a healthy lunch in 5 minutes flat

Have you ever had one of those days – or maybe everyday – when lunch hour rolls around and there’s just not enough time to make time to eat?  You’ve got tons of work to do and it’d be so much easier going to a fast food drive-thru window or better yet, skip eating lunch altogether.  Both are bad ideas.


If this scenario sounds familiar, there’s ways to make a more positive and healthier change so you don’t have to compromise at the expense of poor nutritional value or routinely missing valuable nutrients. 

Plan ahead the night before:

·         Invest in a lunch bag or tote to carry your food.  Each night you come home, empty and clean thoroughly so they are ready to use the next morning.

·         Keep plastic storage containers and plastic sandwich bags in a convenient area where they are readily accessible.

·         Make food items ready-to-go.  Certain foods such as grapes, baby carrots, or trail mix can be portioned into small sandwich bags the night before so you can grab-and-go to take with you the next morning.

·         Beverages can be placed in a plastic water bottle and stored in the refrigerator or freezer so they are already cold or can be used to keep the lunch cold, if necessary.

·         Don’t forget any utensils you may need to eat with – I’m guilty, I’ve done this.  Whether using real or plastic, have them sitting by your lunch bag when you get ready to leave so you won’t be eating food requiring utensils with your fingers.

Five minute lunch ideas:

First, try to make your lunch as nutritionally well-balanced as possible.  Your lunch should consist of a good protein source, a fruit and /or vegetable and some kind of grain.  This makes a well-rounded meal that will get you through the end of the workday without being totally famished.  The ideas listed below are super simple and are meant to give ideas of how  basic food items can create a healthy meal in a short amount of time. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

·         Greek yogurt with sliced almonds or walnuts to sprinkle on top, baby carrots, a piece of fruit, whole wheat crackers.

·         Individual serving of peanut butter or hummus, celery sticks, granola bar, piece of fruit.

·         One hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese with cut up fruit, small high-fiber muffin, grape tomatoes and baby carrots.

·         High-fiber (at least 3 grams) protein bar, piece of fruit, string cheese.

·         Salad with cut-up vegetables with 1 tbsp. lite dressing, piece of fruit, trail mix, Babybel cheese.

·         Tuna-cucumber wrap – 1 8” flour tortilla, 3 oz. tuna, 2 tbsp. mayonnaise, 5 cucumber slices;  vanilla low-fat yogurt, piece of fruit/veggies.

·         Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread, salad with cut-up vegetables with 1 tbsp. lite dressing, piece of fruit

·         Canned vegetable soup heated in a microwave with whole-grain crackers, string cheese, piece of fruit.

·         Whole-wheat pita bread with sliced roast beef and one slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo or mustard, piece of fruit. 

·         Sliced veggies such as green or red peppers, grape tomatoes, baby carrots with hummus, high-fiber (at least 3 grams) protein bar, piece of fruit.

Lunch doesn’t have to be an elaborate culinary concoction.  Healthy eating can be accomplished without spending a lot of precious time doing so. Care enough about yourself to take just enough time to nourish your body midday so it can be recharged and reenergized.  When doing so, you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of the day’s work. 


Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, Burlingame, Kansas and Butler County Community College, Council Grove, Kansas; she teaches Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition.  She is also a certified health and wellness coach, and a clinical dietitian for the Cotton O’Neil Medical Clinic in Osage City, Kansas where she does individualized nutrition counseling.  She writes Eat Well to Be well, a column about health and nutrition  and is a blog contributor for Dr. David B. Samadi at  Contact her, visit her, or like “eat well 2 be well” on Facebook.