Today I’d like to share with you 5 of my favorite solutions for the permanent dilemma that I assume most vegans with full-time jobs have – what to eat at work for lunch?
Going out to eat during a work day is not always an option, plus what should we do if we don’t have any leftovers from the night before to take to the office? These vegan/plant-based lunch ideas don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of effort, and help me every time I don’t have any leftovers to pack with me.
As you know, I’ve started a full-time job a few months ago after almost three years of staying at home. Right away I had to say goodbye to the freedom of being able to cook whatever I wanted for lunch, and faced the necessity of planning out my meals and snacks for the day to bring to work.
Going out to eat at lunch is not really an option for me – there are hardly any veg-friendly lunch places here on Whidbey Island except for a few that don’t always offer healthier food. Since we are watching our expenses these days, I figured that bringing my own lunch to work was the best way to go.
At first, I tried to make sure to only cook meals that could yield leftovers for dinner, but soon realized that this wasn’t always going to work: I didn’t want to stress every night over what to make for lunch at work for the following day. Pretty soon I came up with these five easy vegan office lunches that only need minimum prep (the night before or in the morning), and don’t call for lots of fancy ingredients.
Now I can have healthy plant-based meals at work AND save money on avoiding takeout. Being vegan doesn’t have to be complicated!
5 Easy and Healthy Vegan Office Lunch Ideas
1. Simple grain bowl. Make it: Cooked grain of choice + a handful of beans + chopped raw broccoli and carrots + a sprinkling of spices of choice. Put everything into a microwave-safe container (I like Pyrex glass ones with lids), and pop into the microwave at work for 60-90 seconds. Stir and enjoy!
This is one of my favorite lunch options because I almost always have these ingredients on hand. My favorite grain for this bowl is either rice or quinoa, but sometimes I get more adventurous with buckwheat or millet.
My trusty little rice cooker prepares the grains while I’m getting ready in the morning, but it may be easier for some of us to cook grains the night before. (I use an older version of a Wolfgang Puck rice cooker similar to this one. UPDATE September 2018: I’ve since upgraded to an Instant Pot, which allows me to cook larger amounts of grains at once.)
The best part of this grain bowl: raw broccoli and carrots get steamed very nicely when microwaved with cooked grains, so the whole dish has a nice mouth feel. Try the combo of rice and broccoli + carrots heated up in the microwave together as a side dish option.
Also, you can just use fresh vegetables of any kind – tomatoes, peppers, onions, olives, etc. – and top the reheated rice and beans for a different spin on this portable grain bowl.
2. Salad with beans and a squeeze of lime juice, with a side of whole-grain pita triangles. Make it: lettuce + fresh vegetables of choice + handful of beans + a lime wedge, all packed into a storage container with a lid (Pyrex comes in handy again!). Also, grab a pita to make this meal more filling.
What’s the deal with a lime wedge, you may ask? I’ve always found that it was hard to find a good way to transport homemade salad dressing. Interestingly, when I went plant-based, I fell in love with the taste of fresh salads with the simplest, oil-free dressings – or no dressing at all except for a drizzle of lime or lemon juice. Thus the idea of packing a lime wedge with my portable salads was born – it’s so easy, plus there’s no need to figure out the way to carry dressing to work.
3. Veggie and hummus sandwich. Make it: Pack 2 slices of whole-grain bread + a container with 2 Tbsp of hummus + any fresh vegetables of choice. At work, spread hummus on one slice of bread, top with veggies, and cover with the second bread slice. Hold tight and enjoy!
This one is self-explanatory, but here’s one additional thing I often do: I add about 1 Tbsp of any cooked beans to the hummus, mash them with a fork, and sprinkle in some turmeric/other spices or add Sriracha. This step is done at home when I’m packing everything. This spread is usually a little more filling than plain hummus, plus I don’t get tired of varying the flavors.
4. Veggie wrap. Okay, it’s a no-brainer, but anyway: to make it, take a large whole-grain tortilla, put a couple of lettuce leaves on it, and top with any veggie toppings. Throw in some beans or leftover baked tofu/vegan meats, etc. Roll it up, and wrap into a paper towel or wax paper to hold it together. The lettuce will keep the tortilla from getting soggy from all the vegetable juices.
5. Chickpea salad sandwich. This sandwich had become my husband’s favorite lunch long before we moved to Washington State and I went back to work. We also bring chickpea salad sandwiches with us almost every time we travel!
My version of chickpea salad is very simple (see the recipe here). I usually assemble our sandwiches at home in the morning, and wrap them in paper towels to help all of the ingredients stay together. One tip: if you’re doing the same, use toasted bread slices as they won’t get as soggy as regular bread.
Recently, I’ve been getting even more creative with my chickpea sandwiches: I layer the chickpea salad between nori seaweed sheets. Okay, this may not be for everyone, but nori adds a slight seafood-y accent to the flavor of chickpeas. If you put your sandwich together a few hours before eating it, nori will soften and become easier to bite.
Question for you: Do you ever get creative with vegan office lunches? Are there any staples that you like to bring to work with you? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your ideas!
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