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When it comes to lunch during the workweek, things tend to go one of two ways. The first: You eat the same turkey-and-cheese sandwich every single day for five days straight. And second: You spend $15 on a chopped salad that’s way over-dressed (and that you barely wanted in the first place). It’s no fun to be stuck with either. Fortunately, we’ve discovered six tips for building a better (and healthier) lunch right in the comfort of your own home.

takenaka bento box

Invest In a Quality Lunch Box

First things first: You need the right tools if you want to succeed at building this masterpiece (because it basically is a work of art). That means it’s time to ditch your old, leaky and (most likely) stained container and trade it in for a new and improved version. Personally, we’re fans of Takenaka bento boxes because they come in an array of pastel colors, have a sturdy construction and fit all the food we need to get through the day.

mixed nuts
Eva Katalin Kondoros/Getty Images

Remember the Core Four

Food can be categorized into four main buckets: carbs, proteins, healthy fats and fruit/vegetables. When packing up, make it a point to have at least one item from each of these groups. That way, you know you’re getting a balanced meal. Two more tips: Keep it colorful and don’t forget the water. (Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!)

Sponsored maranatha almond butter pretzels
Gieves Anderson

But Don’t Forget to Indulge (a Little)

You know those healthy fats and proteins we were just talking about? That’s where these little guys come in. Dip chocolate-covered pretzel rods into creamy MaraNatha almond butter. It’s made from one single ingredient—raw almonds—so this is the perfect snack when you’re craving something sweet without any bad-for-you additives.

buddy system
Twenty20

Use the Buddy System

Bringing a homemade lunch to work is one thing, but actually eating it is an entirely different obstacle. Whether it’s in-office treats (oh, hi, little chocolate brownie) or a full-blown cafeteria, it can be very tempting to choose these options over your packed one. We recommend enlisting the help of a coworker so you can keep each other in check when it comes to eating healthy. If everyone in the office is gathering around the pizza box in the kitchen, you won’t feel totally left out by not joining in.

plan out meals
Twenty20

Plan, Plan, Plan

We cannot stress this enough. To avoid last-minute meal prep, designate one day (we like Sunday) to plan your lunches, go grocery shopping and cook or prep whatever’s necessary. You can also use a recipe planning app, like Pepperplate, to really keep yourself organized. If you do this, you’ll have no excuse for not sticking to it.

Sponsored maranatha almond butter with apples
Gieves Anderson

Stock Your Desk Drawer with Essentials

No matter what kind of lunch you’ve had, there’s no denying you’ll want a snack at some point. Instead of reaching for the office cookie stash, keep your desk drawer filled with healthy options, like a jar of MaraNatha almond butter. Pair it with a juicy apple, celery sticks or a rice cake. No sugar hangovers here.

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