Packing a Meal
Brown-bagging it gives you the ultimate control over what to eat at work. Pack leftovers from dinner in a reusable container, or make a sandwich with the filling of your choice. Drained, mashed tofu can make an excellent substitute for chicken or egg salad. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt for dressing and the spices of your choice. Since tofu is bland, it can take strong seasonings like curry powder. For an interesting texture, add the crunch of chopped celery or sunflower seeds or the sudden sweetness of raisins.
If you like the soy-based, meat-type products like tofu hotdogs or other delicatessen-style, meatless sandwich fillings, you can have a source of versatile lunch goodies at your fingertips. Try a sandwich on whole-grain bread, pita pocket, or a wrap. If you don't do soy, try hummus spread on an apple, whole-grain crackers, or bread for a snack or a small meal. Do you prefer a hot lunch? Mix leftover brown rice, frozen veggies like green beans or corn, a splash of tomato sauce (jarred is okay if it doesn't contain meat,) and cut-up tofu hotdogs or high-protein legumes like cooked lentils, chickpeas, black beans or kidney beans. Pack it in a microwave-safe container and just heat for mealtime. You might make one or more of your colleagues wish they had your lunch instead of theirs!
Would you prefer not to hassle with making a meal? Many companies responding to consumer desires provide prepackaged vegetarian meals for supermarket freezers. These are handy; simply pop one into an insulated bag and microwave when you are ready to eat. However, do read labels. Although frozen entrees might make easy vegetarian meals for work, processed foods can also be high in sodium, fat, and other chemicals you might not want.
Going Out For a Meal
If you are going out for lunch with colleagues or friends, you have much more control over what you eat than you might think. Most restaurants are quite willing to meet your needs; all you have to do is ask. And with so many people going vegetarian, more meatless options are popping up on menus.
If you are going to the diner, ask for an omelet with vegetables, a veggie wrap or a salad. Just go easy on the cheese to avoid one of the biggest fat traps of the vegetarian lifestyle. A slice of pizza with vegetables can be a good choice, as is the salad bar: most have pre-cooked eggs or chickpeas available to toss on your salad for more protein.
One of the best fast food options is a Mexican-themed restaurants, as Mexican food is full of fresh produce, whole grains, and beans, and often, if you order correctly, very nutritious. For example, if your coworkers want to eat at Taco Bell, order a bean burrito, light on the cheese, with fresh salsa, or get it stuffed with rice and beans and skip the meat. This works really well if you feel self-conscious about your food choices around other people.
Whether you stay in or go out, with a few tricks and some planning, it's no problem to make or purchase easy vegetarian meals for work.
Laurie Boris is a vegetarian who has had to create (and order) many vegetarian meals for work. Not a big fan of the tofu hotdogs, she enjoys experimenting with other vegetarian and vegan ingredients to create easy, nutritious meals.
American Heart Association.com, “Vegetarian Diets” https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4777
Healthy Vegetarian Meals.com, “Tips for Creating Easy Vegetarian Meals” https://healthyvegetarianmeals.com/category/vegetarian-in-the-kitchen