The Healthy Habit That Has Made My Afternoons Better

I always had the best intentions of packing my lunch, but putting this healthy habit into practice was a different story. I was always filled with lunch ennui and jealous vibes when I would see my co-workers with their cute tupperware containers and mason jars stocked with fresh ingredients that looked much more appetizing than whatever I had grabbed out of necessity.

POPSUGAR Photography | Jenny Sugar

Occasionally, I would be inspired to have a productive Sunday afternoon where I would cook up a batch of my favorite chili or buy a ton of groceries (that I would never finish), but inevitably once Wednesday rolled around, I would be back on the street, trying to figure out what sounded good to eat. Once I got in the groove of packing my lunch the night before — and remembering it before I left the house — the shift to making this a daily habit became natural. Here's why you should try it, too.

It's Much More Satisfying

At first, the idea of packing my lunch felt like a sacrifice, but since I started bringing healthy recipes to work, I have not looked back. Nine times out of 10, my homemade lunch is more palatable and filling than any grab-and-go salad, sandwich, or soup on the block. I'm able to bring foods that are rich in fiber and protein to fuel my brain as I write, and I steer clear of ingredients that make my blood sugar spike or leave me wanting a snack right after I eat. This was the big kicker for me that made this healthy habit stick for good.

I Always Know What I'm Getting

Even when the ingredients are listed on the menu, you never know just how much butter, oil, or other condiments have been used in preparation at a restaurant. Most lunch spots are in the business of making something tasty, so even if a meal "sounds" healthy, we know that's not always the case. When I layer my ingredients and prep my homemade lunch, I always know exactly what I'm getting, so I can make sure it supports my needs.

I've Maintained My Weight Loss

Portion control has always been a big issue for me; if there is food on my plate, I'm going to eat it. By packing my own lunch, I'm easily able to manage portions and be cognizant about my ingredient choices. Eating a cleaner and lighter lunch not only supports my general weight-loss goals, but it also makes space for the occasional weeknight dinner out where I can indulge freely. There's no reason to waste calories on a sad fast-food lunch!

It Saves Money. Big Time.

When developing my budget for 2015, I made a point to get real about the superfluous expenses I did not even realize I had. I knew that this meant regular Uber rides to work and daily coffees from the shop by my apartment had to go, but until I looked at my credit card statement, I had no idea how much money I was spending on my lunch every week. It's tough in downtown San Francisco to find something that's fresh, nutritious, and filling for under $10. That's $50 a week I could be saving . . . or spending on SoulCycle.

Here's What to Pack

Part of making this shift stick is to pack a lunch that doesn't feel sad or unsatisfying when lunchtime rolls around. Try these 50 healthy lunch recipes, or cook these dinner recipes that make even better leftovers. If you're looking to lose weight, check out these lunchtime rules, and pack accordingly.