Found: The Best Anti-Inflammatory Make-Ahead Work Lunches

Contributing Food Editor By Liz Moody
Contributing Food Editor
Liz Moody is a food editor, recipe developer and green smoothie enthusiast. She received her creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody is the author of two cookbooks: Healthier Together and Glow Pops and the host of the Healthier Together podcast.
Work lunch in a jar

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Even the healthiest people can still fall down when it comes to packing a work lunch—it's surprisingly difficult to find something that's easy enough to prep and pack but still has the nutrients you need to fuel your day. With that in mind, we challenged some of the country's best doctors and registered dietitians to share their top work lunch pick that was not only easy to make ahead of time but also powerfully anti-inflammatory. Luckily, they were up to the task—here are their best ideas.

Sauerkraut with greens and beef

I throw sautéed greens, ground beef, sweet potatoes, and sauerkraut into a bowl and throw it in my bag. The combination of the beneficial bacteria in sauerkraut and the starch in the sweet potatoes (which serves as food for the bacteria) is a great way to repopulate your gut flora with the right bacteria. The greens are packed with antioxidants, and the fatty beef stabilizes your blood sugar, which prevents inflammatory spikes in insulin.

Ellen Vora, M.D., mbg Collective member and founder of EllenVora.com

Tuna salad

illustration of avocado tuna salad ingredients

Illustration by Megan Doty / mbg Creative

To fight inflammation even during lunch, a simple tuna salad is my go-to during my workweek. I simply pack a can of wild-caught tuna and an avocado to mix together and place on top of some dark leafy greens. The healthy fats in the tuna and avocado work to down-regulate inflammatory pathways in the body while the dark leafy greens work to support methylation—your body's biochemical superhighway, which controls your inflammatory and detox pathways.

Will Cole, D.C., mbg Collective member and author of Ketotarian

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Turmeric & cauliflower

A turmeric-spiced lentil and cauliflower rice dish. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory spice, and cauliflower contains substances that promote liver detoxification, which is important to reduce inflammation in the body. Greens contain nutrients and minerals that help to dampen inflammation and contain antioxidants that fight inflammation.

Jessica Sepel, nutritionist, mbg class instructor, and founder of JS Health

My anti-inflammatory, easy-to-pack lunch is a turmeric cauliflower rice bowl topped with baked wild salmon, massaged kale, slivered almonds, my lemon tahini dressing, and some raisins for a touch of sweetness. The essential fatty acids in the salmon, vitamin K in the kale, and vitamin E in the almonds are all known for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Adding turmeric when cooking the cauliflower also improves the anti-inflammatory quality of this dish—just be sure to use ground pepper since that helps the body actually absorb the turmeric and reap all of its wonderful benefits.

—Allison (Aaron) Gross, M.S., RDN, CDN, founder of The Nutrition Curator

Kale & quinoa salad

illustration of ingredients for a kale and quinoa salad

Illustration by Megan Doty / mbg Creative

One of my favorite anti-inflammatory lunches is a salad with seasonal ingredients as follows: kale, quinoa (seasoned with herbs and spices like garlic powder, a little turmeric, and black pepper), cherry tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and organic tofu. I make a dressing using mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a little bit of countertop foods golden honey. All of these foods are packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber...and antioxidants! From the foods themselves to the spices used to season them (there's even turmeric in the golden honey!), this lunch is a free-radical-fighting pro, and remember, free radicals are those highly reactive and pesky molecules that can cause all sorts of damage to our bodies when they're left unneutralized.

Antioxidants are the superhero molecules that help to stabilize free radicals and thus prevent them from causing damage.

Leah Silberman, R.D., co-founder of Tovita Nutrition

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Related Class

The Ultimate Guide To Inflammation
The Ultimate Guide To Inflammation

Salmon salad

I love making an arugula salad with grilled wild-caught salmon and walnuts, both full of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. 

Vincent Pedre, M.D., mbg Collective member and author of Happy Gut

Red lentil dal soup

My make-and-take inflammation-fighting lunch is a red lentil dal soup. It is packed full of inflammation-fighting spices including ginger, turmeric, and cumin. I make a big batch because it freezes well.

Kimberly Evans, M.S., R.D., founder of Whole Health Nutrition

Salad with nuts and protein

I love my salads with my favorite greens and nuts for fiber, lean protein to get a blast of B vitamins, and good fat. I top mine with a drizzle of olive oil or avocado oil.

Taz Bhatia, M.D., mbg Collective member and author of Super Woman Rx

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Bonus: Pack berries as a lunch dessert.

illustration of berries

Illustration by Megan Doty / mbg Creative

A lot of my clients struggle with sugar cravings in the afternoon, but packing berries is a great way to combat this by giving yourself a sweet, filling treat to look forward to as a lunch "dessert." Aside from sparing you the inflammatory effects of sugary snacks, eating berries also allows you to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of these superfoods. Research has shown that powerful antioxidants in berries help combat the effects of stress by fighting free-radical damage to cells.

Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., mbg Collective member and founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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