Getting sufficient amounts of protein, calcium, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B-12 and D is crucial for vegetarian moms and moms-to-be. Since vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, fish -- and sometimes eggs and dairy -- getting a nutritious lunch from the company cafeteria or lunch truck can be challenging. By planning ahead and thinking creatively, however, you can come up with a variety of nutrient-rich lunch box ideas for work.
1. Loaded Salad
A salad loaded with a variety of healthy vegetables is packed with nutrients and fiber. Fill a container with iron-rich leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and raw sweet potato slices. Top with avocado slices and whole-grain croutons. Drizzle with heart-healthy olive oil and fresh lemon juice and then sprinkle with walnut pieces, which are rich in omega-3-fatty acids. Lemon juice is full of vitamin C, which helps increase the absorption of plant-based iron. Sweet potatoes serve as a good vegetarian source of iodine and avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which may increase the good cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein and improve heart health.
2. Hummus and Crackers
When combined with whole-grain crackers, hummus makes a hearty vegetarian lunch. Hummus comes in many bean varieties, including black bean, white bean and traditional garbanzo bean. Beans are one of nature's healthiest foods, according to University of Arizona Campus Health Service. They are naturally high in fiber and low in fat and provide nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, calcium, iron, folic acid and potassium. Since beans contain a combination of protein and carbohydrate, they help support stable blood sugar levels, providing you with consistent energy for an extended period of time.
3. Soy Yogurt Parfait
Vegetarians must pay particular attention to getting enough vitamin B-12. Try a soy yogurt parfait to get a vitamin B-12 boost. Layer yogurt, fresh berries and granola in a container that has an airtight lid. Berries are loaded with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that cause cell damage. The granola's whole grains are rich in B vitamins, which are essential for healthy skin, hair, muscles and brain and nervous system function.
4. Peanut Butter and Banana Roll
A peanut butter and banana roll is not only filling and packed with nutrients, it also satisfies a sweet tooth. Spread a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter, either creamy or chunky, and spread a thin layer of sugar-free vegetarian strawberry jelly over the peanut butter. Top the jelly with ripe banana slices, sprinkle with raw sunflower seeds, roll the bread slice and cut into bite-size pinwheels. Bananas are full of fiber, vitamin C and potassium, which helps balance body fluids. Sunflower seeds and peanut butter provide vitamin E, zinc, folate and iron.
5. Tropical Fruit Salad
Tropical fruit salad is an excellent choice when you want a light lunch on a warm workday. Toss grapes with chunks of pineapple, apples and oranges. The acidic juices from the pineapple and orange pieces coat the apple chunks, preventing them from turning brown. Mix the fruit with a small amount of non-dairy sour cream, and sprinkle the salad with shredded coconut and sliced almonds. The fruits are loaded with vitamin C and coconut meat contains minerals such as calcium, zinc, phosphorus and potassium.
- Brown University: Health Education: Being a Vegetarian
- Colorado State University: Extension: Vegetarian Diets
- Harvard University: Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- University of Arizona: Campus Health Service: Nutrition: Hearty Humus
- Ohio State University: Family Nutrition Program: Go Bananas!
- University of Michigan Health System: Patient Food and Nutrition Services: Healthy Nuts Go Nuts
- Kansas State University: Research and Extension: Nutritional Power of Sunflower Seeds
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Avocado: The Misunderstood Fruit
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Coconut Meat, Raw
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