We’ve all been there: slouching at our desks, picking through the day’s lunch—likely a soggy salad, bland sandwich or unwanted leftovers—eating only because our body needs food, not because we’re particularly excited about our meal. (This is, in fact, what we’ll be doing at noon today.) Well, with her new cookbook Modern Lunch (out March 5), Canadian food blogger Allison Day is here to help. “I feel like there needs to be a spotlight on lunch,” she tells us. “It’s either super sad desk lunches or expensive takeout because people don’t think lunch is important or special. I want to change that.”

In Modern Lunch, Day focuses on quick, healthy—and yes, Instagrammable—recipes for our midday meal. (BTW, her personal fave: an “instant” vegetarian Sweet Potato Soba Ramen that she says is super flavourful.) So, for our own sake, we asked the writer what we can do to make lunch more exciting.


1. Start small and plan ahead

“Create a new habit around the idea of lunch, maybe just by making lunch once a week. Let’s say you want to pack a lunch for Monday—take 30 minutes or an hour on Sunday and schedule cooking. Prepare simple meal prep staples, like plain grains, a dressing, hard boiled eggs, or make a full recipe. But start with one and go from there. If you’re already bringing in a homemade lunch once or twice a week, add another day.”

2. Storage is key

“Storing food properly is a big reason that people aren’t super excited about lunch—food gets soggy or flavours mix in weird ways. Separate ingredients and mix them at the last minute. You can build a jar salad, layering ingredients so that the delicate ones stay on top and the heartier ones, like beans or proteins, are at the bottom. There are also a lot of great containers with separate compartments that make it easier to make a really beautiful and fresh lunch.”

3. Create a workplace pantry

“Keep things you love—like peanut butter, hot sauce, salt, vinegar, olive oil—at work. You can really jazz up something you’ve brought from home that’s tasting really flat—adding a pit of vinegar or a pinch of salt brings it back to life. Recipes that aren’t built for lunch, like leftovers, don’t necessarily taste as good as they would when made fresh. But a few tricks can go a long way.”

4. Keep the basics in stock

“Keep ready-to-go proteins and quick cooking grains in your cupboard—things like quinoa, basmati rice, canned salmon, tuna or beans. You can create a base for a grain bowl or a container lunch with those ingredients. Keeping a range of olive oils, vinegar and tamari around can make a super satisfying dressing. I’m really a big fan of, if you can’t be bothered to figure out a meal, picking a green for the week and picking a vegetable, like sweet potato, and making a base for a balanced and satisfying lunch that can last a few days and still taste really great.”