One of the most frequent requests I get from readers is about how we can simplify lunchtime. In the middle of your busy work/school/groundhog day, you often don’t have a whole lot of time to get fancy and make an elaborate recipe. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend $10 on a salad or hit the drive-through for something that will leave you hungry an hour later. With a tiny bit of planning, you’ll save precious time and money and ensure you’re filling yourself up with nourishing, good-tasting food.
FIVE STEPS TO A BETTER LUNCH
1. Invest in some good containers. When you’re commuting to work in the morning, the last thing you want to worry about is how to get last night’s Thai curry off your skirt (this has happened to me one too many times). I’m a big fan of the Klip It To Go line (available at The Container Store), which doesn’t leak and is fitted with grooves to store reusable utensils. And remember: the ice pack is your friend. Use a rubber band to attach one to your tupperware for your commute, especially if it’s summer.
2. Pack it up the night before. Okay, so we all tell ourselves we’re going to do this, but somehow we end up running around the next morning, bleary-eyed, grabbing random things from the fridge on our way out the door and hoping it’ll all come together as “lunch.” Friends, instead of trying to psych yourself up about a can of tuna and an orange, take 10 minutes while you’re making dinner. Make extra of whatever you’re eating and put it in a box. Bam! Lunch is done.
Get creative with leftovers! Transform last night’s dinner into an exciting lunch.
Brown rice tortilla “pizza” with tomato sauce, Italian Butter Beans, parmesan; side salad with swiss chard, red peppers, red wine vinegar + olive oil
I often like to serve leftovers over greens; either heated up or cold, a dish can taste totally different when mixed with fresh lettuce or kale.
Gingery Red Lentils & Rice over steamed kale, topped with coconut and currants
3. Satisfy your taste buds. I find meals the most satisfying when they have many different flavors and textures. I often make “sample plates” with small portions of a lot of different things.
Spinach, roasted brussels sprouts w/ tahini sauce, steamed squash, pita chips, toast, scrambled eggs, blueberry goat cheese
Crunchy foods, like roasted vegetables and pita chips, take longer to chew and help you remember to slow down instead of inhaling your meal.
Quesadilla with sautéd mushrooms + peppers, spinach, black beans + blueberry goat cheese; Chobani plain yogurt (i.e. “sour cream”) and avocado; side salad with spinach, red peppers, rice wine vinegar
4. Don’t forget about the “kitchen sink.” Giant salads are my favorite things to have for lunch, for several reasons.
Mama Pea’s Thai Crunch Salad
- 1) They use up leftovers! As stated above, you can pretty much throw anything- that hasn’t passed its expiration date, of course- over greens and call it a salad.
- 2) Fiber, fiber, fiber! We all need it, but it does take your body some time to break it down digest, so do yourself a favor and make lunch your fiber-heavy (read: lots ‘o veggies) meal so it doesn’t keep you up at night.
- 3) They’re nutrient-dense. I often base my social plans around the dinner hour, which can take me anywhere from cocktails to pizza to ice cream (and often all three). By making sure I get my veggies in during the day, I don’t have to worry that I’m going to get scurvy
Spinach salad with grape tomatoes, marinated gigantic beans (from Whole Foods’ antipasti bar), steamed butternut squash, roasted brussels, tahini sauce; Roasted Eggplant Hummus with pita chips
5. Lunch dessert is always a good idea. Even if you just have a piece of fresh fruit, end your midday meal on a sweet note.
Today, after my yoga class, I’m going to have a mini quesadilla (black bean hummus + cheddar) and kale salad. Cheesy, nutritious, satisfying. Meal planning only takes a few extra moments, folks, and will save you morning stress and lunch despair.
Save the crazy for the bars… you deserve it.
What does weekday lunch look like for you?