It’s a familiar scenario: you have five minutes before you have to leave for work and you haven’t made your lunch yet. You know grabbing something from the cafe downstairs is going to be unhealthy and expensive.
Next time you shop, ensure you stock up on these six ingredients. Having them on hand and ready to go will make fixing lunches a breeze!
Quinoa is actually a vegetable from the beet and spinach family, but it can act as the perfect gluten-free grain base for your salad. Quinoa is high in protein, essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, and minerals. Quinoa cooks up in about 15 minutes and is very versatile. Add it to soups, salads or any meal where you would use rice. Always cook extra and keep it in the fridge.
2. Finely grated carrots
Finely grated carrots add an extra vegetable to any meal in an instant.
Carrots are high in vitamin C when eaten raw. The high fiber content helps lower cholesterol. The beta carotene is converted into vitamin A, which protects vision, especially night vision. It also helps prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and fights against the free radicals that cause cancer. It also reduces the incidence of strokes.
Beta carotene is a fat soluble compound. In order to absorb it, you need to eat carrots with some healthy fat or oil. Always eat them with a salad dressing containing oil or with our next ingredient.
When you eat healthy fats, you lose fat. Avocados are rich in healthy essential fatty acids which contain natural anti-inflammatory properties: regulate blood sugar, and are high in fiber, vitamins and potassium. And, they are good for your heart. Cut your avocado in half and bring half or the whole thing along. At lunch time, peel it and cut it into cubes. That green outer layer of the avocado’s flesh is high in cancer fighting antioxidants.
4. Vegetables to steam in advance
Many people think of only using lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers in a salad. Pump up your veggie intake by adding all kinds of left over, lightly steamed vegetables from your dinner the night before, or that you prepare in advance. Beans, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, beets, corn, peas, asparagus, sweet potatoes … ah, the possibilities.
5. Hummus, beans, or other protein
To balance your lunch and satisfy your appetite, you need a source of protein. Hummus is a great way to include this protein. Alternatively, add your favorite beans to your salad. They're high in fiber and low in fat. Choose kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
Cold leftover chicken or fish will satisfy the non-vegetarians. Prepare these in advance and keep them handy to add to your veggies for lunch!
6. Homemade salad dressing
Store-bought dressings contain unhealthy, processed oils, added sugar, salt, and chemical preservatives. Make a big jar of your own. Add two parts extra virgin olive oil to one part your choice of unpasteurized vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar. Unpasteurised vinegar is the best choice because the less processing a food has undergone, the healthier it is for us. Avoid white vinegar as it blocks the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach that is needed for digestion.
Add in some sun-dried sea salt or Himalayan salt and your favorite dried herbs: basil, oregano, Dijon etc., along with some crushed garlic. Transport your salad dressing in a small, leak-proof plastic container. Add it into your salad right before you eat so everything stays fresh and crisp.
It takes some planning, but with these staples on hand, you can create an endless variety of healthy lunches that will help you save money, give you more energy, and keep you satisfied until dinner so you avoid the temptation of an unhealthy afternoon snack.
Happy shopping and bon appétit!