The summer heat has definitely arrived, which has me thinking about healthy lunches that do not involve the oven or the grill. Because the days are longer and more time is spent enjoying the sunshine, the focus here is quick and easy. If you’re in a funk with lunches, you’ve come to the right place.
But first, what constitutes a balanced lunch? A balanced lunch consists of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat, and produce (fruits and veggies).
You might be thinking, but wait, I thought you said QUICK ideas? I did! Balancing these meals doesn’t have to take long, and packing your lunch saves time, money, and is a perfect way to stay in line with your nutrition goals.
A helpful tip for prepping nutritious lunches is ‘food prep’. If you’re one of my clients, it’s likely you’ve heard me talk about food prep as opposed to meal prep. Food prep focuses on preparing/purchasing a few different items that can be added to different recipes throughout the week (ie. Eggs- you can add hard boiled eggs to a sandwich or salad, make egg salad, eat them for a snack, scramble eggs for breakfast, you get the point), whereas meal prep insinuates that you are eating the same meal all week.
Pro tip: add ‘food prep’ items to your weekly grocery list, and be sure to include a protein, starch, and fruits and veggies.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
-Protein options may include beans, lentils, hard boiled eggs, lean meats such as chicken or turkey, tuna fish, tofu, veggie burgers
-Starch options may include brown rice, whole wheat bread or crackers, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, corn, quinoa, whole wheat tortillas
-Insert your favorite fruits and veggies here! These can be cooked or raw. To save time, grab the pre-chopped options from the supermarket. Now is also the perfect time of year to branch out and expand your palate by trying new foods. One of the best places to explore this is your local farmer’s market. Local food tends to be more nutritious because the food hasn’t traveled as far, and it’s a great way to save money and support your local economy.
So now that we know exactly how to balance lunch, let’s get to the recipes!
Cucumber Radish Salad
- 2 cups of cooked quinoa, brown rice, or barley
- 2 medium cucumbers, chopped
- 1 cup radishes, chopped
- 1 can of low sodium garbanzo beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ red onion
- ¼ cup goat cheese or feta cheese
- juice from ½ lemon
- 2-4 tablespoons of vinegar (can be apple cider, white vinegar, red wine, balsamic, or rice vinegar)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1-2 teaspoons of dill
Prepare quinoa following package instructions. Mix all ingredients together and enjoy! Salad can be eaten warm or cold.
Recipe inspired by fresh produce at the farmers market, and created by Abby Patterson, RDN
Creamy Tarragon Chickpea Salad
- 2 cans reduced sodium or no salt added garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup diced celery (2 stalks)
- 3 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Add half of the chickpeas to a medium bowl. Using a fork, mash the chickpeas until none of the chickpeas are whole. Add the second half of the chickpeas to the bowl, and partially mash, leaving some of these whole. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.
This chickpea salad goes great with crackers, a wrap, on a sandwich, or over a salad.
Recipe inspired by: https://radiatefoodvibes.com/2015/09/09/creamy-tarragon-chickpea-salad/
Southwestern Black Bean Salad
- 5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 9 oz cooked corn, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 1 1/2 – 2 limes, juice of
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro (or more to taste)
- dash salt and pepper
- 1 medium hass avocado, diced
- 1 diced jalapeno (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, scallion, cilantro, salt and pepper.
- Squeeze fresh lime juice to taste and stir in olive oil.
- Marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes.
- Add avocado just before serving
This recipe would go great with quinoa or rice, tossed with salad greens, or scooped with whole wheat pita chips.
Recipe inspired by: https://www.skinnytaste.com/southwestern-black-bean-salad/