We are knee-deep in summer, and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, salads are a great option for lunch. My goto lunch is usually a salad made with some sort of leftovers and whatever else I have in the refrigerator. You may assume that because I am a nutritionist, I am good in the kitchen and that I cook three square meals every day.
The truth is that while I sometimes like to cook something special, I am a lazy everyday cook, and I usually put more effort into making dinner than lunch. This summer, I noticed that my lunch salads are getting less and less interesting and less and less satisfying. I found myself looking around for something more exciting to eat after I finished lunch or getting hungry in the middle of the afternoon.
This week I decided to try something new and partially meal prep my lunch. I spent 45 minutes chopping veggies, cooking a frozen whole chicken in the Instant Pot, and listening to podcasts which made the time go by quickly. I chopped up a whole big bowl of veggies, including two different kinds of radishes (purple and watermelon), cucumbers, zucchini, kale, cilantro, scallions, fennel, mint, Italian parsley, and red bell pepper. Then I added a bag of pre-cut broccoli slaw (broccoli and carrots), a mix of orange and red cherry tomatoes, and a can of garbanzo beans rinsed and drained.
I mixed the chopped vegetables up in a bowl and wrapped them up in a dish towel to keep them dry. I shredded the cooked chicken and put it into its own container. Now I have the basics of an interesting salad that last for several days and can be upgraded with very little effort.
Did you count up how many vegetables I chopped? There is no way I would spend the time to do that on a daily basis. But doing it all at once allowed me to go big and include a lot of things I would not usually spend this much time chopping. Here are some pictures:
I kept the leafy greens separate because I didn’t want them to get limp, wilted, or soggy. My plan is to add them in when I prepare my daily salad. Today I threw a couple of handfuls of prewashed arugula in a bowl and cut up a fresh ripe peach. I dressed the salad with a squeeze of half a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt — my goto simple salad dressing.
Here is the result — a beautiful, interesting salad that I ate outside enjoying some time in the sun.
Over the next few days, I plan to add to my salad base to build in variety. Here are a few of the things I think I can add to my salad base in under a minute or two to give it some variety:
- sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts
- goat cheese, feta cheese
- olives, avocado
- hearts of palm, artichoke hearts
- sliced strawberries, nectarine, blueberries
- roasted asparagus, green beans
- fresh basil, dill, chives
- watercress, mixed baby greens, romaine lettuce, radicchio, cabbage
- hard-boiled eggs, canned sardines, leftover salmon or steak instead of chicken
If you struggle with finding a lunch option that is satisfying, tasty, nourishing, and helps keep your blood sugar balanced (say goodbye to that afternoon drop in energy) give this a try. It will save you time and money (no more wasted vegetables you didn’t get around to cooking or buying lunch out because you have nothing to eat). It is portable if you take your lunch with you to work, and you can customize it to your flavor preferences and dietary needs.
Time for a Check-In
Summer, with its abundance of fresh produce and longer days, is a great time to take a look at your diet and lifestyle in the bigger context of your overall health and wellness. If you are in a rut or have been thinking about making some changes and are not sure where to begin, book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment and let’s talk about how I can help you reach your goals.