It’s easy to get in a lunchtime rut, eating the same few foods over and over because they’re easy and you have them on hand. Having a mix-and-match lunch system can help you break out of that rut, allowing you to have a variety of easy lunch options that don’t compromise on flavor or quality. Here’s my basic formula:
Grain base + protein and veggie filling + dressing or salsa + toppings = one incredibly healthy and delicious lunch!
If you consistently eat out for lunch (or eat sad desk lunches) because you can’t deal with getting it together to pack a work lunch, this formula could be a game changer. You can use just about any grain for the base — rice, quinoa, millet, or even a “faux” grain like cauliflower rice. Canned beans or lentils and a combination of your favorite raw, steamed, grilled or roasted veggies, will work for the filling and toppings can vary from day-to-day based on what you have in the fridge or pantry — nuts, seeds, chopped fresh herbs, etc.
Make a big batch of the base over the weekend and keep it in the fridge all week long, then dress it up with different ingredients each day of the week. Yesterday’s hummus makes for a great addition to a Mediterranean themed bowl, and that 1/4 jar of marinara that has been hanging out in your fridge is great in bowls with white rice, cannellini beans, marinated artichoke hearts and a sprinkle of basil and pine nuts. Toss lentils with a simple red wine vinaigrette one day and use the rest with a tahini dressing the next. The possibilities are endless!
This Mexican Cauliflower Rice Salad is a perfect example of a typical lunch bowl I make. I prepare the cauliflower rice and red onion relish on Sunday evening and keep them in the fridge for the first three lunches during the week. The cauliflower rice takes the place of a grain, on which I layer beans, corn, roasted red peppers and salsa. If you follow the recipe, you’ll have enough ingredients to make 3 servings of this particular salad, or you can prepare the cauliflower rice base and switch things up with different toppings for each serving. This salad is great warm, but it is equally delicious straight out of the fridge for a completely hassle-free lunch.
An easy and healthy Tex-Mex inspired lunchbox favorite. This one's especially perfect to prep on Sunday for no-fuss lunches during the week.
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Juice of 1 large lime
- 1 batch of cauliflower rice
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (or kernels from 1 ear fresh corn)
- 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup salsa verde
- 3 tablespoons roasted pepitas
- 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Sliced avocado or guacamole
- In a small bowl, combine the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- In a large bowl, season the cauliflower rice to taste with kosher salt and pepper, then, if packing ahead for lunches, divide between 3 portable containers with airtight lids. Divide beans, corn kernels, and roasted red peppers among each of the containers, then top each portion with 1/3 of the salsa verde, cilantro, pepitas, and onion relish. Seal and refrigerate for up to 3 days. When packing lunch, include guacamole or a small avocado to eat on the side.
If you like the taste of raw cauliflower, you can leave it uncooked.