After two posts about breakfast, I got a special request from my dear ol’ sister for some lunchtime suggestions! I am up for the challenge! (May this be a reminder to all of my readers that if you’d like me to cover something specifically, all you have to do is let me know.)
Alright, on to lunches… I have to admit that I find lunch much less endearing than breakfast. In fact, in college, I skipped lunch throughout the week just so I could squeeze in more practice time. (We music majors tend to obsess about practicing. I don’t recommend this bad habit! It means I just overate at dinner to compensate for the feeling like I was going to fall over throughout the day!)
Nowadays I like to stick with about five small meals per day. While this isn’t, in my opinion, the only way to lose or maintain weight, it certainly helps most people. Right now as I write this, I’m eating a quick lunch. I’ve been working all morning from Starbucks and find myself hungry for an early lunch. Starbucks’ protein bistro box is a go-to lunch for me–a hard boiled egg, two slices of cheese, peanut butter, a small piece of multi-grain muesli bread, and a few grapes and apple slices. Chase that with a bit bottle of water, and I’m good to go for another several hours. At 380 calories and 14 grams of protein, this is the perfect and satisfying lunch for me.
You could certainly recreate this bistro box at home. Watch your portions of cheese and peanut butter. While they do provide satiety and satisfaction to your lunch, their calories count up quickly. Make up a big batch of hard-boiled eggs over the weekend, so that you’re set for grab-n-go breakfasts or lunches for the week. Justin’s Nut Butters makes these handy packets of peanut butter that are the perfect size. I’m not sure if you can get them on the east coast yet though. Justin is from Colorado, I believe. In fact, according to my husband, he was in Ernst & Young’s competition for Entrepreneur of the Year. Okay, end up fun-fact-of-the-blog-post.
Grocery store rotisserie chicken also makes for an easy lunch idea. Throw together a quick salad the night before with some bagged spinach, your favorite veggies, a bit of feta cheese, light salad dressing (packed separately), and chicken. Throw in a piece of fruit and some almonds, and you’re all set.
Canned tuna also makes a great, quick lunch. Just keep it well contained, so your co-workers don’t have to smell tuna for the rest of the day! Mix a 3 oz. can with a spoonful of plain greek yogurt, salt, and pepper, and dip into it with celery or cucumbers.
Ezekiel wraps also come in handy at lunchtime. These are sprouted grain wraps that you can probably find in your natural foods store (For you Denver locals, I buy mine at Sunflower Farmer’s Market.). Spread it with natural, no sugar peanut butter and sliced bananas, roll it up, and enjoy!
You’ll notice none of these suggestions include your standard sandwich. Certainly, that’s always an option. I find that eating too much gluten at lunch time makes me sleepy in the afternoon. (Seriously, try eating a low gluten or gluten free lunch for a week straight, and see if your afternoon slump is reduced or goes away completely.) You’ll also notice that these lunches are on the small side. That’s because I usually eat a big breakfast, mid-morning snack, and a mid-afternoon snack. I don’t really need a big lunch because I’m eating more frequently. Obviously, you’ll need a bigger meal if your next one doesn’t come again for a while or you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. My schedule usually allows me a good bit of flexibility, so this isn’t a problem like it is for some people.
I’ve included a recipe below for “Easy Penne and Tuna Salad.” This is a great recipe to make over the weekend and eat the leftovers throughout the week. Again, if you’re watching your gluten, consider subbing in brown rice penne instead of regular or even whole wheat. Also, don’t be afraid of the tuna packed in oil. Fat is not the enemy in your diet. Sugar is. Enjoy!
Easy Penne and Tuna Salad
taken from Cooking Light, May 2010 issue
1 large red bell pepper
4 quarts of water
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
6 ounces uncooked penne pasta
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (7.8 ounce) jar premium tuna packed in oil (such as Ortiz), drained and flaked
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peal and chop.
3. Bring 4 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting additional salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well.
4. Combine bell pepper, pasta, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, arugula, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss well. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 cups).