Wellness with Natalie: Feel Good Friday veggie lunch ideas
In our last article, we spoke about dej-unking our diet. We primarily addressed breakfast because you know what? Breakfast is important. It sets the tone for the day.
So if you haven't read that article, read it here.
Anyway, moving on, this week we’re going to address planning for healthy lunches.
Meal prepping for lunch is pretty darn simple and with some good planning it’s not really that time consuming.
Here’s just one reason it's really important. I have witnessed in my practice as a Health Coach young people who are fresh out of university joining the corporate workforce packing on unhealthy pounds after a few years on the job. Many of the jobs that are available are sedentary in nature and what ends up happening is people are at their desks most of the day.
They don't have time to make good food choices and lunch becomes a last minute thought consisting of predominantly fast food or your typical jamaican “box lunch” - lots of rice, fried foods, very little vegetables and of course, a very sweet “box juice”.
Now, this is not the best fuel for your body, nor is it the best fuel for your brain. We need to shield ourselves from fast food demise and pre-packaged snacking. Swapping out for nutritional lunches and healthy snacks is important in preventing this sneak attack of unhealthy pounds.
So this Feel Good Friday, you are empowered to prevent this from happening. Plan your meals in advance. Healthy does not happen by accident, but by daily deliberate action. Plan for your success, because if you fail to plan you're basically planning to fail.
And this is not just about your weight, it's about being healthy. This about being the best you that you can be. If your brain isn't getting the right fuel then you're not going to be performing optimally.
Prepping for your feel good lunch.
You already know what foods make you feel your best, these are the foods that energize us and make us feel light and refreshed. So of course, because one of my mandates is to get you to eat more vegetables then of course I am going to talk to you a lot about how you get vegetables into your lunchbox!
*Drum Roll Intro* for 3 of my favorites - bottles, bowls and bars.
I just absolutely love lunch bowls. For some reason, food seems better in a bowl rather than on a plate. I wonder why this is?! But bowls seems to be everywhere. There are grain bowls, taco bowls, burrito bowls, buddha bowls, mashed potato bowls. There's just something more comfortable eating from a bowl. Bowls are built on the concept of making better choices because they tend to be layers of vegetables and whole grains and proteins, so definitely bowls align with what we’re trying to encourage - the right portions of healthy carbs, clean proteins and of course, lots of veggies.
Here’s a great taco lunch bowl recipe for you (makes 2):
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp)
1 onion diced
1 red or yellow pepper diced
1/2 lb ground beef or chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup homemade* pico de gallo
1 head of romaine lettuce
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, garlic and peppers, then saute until onions are translucent. After, add ground beef (chicken) and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Cook, turning and breaking up meat occasionally, until cooked through (Approx 5 - 6 minutes).
- Add in chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook 20 seconds longer, while tossing.
- Pour in tomato sauce, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and let simmer until sauce has reduced, about 3 - 5 minutes.
- To assemble bowls, divide lettuce among them, top with rice, beef mixture, pico, cilantro.
*For homemade pico de gallo, in a bowl toss together 3 diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup diced yellow onion, 1 small minced garlic clove, 2 tbsp minced cilantro, 1 tbsp lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Salads in a Bottle
The next really cool way to do your meal prep is in glass bottles or jars. The idea is pretty simple.
- Start by pouring some of your dressing into the glass jar
- Layer in your veggies with the hardest ones at the bottom and the leafiest ones at the top
- Keep them in the fridge until you're ready for lunch
- Shake it all up and dump it all out into a bowl.
- Top with your fave proteins separate
You can prepare up to a weeks' worth of your salads in a jar so that you've got lots of choices to take with you to work.
Here's a great Salad Dressing to try:
Honey Mustard Salad Dressing (for 2 jars):
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
Salad Bar in Your Fridge
If you're like me and you don't really know what you're going to feel for on the day and you don't want to prep your bowls and your bottles in advance, then you can simply prepare a salad bar in advance. A salad bar in your fridge is such an easy way to have everything you need ready for you to assemble your feel good salad.
- Store each item in its separate storage container, preferably glass.
- Chop up all your veggies such as tomatoes and cucumbers
- Shred veggies like carrots, beet root, radish and turnips
- Tear the lettuce by hand
- Thinly slice your cabbage and any other vegetables you’d like to include.
- Chop herbs like basil or cilantro.
Once you've got each item in your containers, you just keep that in the fridge and assemble as needed. Top with grilled chicken or hard-boiled eggs or sauteed shrimps and there you have it. A salad to go!