A friend (and technically, “client,” since I wrote her a workout program way back when!) of mine requested a blog post dedicated to what trainers actually eat for lunch – and how she could adapt some simple recipes to make multiple lunches throughout the week.
I am happy to oblige – and for the record, like your favorite radio DJ, I DO take requests for post topics – so always feel free to ask via comments – or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Back to lunches. Lunch is an odd meal; it sits right in the place where you can make or break a healthy day. I know a lot of folks that can easily suck down a healthy breakfast, but then they go off to work and grab a burger. Or stay at home and snack off their kids’ mac n’ cheese. Or skip the meal entirely and go on a mad candy binge at 3pm. Any of these sound familiar?
The first key point here is that yes – you will have to prep your meals. Sorry, non-cooking people. If you don’t want to prep your meals, you will have to spend mucho dinero on healthy prepped options (think Trader Joe’s Just Chicken or Organic Cooked Quinoa Bowls) – and even then they’re not always convenient (and are often laced with more sodium than a true clean eater should have).
So what’s a busy person to do? BATCH COOK ON SUNDAYS, BRO. With just a few chicken breasts, a couple cans of tuna, a bag of your favorite whole grain, and a couple bags of salad, you have the basics for healthy meals all week.
I’m not really in the business of creating my own recipes – I wish I was that creative. Moreover, I just “combine” the foods in ways that meet my preferred macro ratios while ensuring that I get enough veggies to count toward my 7-9 daily produce servings. Some examples:
Egg Whites on a Tortilla. I mean, if you put the egg whites IN the tortilla, this bad boy becomes a burrito, but I kind of like to tear up the tortilla and scoop my egg whites with it. Make sure the tortilla is Ezekiel brand, the egg whites are cooked without extra oil or butter, and you integrate at least 2 veggies into the wrap – my faves are spinach and broccoli. Throw some Sriracha on that bad boy and it’ll keep you full for a good long while.
Yogurt Parfait. Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt (yep, I keep the fat – keeps you full longer than 0%) with old-fashioned rolled oats, berries (your choice – up to a full cup!), a teaspoon of Manuka honey, and some slivered almonds or walnut pieces is awesome for those days you don’t really feel like a more “savory” lunch but want to make sure you’re getting a full meal.
Chicken Tabbouleh Salad. Bulgur is the traditional grain in this salad but whatever you have on hand is fine – chop everything small and diced to make the texture most pleasing. Common ingredients for me include chicken breast, cucumber, chopped spinach, tomato, bulgur, olives, mint, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, stirred up with lemon juice and a shake of olive oil – and sometimes tossed in with harissa and an ounce of crumbled goat cheese. I’ll make a HUGE batch and eat it all week.
Curry Tuna Salad. Another use for the Greek yogurt; mix it up as you would mayonnaise with a can of tuna, some slivered almonds, curry powder, cilantro, red onion, and spicy mustard. You can throw this bad boy in a tortilla, smooth it over a slice of Ezekiel bread, or eat over greens (my preference is arugula) and again – it gets better overnight as the flavors marinate, so make a big serving.
The Salad. I call this “the salad” because for me, it is my definitive go-to salad – for those times when I literally just feel like eating a salad (disclaimer: I am not a “salad girl” by nature so just throwing down the protein and greens is a big effort for me). The key to my version of deliciousness is arugula, walnuts, chicken, apple, goat cheese, fig jam (or if you have access, chopped fresh figs) olive oil, and white pepper. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet, and a lot filling – for hours and hours.
My main point here is that keeping a few simple ingredients ALWAYS on hand will mean that you ALWAYS have lunch options for when hunger strikes – and you won’t be stuck ordering in or munching on junk when you know how to combine those simple ingredients in ways that are varied enough to be interesting but healthy enough to be mainstays. So eat up!
Are you a batch cooker or do you go day to day? What are your favorite healthy lunches?