If you’ve got some leftover cooked hamburger or leftover cooked sausage on hand, here’s an easy 10-minute lunch idea!
Next step in your ready-for-new-year-and-new-diet: Figure out now what your lunch plan will be.
If you eat out for lunch:
- Research the online menus at your favorite restaurants and figure out what you can eat that’s as healthy as possible. Things to avoid: sweet salad dressings (Caesar, blue cheese and, to some extent, Ranch are usually safe — unless you’re avoiding dairy — and Greek is usually low sugar or no sugar), anything “glazed” (will have sugar), anything breaded and/or deep fried (wheat and trans fats), fries, chips, an excess of bread or pasta, anything smothered in cheese or cheese sauce. And, of course, dessert and sweet drinks.
- Chain restaurants with generally healthy choices: Chipotle, Jason’s Deli, Panera
- See my post on eating Paleo when eating out. Even if you’re not doing strict Paleo, there are still good tips here for avoiding sugar and carb overload.
If you pack lunches:
If you’re up for some weekend meal prep, take notes from this guy.
If you eat lunch at home:
Figure out a few lunch templates you can work from. I tend to develop two or three favorites and rotate them till I get tired of them, or the season changes. Lots of salads in summer (especially this mayo-less tuna), lots of soup and hash in winter. But there are endless variations! Here’s some inspiration:
- My go-to lunches at home
- My friend Jess’s go-to lunches – no cooking required!
- My recipe for freezer burritos – make a batch on your day off for super easy lunches all week
- Find some Instagrammers to follow for inspiration. Just search #paleolunch, or #cleanlunch. Or follow me! @jana.realfood — I often post what I threw together for lunch that day.
Told you these days would be short and sweet!
Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.
I recently made a new friend via Instagram: Jess — all the way from Australia! — who blogs about food and faith at Faith, Food and Fitness. We’re very much on the same page regarding our approach to health and nutrition, so we’ve decided to trade guest posts now and then. Here’s one of her recent posts that’s pertinent to our current weather here in the midwest U.S: no-cook lunch ideas.
7 No-Cook Lunch Ideas
1. Tuna and Mayo on Cucumber Slices with Walnuts.
Or have them on apple slices.
2. Deli Tuna Salad (tuna, mayo, sliced dill pickle, squeeze lime juice, 1/4 red onion diced, chopped parsley, 1 diced stalk of celery) served on Shredded Lettuce.
Or wrap the deli salad in a lettuce leaf.
3. Nori Sheets make the best wraps and they are so nutritious! Tuna, mashed avocado as the ‘stickiness’ of the nori roll, then add any other veg you like – shredded kale, cauliflower or broccoli rice, cucumber, capsicum, snow peas…it’s endless. I serve mine with coconut aminos (because I like the taste).
4. Avocado and grated veggies of your choice, wrapped in a few slices of deli chicken or turkey.
5. If you have leftovers turkey or chicken burgers from the night before, they make a great cold lunch the next day. Wrap it in a lettuce leaf…yum!!
6. Egg Salad. All you need is cold boiled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, and bacon (leave the bacon out if you wish). I boil a dozen eggs at the start of every week, because they come in handy for quick no-cook lunches and snacks during the week.
7. And of course a good old fashioned salad! If you don’t have leftover cooked protein (like slow cooked meats), then leave it out.
You’ll notice tuna mentioned a lot; that’s because we keep our cupboard stocked with it, which makes it easy to just pull some out and make a quick lunch, I also substitute tuna with sardines from time to time.
Yours in Health and Happiness
– See more at: http://www.paleojess.com/
P.S. If you need a good sugar-free Paleo mayo, check out my recipe for 4-ingredient mayonnaise. – Jana
I work from home and my kids are grown, so lunch is usually just me. Before I got serious about taking good care of myself, lunch was likely to be mac ‘n cheese or leftover pizza. Healthy lunches – not! (And I wondered why I was hungry again two hours later!)
Since starting to eat low carb several years ago then experimenting with the Paleo diet and Whole30 this year, I’ve taken to heart the idea that eating healthy is a form of self respect. But let’s get real: I still don’t want to do anything too complicated when I’m just cooking for one. Here are some of my go-to strategies for eating a healthy lunch with minimal prep but maximum taste! (There are actually 12 now, with some bonus links at the end.)
10 12 Quick, Easy, Gluten-free, Paleo and Whole30-friendly, Healthy Lunches
My summer mainstay: Variations on tuna salad
I’ve done a whole post on this one already. Basically, it’s a mayo-free tuna salad with a core set of ingredients, and the flexibility to switch out whatever veggies you have on hand or that sound good to you on any given day. If you do a little veggie prep every few days — just chop up some onions, peppers, cucumbers, etc. — this becomes super easy to throw together. Another meal prep tip: keep some chopped parsley in a baggie in the freezer. It’s key to the flavor of this salad, but once you realize what a fresh flavor it adds to anything and how easy it is to keep it stocked in the freezer, you’ll want to keep it on hand all the time. I do!
Click over to the detailed post; there are lots of photos and ingredient suggestions.
I cook salmon for dinner once a week (for example, salmon with avocado salsa, herb-crusted salmon, or ancho-crusted salmon), and whether I plan for it or it just works out that way, there’s often a little left over. A little is all you need for salmon cakes! But if you don’t have leftovers, canned salmon works fine, too.
I’ve never measured — that’s part of what makes this kind of cooking quicker! — but I’m guessing I usually start with around 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of already cooked salmon. (A little more would be fine, too.) I mash it together with one raw egg yolk, some diced onion — already prepped, from the fridge. If I have it and feel like it, I might add some diced celery and/or bell pepper, too. Stir in some cracker crumbs if you’re not gluten-averse, mashed cooked sweet potato if you are, and let that sit for a minute or two. Heat and grease a small frypan over medium heat, then form your mix into one or two patties and fry briefly on both sides, till golden-brown and delicious! Sometimes it turns out more loose and eggy, like a frittata — no worries; it’s still good!
The recipe for the “zoodles” shown above is here.
Getting creative with leftovers
Think outside the box of just reheating leftovers…
A stir fry is a great way to combine and use up leftovers! For example, last night’s pork chop gets chopped up and tossed with the leftover green bean and mushroom side dish to become a stir fry:
Turning a main dish into a salad is another approach. Leftover taco meat becomes a taco salad:
That “dressing” is just yogurt, salsa, and a little homemade taco seasoning I keep on hand. You can find the recipe here, but again, there’s no need to measure; just eyeball it, taste, and adjust if necessary.
A desperate, “what’s in the fridge” day was the birth of my antipasto salad:
Lettuce wraps are another great template for lunch. Leftover hamburger or crumbled sausage can make an impromptu gyro wrap, if you have some cukes and tomatoes on hand:
My winter mainstay: soup
Some day I’m going to do a whole post (and maybe a cooking class) on my soup method, but here are just a few examples of the kind of easy-to-throw-together soups I make almost every day, once the weather turns cool. If you have some broth, some prepped veggies in the fridge, and little leftover meat, it’s not hard to turn them into a wide variety of healthy lunches, like…
Simple chicken soup:
Sausage, spinach, broth, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. (Forgive the filter; I was an instagram newb!)
Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.
And one day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches. (This photo makes me hungry again!)
Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!
Sausage and sauerkraut
I know not everyone likes sauerkraut, but if you do, keeping a jar on hand in the fridge along with some healthy sausages or hot dogs can be a great, super-quick lunch option! Sauerkraut has tons of Vitamin C, and may be beneficial to gut health.
Just slice the meat, fry it till slightly browned, add the sauerkraut and cook till heated through. Additions are optional.
In the pic on the left, I used gourmet, uncured, sugar-free hot dogs. I added some diced apple with the sliced meat, so that the apples cooked till slightly tender. Another day, I was using chicken and apple sausage, and added some chopped avocado right at the end. Both days I added a sprinkling of celery seeds and black pepper, but there’s plenty of flavor without them!
I hope I’ve inspired you to think beyond reheated as-is leftovers and the usual boxed or canned options, to create some healthy lunches of your own!
Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.
You might also like:
- My post on make-ahead roasted sweet potatoes, and all the things you can do with that.
- 30-second Caesar salad
- 10-minute French dip sandwich (not gluten-free, unless you use gluten-free bread)
- 7-layer dip as salad
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