Tag Archives: lunch

20-day diet prep plan: Day 11 – Plan your lunch strategy

meal prep: freezer burritos

Next step in your ready-for-new-year-and-new-diet: Figure out now what your lunch plan will be.

storytime coffee seattle

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.

#mealprep - lunches

If you pack lunches:

If you’re up for some weekend meal prep, take notes from this guy.

antipasto salad

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:

Told you these days would be short and sweet!

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Antipasto salad

antipasto salad

quick easy lunch; 5-minute antipasto salad

Some of my favorite dishes come about as a result of being short on options. This antipasto salad that I had for lunch a couple days ago was one of those — a super quick, easy lunch!

It starts with me standing in front of the open fridge, thinking – Let’s see, what’s on hand? Mixed greens, Genoa salami, mini peppers, a block of Parm. Hmm, I could make an Italian salad out of that. Cut the salami in quarters, slice the peppers very thin, toss that together in a bowl. Shave in some Parmesan, using a vegetable peeler.

This Creamy Italian Dressing would have been nice, but since I didn’t have it on hand, I put 1 T. of red wine vinegar, 2 T. of olive oil, and a tiny squirt of dijon mustard in a baby food jar, and shook that up. Then decided some salt and pepper would be good, too, so added a few dashes of each, and shook it again. Instant vinaigrette!

instant vinaigrette for quick easy salad

Poured that over the salad, and tossed in some pine nuts. These add a bit of crunch and a little bit of sweetness. (If you like olives and have some on hand, that would be a good addition, too.)

Bonus: it’s Paleo-friendly, Whole30 compliant (without the Parm), sugar-free, gluten-free, and low carb!

Pretty quick, easy lunch — and doggone good for five minutes and on-the-fly! So good, in fact, it will be showing up as a side dish at dinner tonight. 🙂

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quick, easy lunch; 5-minute antipasto salad

Gyro wrap (gluten-free, mostly Paleo)

quick lunch from leftover hamburger - gyro wrap

Some of my best — and easiest! — lunches are born out of “what do I have in the fridge and freezer today?” This Gyro-inspired wrap is one of them.

I usually have already-cooked sausage or seasoned hamburger in the freezer, crumbled and divided into quarter-pound servings, in individual sandwich baggies. I also try to always keep romaine in the fridge, and now that I’m no longer doing a strict Whole30, I also keep plain Greek yogurt in the fridge. (Use dairy-free yogurt for Whole30 or strict Paleo.) And I always, always keep diced onions at-the-ready. All that’s needed to round out this lunch is tomatoes, cucumber, and a little dill.

No measuring involved; these directions are for one serving: Just put a “plop” of yogurt in a small bowl or ramekin (I’d guesstimate that’s about 2 or 3 tablespoons), add a pinch of dried dill weed, and a generous dash of garlic salt. Stir those together and set aside.

easy lunch: dill yogurt sauce for gyro

 

Defrost and warm up the ground beef or sausage. (Here’s a short video showing how I season the hamburger as I cook it.)

Dice some cucumber, tomato and onion.

Next, lay out three medium-sized heart-of-romaine leaves — or similar sized lettuce leaves, or other gluten-free wrap of your choice. (Have you tried this gluten-free flatbread recipe?)

Then layer them with a smear of the yogurt sauce, one third of the heated meat mixture, and top with the diced vegetables according to your taste. Top with more yogurt sauce, if desired.

quick easy lunch: gyro wrap - paleo, gluten free

 

The reason for putting some sauce on the bottom is that the juices from the meat will mingle with it and create a more complex sauce. The extra yogurt on top stays cold and provides a contrast to the warmer contents below.

Of course, you can tweak this suit your leftovers: use guacamole in place of the yogurt mix and swap out the cucumbers for your pepper of choice for gluten-free taco wraps. Swap mayo (and/or ketchup, if you allow it) for the yogurt mix, and sub pickles and/or mustard for the cukes, and you’ve got an American burger wrap. What else could you come up with?

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your leftovers! It opens up a lot more possibilities for quick, easy lunches!

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quick easy lunch - gyro wrap, paleo, gluten-free

Very veggie tuna salad

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

Making healthy food more convenient is the way to kick the convenience food habit! But I can’t deal with the kind of meal prep that requires having 12 different casseroles in the freezer to drop in the slow cooker. What works for me is having a lot of different ingredients and meal components chopped and/or cooked, so they’re ready to be thrown together at a moment’s notice, for quick, easy meals — not just dinner, but also super easy lunches, since I work from home.

Lately, I’ve been on a tuna salad kick. It’s a perfect lunch for summer – no cooking needed! I do sometimes do the super-simple version of throwing a packet of tuna, a bit of homemade mayo, and some lemon pepper together and eating it on romaine hearts. Might even throw in some chopped celery and/or pickle, if I feel like a little something extra. But lately, I’ve been doing variations on a tuna salad dressed with oil and vinegar, rather than mayo. And this is a great way to work in lots of veggies, too!

This would work great for a lunch to pack for work, school, or a picnic, too.

The core recipe is:

1  2-to-3 oz. package of tuna

about 1/2 c. of diced onion (but you can eyeball* it)

1 T. of lemon juice or rice vinegar

2 to 3 T. of olive oil (use 2 if the tuna is packed in oil; 3 if it’s packed in water)

1/4 c. chopped parsley – again; just eyeball* it

1/4 to 1/2 avocado

1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. regular salt)

1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper – or more to taste

a pinch or two of dill – optional

*”Eyeball it” = just throw in an amount that looks to you like it would fill a measuring cup of that particular measurement. If you’re not comfortable doing that straight away, measure it out and pay attention to what that looks like, and remember it for next time. This saves you the few seconds of getting out a measuring cup. (And saves some space in the dishwasher.)

This is where my meal prep comes in handy. I always keep a container of already-diced yellow onion in the fridge, and a container of already-chopped parsley in the freezer. I squeeze fresh lemons every few days and keep a bottle of that in the fridge. If you’re cool with the pre-squeezed stuff that comes in a bottle, I won’t judge! I also keep tuna packets in the fridge, so the tuna is already cold when I add it to the other salad stuff. When I buy a bunch of parsley, I chop it all and put it in a baggie in the fridge. It stays a nice green and is super easy to grab what you need and toss it into any dish.

Avocado is something that’s best cut up at the last minute, but thanks to the acid in the dressing, the avocado won’t turn too brown if you need to hold this for a few hours.

Then add the other veggies of your choice, and stir it all together gently. It’s best if you can let it chill for a couple hours or so, but I rarely think ahead that far! Whenever you’re ready to eat it, taste it first and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add more salt if it’s just overall bland; more lemon/vinegar and/or pepper if it needs more zing!

Here are some of my variations…

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

This has been my standby combo for years: to the basic core recipe, I add some chopped bell pepper — also something I keep ready in the fridge — and some chopped tomato. (Tomatoes should always be kept at room temp for best flavor, so those can’t be stashed in the fridge.) Measurements aren’t important; just add it till it looks like an amount you’ll like.

Lately, I’ve been trying to live without nightshades — a family of plants including potatoes, tomatoes, and all peppers except black pepper. (Not because these veggies are bad for you! But some people have a sensitivity to them, and I’m experimenting to see if they have any impact on how I feel.) So here are a few nightshade-free tuna salad variations.

nightshade-free tuna salad

Here, I used diced cucumber to replace the crispy texture of the bell pepper, and pine nuts to fill the role of the sweetness of the tomatoes. It turned out quite nice!

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tuna salad with ranch dressing

And here’s another slight variation on that: still with cucumbers, but I’ve also got some diced celery, chopped celery leaves, and homemade paleo Ranch dressing added to the mix. Oh, and half a hard-boiled egg — another thing to keep on hand, if you like them.

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mayo-free tuna salad variation

Another alternative for those avoiding tomatoes: blueberries! I know, it sounds weird, right? But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! The blubes have a sweet-slightly-tart flavor that makes an excellent sub for tomatoes.

Pretty easy lunches, huh? I hope this gives you some inspiration: with some of your favorite pre-diced veggies in your fridge and a couple other staples on hand, you can mix up any number of variations of your own favorite salad, and it really just takes a few minutes.

These could serve two people for a light lunch; especially if you serve something else with it. I must confess, though, that most days, I polish it all off on my own!

easy lunch - all gone!

 

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Eating Paleo/Whole30 at The Monarch (Wichita KS)

eating paleo/whole30 at The Monarch in Wichita KS
eating paleo/whole30 at The Monarch in Wichita KS
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge; here’s help when eating at The Monarch in Wichita KS.
The Monarch is a favorite local Wichita KS restaurant and bar. It features cool decor, with lighting fixtures made from salvaged wood and upcycled bicycle parts, and the walls boast a mix of flea-market finds and unique art from local artists. It’s a convenient location if you’re downtown, in the Delano area, or trying to bring east-siders and west-siders together in a central location. I’ve ordered salads a couple times and been underwhelmed, but other than that, everything I’ve ordered there has tasted great. I believe they smoke their own meats, or buy from local suppliers, so these menu items may be less processed than something you’d get at a chain like Chili’s, for example.Based on just looking over the menu and making some guesses (with the exception of salad dressing, explained below), here are some dishes you could order at The Monarch and be mostly Whole30 compliant. I haven’t verified what oils things are cooked in, and as I’ve noted below, there may be hidden sugars.
Mushroom caps without the cheese.*
Potato skins with smoked chicken, without the cheese.
Any of their meat soups,* probably, except for ones with noodles, pasta, corn chips, cream or cheese.
These sandwiches without the cheese and the roll, eaten knife-and-fork: Cuban, Chicken Caprese, Brisket Royale,* Monarch,* Reuben, Italian Sausage*, and Grilled Hot Link*. (Is it still worth eating? That’s your call!)
Sadly, there are no sides that are okay. Cole slaw would certainly have sugar. A side salad would only work without dressing. Read on…
I called to make sure, and all of the salad dressings have either sugar or dairy in them. (Ranch and blue cheese being the sugar-free ones.) If you’re bold enough to bring and discreetly use your own salad dressing, you could order the Smoked Chef without croutons, or the Greek salad — both without dressing.
*There’s probably some sugar in all of the red meats: Brisket, corned beef, ham, hot links, and sausage — in the brine, the seasonings, or both. It’s less likely in the chicken, but still very possible. You’ll need to make the choice whether you think the amount is neglible, as far as eating out goes.
Update: I visited The Monarch a couple days ago and had their sandwich called “The Monarch” without bread and cheese. It was quite tasty! I had the sweet potato tater tots for the side, and while they were very yummy and a perfect complement to the main dish, I’m pretty sure they had sugar in them. Also, I asked about what oil they were fried in: soybean.  🙁  This could be a totally Whole30 dish if they’d just make sweet potato fries or hash browns, fried in coconut oil. So close! And probably okay for a general Paleo mini-splurge.
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The Monarch on Urbanspoon

Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out

jason-s-deli-salmon-salad
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge. My husband is getting ready to try the Whole30 thang, and needing some Paleo-friendly lunch options, so this post is especially for him. And as such, it focuses mostly on his tastes. So there may be a lot of other options out there, but this list caters to someone who’s not crazy about chicken or salads. And its scope is also limited to restaurants on the west side of Wichita, KS. But there are a few national chains here, as well as guidelines for any Mexican restaurant, or any burger, so there should be help here, no matter your locale.

(Please note: this list may not be 100% Whole30 compliant; I was not able to track down which oil most things are fried in, for example. But it seeks to avoid grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes.)

Applebee’s

Beef: The Ribeye and NY Strip are the only two steaks that aren’t cooked in soybean oil.

Seafood: Garlic Herb Salmon

Sides: steamed vegetables; or sweet potato fries??

Burger places, or any place that serves ’em

Bunless burger topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. Or grilled onions and jalapenos. Served on spinach? Or get a side of broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potato, if available.

Chili’s

Beef: Cajun Ribeye, Guiltless Carne Asada Steak, Flame Grilled Ribeye, or the Classic Sirloin – ask for no savory steak butter as this contains gluten. If you want a burger, the Bacon Burger or the Old time Burger (ask for no bun or onion strings) are good choices. I also like the burger that comes with guacamole and peppers; it’s quite tasty even without the bun!

Seafood: Guiltless Grilled Salmon or the Salmon with Garlic & Herbs

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Chipotle

Order two sides of steak or carnitas with guacamole, and any salsa you want, except for the one with corn and beans. Depending on how much food you want, you can order extra sides at $2.25 a pop.

Note: Occasionally you’ll get a new employee who might put the sides in a sides container. If they do this, ask them if they can put it in a bowl. If they do that, they’ll often realize it’s not actually that much meat and give you more for free.

Jason’s Deli

Pollo Mexicano, without cheese and sour cream, – add guacamole; try to eat less of the white part of the potato

Mighty Wild Salmon Salad, without beans, with Italian dressing (NOT Leo’s fat-free Italian)

McAlister’s Deli

Your best bet: the grilled chicken salad, hold the croutons (and the cheese, if you’re avoiding dairy). Here’s the nutrition info for the entree-sized grilled chicken salad, as well as the only salad dressings with less than 20 grams of carbs and less than 1000 mg of sodium.

nutrition info for mcalister's deli: salad

 

Mexican places (go local, not chain)

Ask for no chips when you’re seated. (If you order carryout, specify no chips.)

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Order a tostada topped with meat of your choice, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and/or onions. Eat everything but the tortilla.

Panera

The Greek dressing is the only sugar-free dressing, but you can request it on any salad.

(I need to do more research into the broth bowls. They’ve changed the menu since my original post.)

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General guidelines

Always ask for NO SEASONING SALT in restaurants. MSG is often added to this, as is sugar.

When you see the following adjectives on the menu, ask lots of questions and be prepared to take a pass on foods that don’t meet your standards:

  • Deep fried
  • Crispy
  • Battered
  • Coated
  • Breaded
  • Sauced
  • Meatballs/Meatloaf/Croquettes (probably include breadcrumbs)
  • Sausage
  • Fritter
  • Dumpling

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Sources:
http://thepaleomama.com/2013/01/the-paleo-mamas-guide-to-dining-out-paleo-style/
http://fentresscrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FAST-FOOD-OPTIONS.pdf
http://theclothesmakethegirl.com/2015/02/26/paleo-tips-eating-restaurants/
https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/menu-categories/salads.html

Eggs on avocado toast – easy, clean-eating breakfast or lunch!

eggs-avocado-bacon-toast-550x380
The moment I saw the photo on Pinterest of Simple Poached Egg and Avocado Toast at Pinch of Yum, I was hungry for this combo! But I thought it would be even better with a sprinkling of crispy bacon on top. Especially since I had some already-cooked bacon in the fridge. (Because of this: the best and easiest way to cook bacon.)
Better with bacon? Yep: I was right! The contrast of crispy whole-wheat toast, creamy mashed avocado, warm/runny egg yolk and crunchy bacon = heaven!
Poached eggs are a little challenging; her method makes them a bit simpler, but you could also just fry your eggs. My avocado was a bit too firm, so I added a bit of mayo to it. And then a dash of garlic salt, just cuz. Sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper and a wee bit of thyme — totally optional, but pretty!
Now I wish I were going to be home for lunch tomorrow, because I am already hungry for it again!
Diet-friendly? Almost paleo (full-on paleo if you skip the bread); gluten free if you use gluten free bread for the toast; clean eating if the bacon passes muster; South Beach / low carb for maintenance level.

3 hours on the weekend, 10 meals for the week

meals-for-the-week

Don’t be impressed by me: this isn’t my meal planning! This is a Columbia University student who has this concept completely nailed.

So impressed by this guy. He’s pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering, which has got to keep his schedule busy. But every weekend, he takes a few hours to prep and package five lunches and five dinners for the upcoming week.

meals for the week, ready to go

And this is no tuna casserole or hamburger surprise! His meals feature things like lemon tilapia, roasted carrots, mashed sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon, Cajun rice.

I have got in the habit of keeping my freezer stashed with healthy homemade burritos. I love how easy and thought-less it is to just grab one and pop it in the microwave. And it’s been part of the bigger effort that’s enabled me to lose more than 20 pounds in the last few months!

But for now, check out Sean’s plan. Get the whole story (and a couple recipes) here.

P.S. If this kind of meal planning makes your head hurt, you might prefer my “Meal plan for people who hate to meal plan.”