Prepped | Ultimate Weekday Salad Formula
If rushing from workout to work in the mornings, it's common that the lunch meal goes forgotten until the grumbling stomach reminds us at noon that we need to determine what to eat. Using a loose salad formula can take the guesswork out of what to prep for work lunches.
Last minute food decisions can often lead to suboptimal food choices like fast food, deli wraps/sandwiches low in veggies and fiber, a combination of bars, yogurt, or whatever convenience foods are easily accessible. There are many potential issues with this habit. Fast food and convenience foods are often loaded with refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, and low in nutrients. Translation? You usually over-consume calories due to the high amount of calories packed in a relatively small portion of food without providing you the nutrients your body needs to run efficiently.
Salads are often dubbed as rabbit food, but when built thoughtfully, they can provide adequate protein, quality carbohydrates, vegetables, and even fruit.
Setting aside a bit of time for prep work and using the below formula can ensure healthy, filling lunches are at your finger tips each day at work.
The beauty of this formula is that it can be as simple or intricate as you want. So, whether you need something quick and nourishing, or prefer creating many flavor combinations it can be modified to meet your taste buds, pantry, and time.
Spinach, Mixed Field Greens, Kale, Swiss Chard, Mustard Greens, Arugula
Making greens the base of the salad ensures we're loading up on nutrient dense vegetables.
Nutrition: vitamin C, potassium, calcium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron
*Kitchen Tip: if you purchase bagged lettuce, the prep work is already done. Just grab handfuls for your to-go lunch container.
2. Grain | Starch
Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Quinoa, Farro, Barley, Sorghum, Khorasan, Buckwheat, Kamut, Corn, Potato, Sweet Potato, Winter Squash
Including whole grains or starchy vegetables boosts the complex carbohydrates of the meal to help top off glycogen stores (stored sugar) for evening training sessions and provide satiety at the meal.
Nutrition: Fiber, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron
*Kitchen Tip: Prep this in advance. A big pot of grain cooked on the stove can be stored in the fridge for 5 days or so. Just scoop and go!
Beans- black, garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto, lentils, peanuts, soy (tofu, tempeh, veggie patties) | Nuts/Seeds- almonds, walnuts, cashews, chia, flax, sesame | Animal- chicken, eggs, fish, beef, pork | Dairy- greek yogurt, cheese (feta, goat cheese, parm, cheddar)
Nutrition: will vary
Protein is important for muscle restoration, and many athletes consume the majority at the end of the day. Spreading out protein intake throughout the day can improve muscle recovery and delays digestion, keeping you fuller longer.
*Kitchen Tip: Going vegetarian at this meal can save kitchen time. Canned beans are easily drained, rinsed, and stored in the fridge for easy access. Combining nuts with beans can provide a variety of amino acids (building blocks of protein), ensuring that you consume all required amino acids. Store-bought frozen veggie patties are also a quick addition. If you can't imagine a meal without meat, prepping animal proteins in advance for lunch or use leftover meat from dinner. Tuna and salmon pouches would also work.
4. Bonus Veggies | Fruit
Avocado, Apples, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cabbage, Dried Cranberries, Cucumber, Daikon, Green Bean, Herbs, Orange, Tomato, etc. The options are endless.
Nutrition: will vary, but in all likelihood- vitamin C & potassium
Bonus flavors and nutrition. Choose in-season veggies and fruits for the best flavors and price.
Vinaigrettes (oil & acid based), Creamy Dressings (Greek yogurt or kefir based), Bean (cashew cream, silken tofu, or bean based)
Nutrition: Healthy fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in plant-based oils such as olive and avocado help us absorb crucial nutrients and provide satiety.
Homemade dressings are my jam! They generally taste so much better than store-bought and can take a salad to the next level. If you're super time-crunched and using store-bought, try vinaigrette based dressings. The creamy ones on the shelf are generally loaded with saturated fats, and the low-fat ones will typically have added sugar.
Formula in Action
Black Bean & Corn Salad with Spicy Chipotle Dressing: Spinach + Quinoa & Corn + Black Beans & Feta + Cherry Tomatoes + Chipotle Kefir Dressing*
Mediterranean Power Salad: Shredded Kale + Farro + Chickpeas, Walnuts & Goat Cheese + Cucumbers, Kalamata Olives, Sliced Red Onion + Lemon Tahini Sauce*
*Stay tuned in the coming weeks for specific salad recipes using our Prepped Formula.*
Are you already a member of #lunchaldesko at work? What kinds of salads do you like to pack and how do you keep it interesting?