Wednesday, September 15

Wholesome Lunches at Work...Yes You Can!

Some of you may know that I prepare a homemade lunch for my husband every morning before he leaves for work. And I don't mean just making sandwiches, mind you...I prepare an entire lunch for him every day using wholesome, natural foods, and more often than not, cooking everything from scratch. This means full meals; we like to treat lunch as the main meal of the day and dinner as a light top-up, as is healthiest for the body in terms of digestion, metabolism, weight maintenance, energy and sleep-cycle. Sure, sometimes I make him sandwiches....but when I do, they're made of all natural ingredients on whole grain bread and accompanied by beautiful salads composed of multiple healthful vegetables (such as the Crunchy Cabbage Salad described here), and side items like hand-cut carrot sticks, toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh fruit, and sometimes some kind of dessert. Often times, though, I am making "entree" meals for his lunch; things like 3-bean chili over brown rice with roasted broccoli, or spiced lentils over quinoa with stir fried bok choi, or sauteed shrimp and arugula over wholegrain pasta with lemon and garlic, or, in the case of yesterday, Spinach Tabouleh Salad (recipe below).

In some cases, meals that I make for him will involve all natural meats or fish or eggs, but many meals are completely vegetarian, and no matter what the meal is the emphasis is always on plant-based foods like whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fruit, with ingredients like nuts, seeds, spices and healthy oils thrown in for taste, nutrition, and to keep things interesting. The best part? He LOVES it, he feels the benefits in his body, and he saves time and money by bringing his lunch with him to work. The second best part? I get to know I am treating my husband to healthy, natural, tasty food, and of course I am eating the same wonderful food later on for my own lunch :) Not always exactly the same, but doing the prep and the majority of the cooking and assembling in the morning means I have less to do later on. Then I can make easy adjustments to suit both of our tastes and predispositions. We all have different schedules, but everyone can set aside some time in their day for food preparation.

So you may ask, "How does this work? Where does the time come from? I could never do that." And that is the purpose of this post and of many of the recipes that I post on the blog- to show you that healthful, delicious, all natural food can be prepared at home without a tremendous amount of time, money, or effort, and makes a world of difference in the health of you and your family- not to mention saving you a ton of money. A few tips that help: foods like whole grains and beans are the basis of many meals in our home, and these ingredients are purchased dry and last for months and months. Cooking them ahead of time in a batch large enough to last for up to 3 days saves you time and energy. So, for example, you have one type of grain and one type of bean that you cook (separately) at a time when you have some free time, such as an evening night before bed or on a Sunday before the work week. Then, for the next several days, you make up interesting ways to combine those ingredients into several different varied meals; some examples would be stirfries, the classic beans over grains with spices, wrapping up in large green lettuce or collard green leaves as a take on a "wrap" sandwich, or tossed into a salad. Salad, mind you, only means a dish composed of many ingredients mixed together-don't limit yourself! You now have permission to "play with your food"...experimentation is how you learn, and it's how I taught myself to cook.

This way, whatever you decide to do for the meal, you are simply choosing different vegetables and seasonings to add, and the bulk of the work is already done in having whatever protein and grain you are going to use pre-prepped. You save yourself enough time in the morning to prepare the vegetable element of the meal and throw it together, and you're good to go. Even vegetables can be cooked or prepared the night before if need be; this works best for roasted vegetables, undressed salads (add dressing when about to eat), and vegetables that are cooked into dishes like casseroles and stews. Steaming or sauteing vegetables should be done the day of. If you are using a different protein than beans, like fish or meat, you have the option of cooking that the night before when you have time and setting aside for the next day or whipping it together in the morning. Fish and meat can be kept in the freezer if need be and left out to defrost over night, then quickly grilled, baked, or sauteed in the morning if you don't want to do it the night before.

It basically comes down to two factors: 1. Preparation: having food options stocked in the home that you can work with and mix and match, and doing whatever you can of the prep ahead of time, and 2. Being willing to make this as a commitment and set aside the time, whether it means giving yourself a half hour at night to prepare food for the next day's lunch at a relaxed pace instead if watching TV, or whether it means waking up that 1/2 hour earlier to make your food in the morning before you leave for work. It really does only take 1/2 an hour, sometimes less depending on what prep has been done beforehand, and it is so worth it. One handy way to accomplish two health goals of smaller dinners and more substantial lunches while also preparing and bringing your own wholesome, natural lunch to work is to do the following: save the cooking for the evening when you get home, but make enough for yourself and your family PLUS extra- when ready to eat, only serve yourselves a small portion for your light dinner, and wrap up the rest to take to lunch at work the next day.'re done with cooking in one shot for the entire day, you managed to eat a smaller dinner than usual, and you have a wholesome, balanced, substantial home-cooked lunch ready to bring to work the next day. No getting up early required! Once you get in the habit of more substantial lunches and smaller dinners, this will feel natural and you'll feel less hungry at night because you'll be satisfied from what you ate during the day.

So you're probably ready to get going, right? Here's a particularly easy, quick, and delicious lunch meal that I recently made for my husband to take to work. Because I had cooked the beans ahead of time in the evening, this entire meal took less than 15 minutes to put together, and was completely balanced in terms of both nutrition and taste. He gave it high marks, I hope you will enjoy it too!

Spinach Tabouleh Salad

3 cups loose organic baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous (can be purchased at Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds or raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup kidney or pinto beans, cooked (can use canned if necessary-rinse very well)
1/4 cup organic frozen sweet corn
Handful of grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a small amount for cooking couscous
Juice of 1/2 small lemon, remove seeds
Garlic powder, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper for seasoning

Cook couscous according to instructions on package (generally, boil 1 cup water and add one cup couscous with a small amount of olive oil, cover and remove from heat immediately to rest covered until all water is absorbed- about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, boil a small amount of water in a saucepan and boil frozen corn for 3-5 minutes, drain (or just pour boiling water over it in the colander). Place washed and dried spinach leaves in a large mixing bowl, add the 3/4 cup of beans, the cooked corn, and the sliced grape tomatoes. While couscous is waiting, quickly toast the 2 tbsp of seeds in a skillet over medium-low flame until golden green/brown and just beginning to pop, immediately remove and toss into bowl with vegetables. When couscous has rested 5 minutes and all water is absorbed, fluff it around with a fork to loosen and separate all the bitty pieces. Then spoon about 1/3 of the total amount of couscous into the bowl with the vegetables, reserve the rest for use at another time. Now that vegetables, beans, couscous, and toasted seeds are together in the mixing bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice from 1/2 a lemon. Toss well to coat all ingredients. Sprinkle with garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper, and toss again to mix evenly.

Possible substitutions: switch out the couscous for cooked quinoa (takes about 20 minutes to cook and can be made ahead of time), or switch spinach for arugula.

Since the beans were cooked ahead of time, the vegetables were raw, and the couscous, corn, and seeds only take 5 minutes to prepare, this meal came together in no time! Even better, it's a one-part meal, it has everything you need in one place: whole grain goodness, lean protein, and vitamin and fiber packed veggies, along with a dose of healthy fat to help you absorb those vitamins and keep you satisfied. These are the building blocks of healthy, wholesome, balanced meals...try this one, and then have fun experimenting on your own! Stay tuned for more quick and easy recipes to come....Happy Eating!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation:


  1. Love this! Still wish I had wonderful you to cook for me, but the tips you gave make me feel empowered to make healthy meals ahead of time so that I don't cheat when I am tired. Spinach Tabouleh Salad is on the menu for this weekend!

  2. I am thrilled to hear you enjoyed it! I do so fondly remember our days of living together and cooking together (who could forget Meat Muffins?!) and I am honored to know that I can be of assistance to you in your newleywed kitchen experimentation! Stay tuned for lots of other tips, recipes, and info...easy, tasty, healthy!