Midweek lunch has to be the most neglected meal.
Squashed in between meetings, deadlines, errands, phonecalls, school runs, it’s too often relegated to Boring Sandwich, ‘Meal Deal’ or Nothing. Unless you’re in France, in which case take two hours off and dine like you mean it.
Let’s change this. Let’s spark things up. Let’s make lunch something you can’t wait to eat, and gets others drooling with envy…
First things first: preparation. As with all good meals, the magic is in the prep. Create a list of foods to purchase every week so you always have the necessary bits to hand to make lunches. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it! Think about vegetables, salad leaves, fruit, tinned fish, fresh meat (see below), and grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat for salads.
Once you’ve stocked up, take a few minutes to think about the week ahead: how many lunches do you need to prepare? Where will you be eating? Does it need to be cold food, or are reheatable items an option?
Use the free 7-Day Meal Planner to capture ideas!
These lunch ingredients can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for days, giving you plenty of mix-and-match options;
– Slow cooked meat: at the weekend I like to slow cook a chicken. I use a slow-cooker so it’s merrily cooking away while I get out and about. We eat some for Sunday dinner, and the rest is left for pack-ups. Slow-cooked ham works well too, just shred it with forks and you have pulled-pork filling for pittas or salad.
– Houmous: there’s a classic houmous recipe from my friend Gina, or try these varieties from Deliciously Ella.
– Roasted vegetables: chop peppers, aubergine, courgettes, and fennel into chunks and roast in coconut oil for 30-40mins.
– Hard boiled eggs
– Pesto: this works well with cashews instead of pine nuts.
– Brown rice or quinoa: remember to cool rice quickly and store in the fridge until eating.
All prepped? Now to spend 10mins each morning creating that knockout lunch*….
(*or dinner as it’s known here in Yorkshire. Breakfast, dinner, and tea.)
Salad Box: rice or quinoa topped with a protein (shredded ham / hardboiled egg / houmous / fish) and a mixture of roasted vegetables and handful of salad leaves. Dress with a drizzle of olive or flax oil, squeeze of lemon, and black pepper.
Sandwiches: not the boring ones. Swap dull bread for good quality sourdough or for gluten-free options think creatively and use nori wraps, corn tortillas, or large butterhead lettuce leaves to hold the fillings.
Soups: my all time favourite lunch. Enjoy with oatcakes and houmous or small chunk of good quality cheese.
Pasta Box: leftover pasta (regular or gluten-free) with pesto, roasted vegetables and cherry tomatoes.
This can be tricky when you have specific dietary needs like gluten or dairy free, but it is getting easier. I was deliriously happy to discover a ‘Leon’ outlet at the motorway services recently and enjoyed a delicious wheat and dairy-free chicken and brown rice meal!
If you know your options are limited when eating out, carry some basics with you like trail mix and a piece of fruit so you can top up if there’s not much available.
Most city centres have a Pret and an M&S: Pret have a good selection of soups, salad boxes, chopped fruit, and snacky things like nuts and hardboiled eggs with spinach. Marks & Spencer offer mixed grain salads, picnic sized cheeses, chopped fruit, nuts, and houmous pots.
Stuck at a tiny cafe in the middle of nowhere? How about a baked potato, omelette, or soup.
Whatever your day holds, a nourishing lunch is essential to sustain your energy and wellbeing. Symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and depression are all influenced by the foods we eat, so give your body it’s best shot at working well by feeding it with love and care.
Try these ideas and see what a difference they make to your life – do let me know via email or over in the Facebook group!
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PHOTO CREDITS: UNSPLASH