I’m always surprised at how expensive lunch out is — $9 for a salad? — so I try to bring lunch with me to work everyday. A lot of times it’s leftovers from what I ate for dinner the night before, and sometimes it’s prepackaged salads from the grocery store. The sure thing is that if it doesn’t sound good come noon, I’m going to march out of my office and into the cafe across the street in a hangry hurry. For goodness sake, lunch should be delicious.
I try to eat pretty healthy during the week, since I know, come the weekend, I won’t be able to turn down brunch and late-night tots. So I eat a lot of salads. Over the years of bringing lunch to work, I’ve learned something about lunch salads: you can’t just put a bunch of vegetables and a dab of olive oil into a plastic bowl and expect me to call it lunch. You can, however, expect me to dump the contents of that bowl on your head if you ask why I’m not eating the brightly colored lunch I packed. Work stress and hunger do not mix well with meals as modest as the ones on Survivor.
There are some key ingredients that easily take a lunch salad from rabbit food to delicious, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today: lunch salads that you actually want to eat and how to make them. Here’s how to make salads that you crave.
1) Start with a healthy base
I like my salads healthy, so I start with three to four superfoods as the base of the salad. I’m on a kale, carrot, purple cabbage, and apple mix combo right now, but you can choose any of the leafy greens and vegetables that register on your tolerable, if not delicious, scale. This is the part of salad making where you add the things you should/want to eat more of.
A quick note about kale: kale isn’t delicious unless you chop it very thin and marinate it in lemon juice and olive oil for at least 30 minutes prior to eating it. When I make my lunch on sunday night, I usually cut up all my kale and squeeze lemon over it and put it in a tupperware container for the week. Before you call kale scratchy, try it this way. Another thing I learned from Oh She Glows.
2) Make it delicious
This is the fun part and that part that too often gets left out. The things you add at this crucial step not only make your salad tastier but also add protein to the mix, which means you will actually be satisfied by your lunch salad. Amen, right? To make your salad crave worthy, you need a minimum of two delicious items. I often add more. Keeping in mind that I eat vegetarian, my favorite delicious items are:
- Chick peas (or any other kind of bean)
- Almond slices
- Dried cherries
- Roasted sweet potato
- Pita chip pieces
- Marinated tofu
But this is just the start of the list. All beans, nuts and dried fruit make the delicious list. Cheese crumbles and other grains also make this list. This is the flavor crystal step, so choose wide and wisely.
3) Step out of the dressing box
Depending on your salad ingredient combo, a fresh vinaigrette might be the perfect pairing for it. I love vinaigrette on Greek-inspired salads. Still, I’ll add some fresh herbs and use the nice olive oil if I opt for a light dressing. If you want to step out of your salad dressing box, I highly recommend Oh She Glow’s tahini-avocado salad dressing. Even without the avocado, it’s awesome. I’m putting it on everything right now, and it is the reason I look forward to my midday salads. My sister made her own peanut dressing last weekend that has us all us reaching for more salad, and I’ve had this fig-feta vinaigrette pinned for a while now. My point here is that there is no reason to stick with the olive oil and vinegar routine day in and day out. I’ve been making a salad dressing at the beginning of the week. The idea was to make a different dressing each week, but I’m hooked on tahini. It’s. So. Good.
I hope these tips help you save some money, eat more veggies, and better enjoy your lunch.
What are your favorite things to add to salad? What other lunches are delicious and portable?
P.S. Happy birthday, mom! Don’t eat salad today.