If you are on a budget or diet, surely you are packing a lunch: It saves money and is healthy — a tedious task, but so well worth putting a little effort into. Research suggests a healthy mid-afternoon meal keeps your brain fresh and an unhealthy one causes distractions and lethargy throughout the remainder of the day, that lunch comatose feeling.
With their natural packaging, fruits are easy to transport, full of water and vitamins and a great snack or light meal. Grapes are perfectly ripe now, and grapes improve blood flow to the brain, which helps fight strokes and keep the after-lunch nap at bay. A bunch of grapes, some vegetables, a whole grain, a little meat and dairy and a tiny bit of fat and you have a body that is grateful and a filling lunch. Here are some quick, balanced lunch ideas.
Crunchy, chopped carrots are healthy and clean your teeth — keep some close by if you need to freshen your breath or for a quick snack. This is a colorful salad to accompany a sandwich.
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into thin circles
1 tablespoon olive oil, plain yogurt or mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Add roasted red peppers to any sandwich to boost flavor and veggie intake. All bell peppers are high in vitamin C and B6, and red and orange peppers have the most nutritional value. Finding roasted peppers is easy; they are usually sold in the salad dressing aisle near the olives and mustards at the grocery store.
1 to 2 slices bread
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
6 red peppers, roasted
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, poured over peppers (optional)
Salt (this is a great time to use a unique salt you may have in your cabinet)
Stack ingredients in order, and slice in quarters. This would be really good with a few slices of salami — very few.
Quinoa and garbanzo beans
Whole grains satiate and garbanzo beans are low-fat proteins. When purchasing canned garbanzo beans, rinse them well to reduce the sodium by half.
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped ham or pine nuts
1 to 2 tablespoons Italian dressing
Mix all ingredients. Will stay fresh for 24 hours.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, fiber and potassium. They are also high in calories — about 280 for the whole fruit. A serving size is a 1/4 of the fruit.
2 rice paper wrappers
1/2 large cucumber
2 green onions
8 to 10 medium shrimp, cooked or 1/4 cup peanuts
Slice all vegetables lengthwise at 3 to 4 inches. Place rice paper in hot water until it gets soft. Remove from water, place gently on a plate, and tap off excess water with a paper towel. Arrange veggies and shrimp at the bottom of the circle, place 2 teaspoons peanut sauce on veggies, fold the bottom edge over veggies, and roll once; tuck in ends and complete the roll until closed. Use oil on your hands to prevent sticking, if needed.
This mid-day, vegetarian Mexican meal packs tons of vegetables. Our daily intake should be 2 to 3 cups of vegetables — this recipe gets you more than halfway there.
1 flour tortilla
1/2 cup refried beans
1/8 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1/4 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons lime juice
Mix tomato, cilantro, onion and lime juice together in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Combine beans and cheese, spread evenly over tortilla, and place in microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, roll up, and serve with tomato salad.
Tracy Miller adds fruits and veggies to all of her meals. She teaches cooking classes and shares recipes on TV8’s “Good Morning Vail.” To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit colorfulcooking.com.