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A Make-Ahead Power Lunch to Get You Through the Week

Posted Aug 09 2011 9:53am

Contributor Post

Contributor Maggie G. shows you how to prep a delicious (flexible) lunch that will last a week and keep the 3pm munchies at bay. And it can easily be made vegetarian/vegan.


I’ve always felt guilty when I cook a lunch meal from scratch. I grew up believing that lunch is created from leftovers or things stashed in the refrigerator. You save money by not having to buy ingredients just for lunch. Sandwiches and soup fall into that category too, because they’re something you have on hand, but aren’t reserved specifically for a certain meal.

When you’re trying to be a smarter eater, though, you realize that proper planning needs to go into every meal, not just dinners. And while there may be supper leftovers you can use for lunch, that isn’t always the case.

And that’s where my Power Lunch comes in. I do buy ingredients just for this meal, but I make a week’s worth of Power Lunches at once, and store them in the fridge or freezer to grab as needed for my midday meal. Power Lunches aren’t just random assortments, though. They’re carefully selected to deliver maximum impact. Let me explain.

My particular approach to eating (right now, at least) is to focus on higher protein, low glycemic load foods. I want a meal that can easily be microwaved for a minute or two and be ready to enjoy. It has to travel well to the office, and — truth be told — it has to be delicious enough that I don’t mind eating it.

Depending on how you mix it up, Power Lunches can fit just about any eating plan. Vegetarians, gluten-sensitive, low carb — it works! And what’s cool about this meal is that you can mix and match ingredients to give it a different twist every time.

Below are the main ingredients, with suggestions for alternatives. For nutrition calculation purposes, the first option in each listing was used.

Power Lunch

You’ll need (makes about 8 servings — enough for a work week of brown bag lunches)

  • 1 lb ground turkey, ground beef, diced tofu, diced leftover chicken or other protein
  • 4 cups (2 13.5 oz cans) beans: pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo, cannellini, lentils or other 2 cups (1 13.5 oz can)
  • tomatoes: diced, spiced, stewed, sauced, seasoned or plain 6 cups
  • uncooked greens: spinach, collards, mustard or other
  • seasonings of your choice: Italian blend, Mexican, savory, or salt/pepper

Make it:

  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef until no longer pink.

  • Drain away excess fat. Stir in the beans and tomatoes.

  • Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes.

  • Add all the uncooked greens and stir to mix them in. They’ll wilt to a fraction of their volume in about 5 minutes.

  • As soon as they wilt, stir in seasonings of your choice.

  • Serve immediately, or divide into 8 microwave-safe bowls for later reheating.



  • At serving time, add any extra ingredients you may like: shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, sliced avocados, chopped tomatoes, black olives or anything else! Serve plain, over a salad, or rolled in a whole-grain wrap.

Nutritional information (per serving):

Calories: 179
Total fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 1.3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
Cholesterol: 42g
Sodium: 685g
Carbohydrates: 14g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 21g
Fiber: 6g

*High sodium comes from using canned beans and canned tomatoes. Rinse the beans and use low-sodium tomato products for significant reduction. 10 grams of carbohydrates come from the beans. Beans contain highly resistant carbohydrates, so the higher number is misleading. Resistant carbs do not affect blood sugar levels as significantly as other carbohydrates.

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