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Healthy Lunch Series: Vegetable Rotini with Flaked Tuna in a Light Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

Posted May 29 2013 7:00am

I'm very excited to introduce the first recipe in a series of healthy lunches at Inspired Edibles!
We all struggle with occasional lack of inspiration and not-so-occasional lack of time, so the goal of this initiative is to generate ideas for simple, wholesome meals that you can pack for the office or enjoy at home. A delicious excuse to skip the food court and head outside for some cherished vitamin D.   
The recipes that I will be featuring in this little segment can be adapted to suit any particular dietary need and/or preference which means that they should ideally be used as a starting point and not necessarily and end point. Be sure to have a look under "Notes" for substitution ideas where applicable. 
From a nutrition perspective, one the most helpful suggestions I can make is to encourage the incorporation of protein at all meals and snacks -- including lunch where it often goes missing.  
Protein is not only vital for all structural components in the body (muscle, bone, connective tissue) it also forms the basis of our neurotransmitters (the brain's communication channels), which means that it is also critical for mood, memory and cognition. 
A green salad with tossed vegetables may be a great start but on its own, it will leave you feeling hungry again in about 20 minutes (the time it takes to digest and convert into a sugar).  Adding protein to the mix will create satiety, allow you to feel fuller longer and diminish the pesky desire to graze endlessly on carbohydrates. Protein also requires more work and energy to digest, increasing our metabolic workout and keeping our blood sugar levels and mood more stable over a longer period of time.
Ready to rock your lunch box?


Vegetable Rotini with Flaked Tuna in a Light Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

For the Tuna Pasta:
  • 300 grams (or about 4 dried cups) tri-color vegetable rotini
  • 250 grams (two tins or about 1 cup) drained light skipjack tuna
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped 
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes (or 16 or so cherry tomatoes), chopped
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almond
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped

For the Lemon-Yogurt Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • Sea salt & cracked black pepper

Serves 4

Notes:
  1. Make-ahead option: It will only take you about 15 minutes to prepare this meal once you have the ingredients in place.  You can do so the night before if you prefer and simply store in an airtight container in the fridge (to be transported to work the next day if applicable). The tuna pasta can be enjoyed cold or warmed up as desired.
  2. I chose vegetable pasta because it's a great way to work in some fibre and a host of vits/mins -- notably: iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate. 
  3. You can substitute any vegetable of choice here.
  4. If you are a vegetarian, swap out the tuna for tofu, tempeh or seitan.  I recommend these protein sources over lentils/beans (which are typically 50% carb/50% protein) because the pasta is already providing carbohydrate content.
  5. If you are pregnant and have concerns about the mercury/toxin levels in tuna or fish/crustaceans generally,  you may wish to substitute a different protein in place of the tuna. 
  6. What's with the chopsticks? I love using chopsticks whenever possible.  It focuses attention, requires us to slow down and assists in improving digestion.
Directions:
  1. Boil pasta in a large pot of salt water until al dente (for about 6 minutes). Drain and allow pasta to cool as you prepare the lemon-yogurt dressing.
  2. Add tuna, broccoli, bell pepper, tomatoes, almonds and fresh lemon-thyme to the cooled pasta.
  3. Assemble lemon yogurt sauce by simply combining ingredients in a dish and whisking together.
  4. Pour lemon-yogurt dressing over pasta and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. 
© Inspired Edibles

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