Let’s talk lunch. I feel like it doesn’t get the love it deserves, and 99% of my most recent posts have been about pancakes and sweets. (Go figure.) Time for a topic change!
Lunch is a really easy meal to overlook. When mid-day hits, you understandably want a break — which usually means running down to the office cafeteria for a sandwich or grabbing something from a nearby restaurant with coworkers. I’ve seen LOADS of research claiming that not eating at your desk is a must-do thing. Based on past experiences, I tend to disagree with this theory. (So do both my waistline and bank account.) Here’s why:
When I first started my “real job,” I used to go out to lunch anywhere from 2-4 times each week. If I wasn’t going offsite, I’d get something from the cafeteria in my office. I never took the time to put together a lunch at home unless it was a Lean Cuisine and some yogurt (read as: processed/packaged, or NOT GOOD). All of that changed within the last 6 months, and HOLY MOLY did it bring some serious results. My meal plan doesn’t have room for cafeteria food, so I bring it all from home and prep it during the weekend. The whole concept of taking a half-day to grocery shop and plan/prep your meals for the upcoming week really helps to instill the idea that healthy eating does take forethought. For me, it helped change the way I look at food in general. The more effort I put into knowing what I was eating, the more I cared about the quality of food I consumed.
I usually knock my grocery shopping and meal prep out on Saturday or Sunday, depending on what I’ve got in store for the weekend. Once I’ve planned the meals, bought the goods, and unloaded my shopping bags, I make a little assembly line in the kitchen and get to work. This is where my OCD tendencies really take over.
Moral of the story: fail to plan, plan to fail. If you want to see results, know what you’re going to put in your body before you eat it and know how each meal/snack fits into the bigger picture of your nutrition. Yes, it’s about watching your macros and calories (to some extent), but I really see this as a way to take all of the guesswork and questioning out of your diet. You eliminate the “what should I have for lunch today/what fits into my calorie budget/I wonder how they cook this stuff” and don’t have to worry about any of it during the workday. Awesome.
I’ve found that rotating through a few go-to lunches that I know I like simplifies the meal prep process. I know how much of each item I should be eating, what ingredients to buy, and how long it all takes to cook. I’ve fallen in love with my slow cooker and the following recipe in particular. I cook it every week, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Plus, it smells (and tastes) WAY better than a Lean Cuisine. The only downside: it kind of looks like vomit. I promise it doesn’t taste like it!
Nutritional Overview (with quinoa, cooked separately)
Serves: 4-5 (depending on portion size)
Cook time: 5hr., 5min. (5 min. hands-on + 5hr. in slow cooker)
– 2 large chicken breasts (not thin-sliced)
– 1 jar salsa (red or green — both work, all-natural/low sodium/no sugar are best)
– 1 can (15oz.) black beans (no added salt)
– 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
– Cilantro, to taste
– Cumin, to taste
– Paprika, to taste
– Salt and Pepper
- Place chicken and onion into slow cooker
- Add all additional ingredients on top and stir to combine
- Cook for 4-6 hours on low/medium heat
- Shred chicken and serve over prepared quinoa
This is as easy as it gets, and it’s delicious.
For lunches, I cook about 2c. of red quinoa and layer about 1/2c. (cooked) in the bottom of a tupperware container. Then, I pull some chicken out of the slow cooker once it’s done, measure out 4oz. on my handy dandy kitchen scale, shred it, and put it on top of the quinoa. I grab a ladle and scoop out a little bit of the black bean/salsa mixture from the slow cooker and add it on top. I eat this with 1-2c. of vegetables as my lunch, and I take it twice a week. (Recipe above makes enough for about 4 or 5 lunches — 2 for Ryan, who has bigger portions of chicken that are 6-7oz. each, and 2 for me. It depends on how big the chicken breasts are.) So easy, cheap, and better for my body than hitting up Chick-fil-A!