Lately, my email has been filled with lunch. Or rather, it’s been filled with lunch ideas. While eating out is always an option, many people are catching onto the notion that it’s both the path to calorie overload and getting expensive.
And that’s before we get into the whole gluten-free issue.
Lunches out during the working week are a side effect of my job. On the plus side, I can usually plan for those work-related meals. The rest of the week, I bring my lunch. To keep myself from working through my lunch, I fill in the time I used to spend driving to and from a restaurant with a good, healthy walk. I feel much more productive in the afternoon when I take a midday walk.
So, lunch. If you look at many, many lunch ideas being floated, they follow a basic formula: veggies, grains/beans/legumes, protein. The combinations are up to you. My basic lunch is 1/4 cup rice (I still can’t quit rice!), 1/4 whole grains or beans (buckwheat, garbanzo beans, whatever), about 2 1/2 ounces protein, and a good handful of greens. And a sauce, usually something spicy.
(While this seems like a small-ish lunch, it’s actually very filling, and I do nosh on raw veggies throughout the day, so I eat a lot!)
Since I pop the whole thing in the microwave, I most often toss in spinach which wilts down in a minute or so. The bottom line is this meal is satisfying, varied, and super-easy. I throw my lunches together on Sunday afternoon to ensure I don’t have any excuses during the week.
Let’s break down the components with some gluten-free ideas:
- Veggies: Any greens, though things like collard greens should already be cooked. Cooked carrots, corn (technically a grain), green beans, peas, or even parsnip puree. Raw vegetables count as well, as do pickles. I love topping a Korean-inspired dish with kimchi or pickled carrots.
- Grains/Beans/Legumes: Buckwheat, quinoa, or millet are great gluten-free whole grains. Both cook up in less than 20 minutes. Rice, white or brown. Lentils take a mere 20 minutes and pack a lot of nutrition and flavor. If you have a pressure cooker, it’s easy to make beans, including chickpeas, while you’re prepping the rest of your weekly meals. Just remember to add salt and don’t worry about soaking in advance! Rice and pasta fall into this category — you don’t need a lot for a satisfying lunch. And don’t discount polenta. It can be loose and creamy, or, cooked up stiff, a base for a “toast” of avocado, greens, and grains.
- Protein: Eggs (I make soy sauce eggs in advance and eat them with EVERYTHING). Any leftover meats from my weekly menu are possibilities, plus I love rotisserie chicken. It’s easy and fast. When I’ve made tofu, that goes into my lunch rotation as well.
- Sauce: This is where I can get creative. I keep Asian chile pastes on hand (meaning I have a wide variety!), and our house always has at least two types of jarred salsa in the fridge. Curry sauces, leftover mustardy-y or vinegar sauces for meats, even hummus or tahini sauces all work. Heck, when I’m in the mood, I just grab some delicious pickled red onions out of the fridge — they’re a food I toss on all sorts of dishes.
The bonus of this approach is that lunch is delicious, gluten free, satisfying, and, ahem, cost conscious. You can use up leftovers in creative ways. I often find myself planning how certain meals will fit into my lunch plans…
Below are a few resources for lunch ideas (not all are gluten free, but you will get ideas and it’s easy swap certain ingredients, like barley, for gluten-free options like buckwheat). I am most inspired by the quinoa and fruit options as my current food mood is very berry!
- 20 Make-Ahead Lunches in a Bowl
- 10 Satisfying Gluten-Free Meals to Pack in Your Lunchbox
- 19 Quinoa Lunch Bowls You’ll Actually Want to Eat
Tip of the Week
If you’re working in an office environment, be considerate of your co-workers by avoiding overly stinky foods like fish!
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
Did someone say leftovers? Oh, right, that was me. Did you know there are people out there who don’t eat leftovers? I wonder about them, I really do.
Leftover greens are a favorite for weekday lunches. My hands-down favorite is a Shakshuka-style green dish. Make it with beans or whole grains for extra protein — it’s vegetarian and makes a perfect lunch the next day (and the next!). The baked eggs add so much flavor!