March is National Nutrition Month – an annual education and information campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign’s purpose is to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits. Check out these tips plus recipes for easy, healthy lunches to take to work.
While no one would argue that we should all make healthy eating choices, it’s easier said than done – particularly while at work. Work-week lunches are especially challenging, as we tend to be pressed for time and feel forced to grab and inhale whatever food item is deemed at least marginally edible and easily accessible. As a general rule, this is not a strategy that’s likely to result in making informed food choices or developing sound eating habits.
Whenever possible, a better strategy is to bring your lunch from home. Not only will the contents of your brown bag be healthier than what you grab on the go, but your wallet will also benefit.
Here’s a week’s worth of lunch ideas that can be prepared the night before – perhaps for dinner – reserving one serving to tuck into your brown bag.
• 6 oz. sliced, low-fat Swiss cheese
• 4 oz. sliced, reduced-sodium Black Forest ham
• 4 oz. sliced, reduced-sodium chicken breast
• 4 whole-wheat rolls, sliced and inner bread removed
• 1/2 cup marinara sauce, heated
• Heat lightly oiled grill, grill pan, or Panini press to medium heat.
• Divide cheese, ham, and chicken evenly among rolls, starting and ending with cheese.
• Close sandwiches and grill until golden brown on both sides – about five minutes total.
• Cut sandwiches in half and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.
Mozzarella and Tomato Salad
• One medium tomato, cut into cubes
• 1 oz. fresh, part-skim mozzarella cheese, cubed
• 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
• 1 clove garlic, pressed
• 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• 2 tsp. shelled sunflower seeds
• 1/4 tsp. black pepper
• Combine all ingredients.
• Toss and enjoy!
Grilled Chicken and Pineapple
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (four to six oz. each)
• 4 pineapple slices (one-half-inch thick)
• 1/4 cup pickled jalapeno slices, or one fresh jalapeno, thinly sliced
• Teriyaki sauce
• 4 slices low-fat Swiss cheese
• 4 whole-wheat Kaiser rolls
• 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
• Place chicken in a re-sealable plastic bag and pour in enough teriyaki sauce to cover chicken; marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
• Remove chicken from marinade and place on a heated grill (discard remaining marinade).
• Cook chicken for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
• Top each chicken breast with sliced cheese; cook until cheese is melted. Remove from grill and set aside.
• Add pineapple and rolls to grill. Cook rolls until they are lightly toasted, and pineapple slices until they’re soft and caramelized – about two minutes per side.
• Top each roll with chicken, pineapple, red onion, and jalapeno slices.
Broccoli, Ham and Pasta Salad
• 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
• 1/3 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
• 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
• 3 tbsp. rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp. honey
• 1 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion or dried chopped chives
• 1 1/4 tsp. dried tarragon or dill
• 1/2 tsp. onion salt or celery salt
• White pepper to taste
• 3 cups cooked whole-wheat fusilli pasta (about six oz. dry)
• 4 cups chopped broccoli florets (about one and one-half large heads)
• 1 1/2 cups diced, reduced-sodium ham
• One large, diced red or yellow bell pepper
• 1/4cup diced red onion
• 1/3 cup raisins
• Freshly ground pepper to taste
• 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
• 1 cup torn radicchio leaves
• To prepare dressing – Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, honey, onion (or chives), tarragon (or dill), and onion salt (or celery salt) in a bowl until well blended; season with white pepper.
• To make salad – Combine cooked pasta, broccoli, ham, bell pepper, diced onion, and raisins in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss until evenly incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to two days.
Red Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Fresh Mint Wraps
• One 4-oz. package of goat cheese
• 4 tbsp. chopped, fresh mint
• Four 8-inch spinach tortillas
• 1/2 cup chopped, bottled, roasted red bell peppers
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• Combine cheese and mint in a bowl.
• Wrap tortillas in a paper towel and microwave on high for 20 seconds.
• Spread each tortilla with two tbsp. of cheese mixture. Divide peppers evenly among tortillas and sprinkle with salt. Roll up tortillas; wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
• Unwrap tortillas. Slice each wrap into four pieces, cutting one end of each piece diagonally and one end straight across so that wraps can be stood upright.