If you know me, or you have read any blogs or worked with me, you know I LOVE me a good salad! I have loved lettuce salad my whole life. It’s a real staple to my daily routine. I often recommend a hearty salad to my clients as well with a good protein source because most people are really deficient in vegetables and salads are a great way to add a variety of vegetables daily! However, recently I have developed an intolerance to lettuce so it’s time to look at lunches without lettuce. This also happens with some of my clients (or they already have one). My recommendation is always to remove the item for three months, and then try and reintroduce it slowly.
In the name of those with current or forever lettuce intolerance (or maybe you just don’t like it) here is a post for you!
How to Balance a Lunch
First of all the main goal is to get a good amount of vegetables (2-3 cups) in the lunch, and in addition a hearty single portion of well-sourced animal meat. You can add some healthy fat also in the form of a sauce or dressing to the meal. You want to balance carbs (vegetables or fruits, and other items added to the lunch) with protein (meat and plants) and healthy fat (meat and oils/dressings).
The problem with most meals that Americans have is they are STRONGLY carb driven and in addition, they are not the right type of carb (they aren’t vegetables, fruits, and whole foods). The carbs of choice are typically always processed bread (sandwiches), pasta, or just straight-up fast food or takeout at work. These are always cooked with poor oils as well (the takeout and restaurant food).
When I look around at events or even other people’s lunches, I see a MASSIVE HONKING piece of bread, rolls, a tiny slice of processed deli meat, a bit of mustard, or cheap terribly processed mayo. To follow that it’s often processed potato chips, pretzels, or some other processed item in a bag. Occasionally I see something like baby carrots and some dip or just a vegetable of choice at the side, but almost never. In addition, since it’s lunch many people add something other than water as a beverage. Whether that is energy drinks, what they think is healthy, or other “water-based” beverages (which are chemical filled and processed). Water is great throughout the day (plain) and should NOT be part of the meal. Having water during a meal dilutes your stomach acid and it can create digestive issues.
So let’s just get on with the lunches then now that we know WHY we should balance our lunch!
1. Leftovers – but only if these are balanced in the way above. If you tend to put together a really balanced dinner meal I highly recommend a smaller leftover portion for lunch. It’s easy to have a bit left to package for the next day.
Hint: Only do this 1-2 days per week because without the variety from lunch to dinner you get repetitive eating and that can lead to nutrient deficiency.
2. Instead of lettuce base:
– Butternut squash noodles (frozen section). Now if you want to go all out you can make your own from fresh, but for me, I do a lot of dinner prep so for lunch I want to have this already done for me, and as long as there isn’t anything added to the noodles it’s OK. I use the noodles like I would the lettuce. Then I build up with shrimp, chicken, fish of choice, or beef. I will make two meals exactly the same. I add in things like Kalamata olives, pickles slices, cucumber, or other veggies. I top it with a drizzle of olive oil, or if I add something like shrimp that was cooked in butter and herbs, I dump the pan over the top of the meals so it’s a butter sauce basically. Found in most frozen vegetable sections of the grocery.
– Zucchini noodles – frozen or fresh. The same things apply here. I buy this frozen as well but feel free to make it fresh also. You can top it with the same things. I try to vary the preparation. So if I did shrimp and noodles with a butter base for butternut squash – then here I do something like a “taco salad” style. Different herbs and spices and different “sauce” – maybe it’s a tablespoon of sour cream like a taco. One bag makes multiple days of meals. Found in most frozen vegetable sections of the grocery.
– Cauliflower rice – frozen or fresh. Once again this is where you vary the meat from the other two days of noodle bases, and you vary the seasoning and toppings. One bag will make multiple days of meals.
– Shirataki noodle base – this is a ROOT-based noodle (so think of it as the vegetable base). You can make a few bags (one serving per bag) at a time and split them for two days. These are great for any type of dish where you would be thinking about traditional pasta. But do not forget all your veggies piled on top and your great piece of meat.
3. Wrap – and NO it’s not that wheat or corn and high carb wrap. I LOVE coconut wraps – specifically the plain original version from Thrive Market. If you don’t have Thrive Market, then these will work. The great thing about these wraps is that they balance our carbs with fat and protein! No fast-burning processed carbs. I add in the meat that didn’t get used for the week from the rotation of meats already listed. I add in some sour cream, maybe a little feta, olives, peppers, any other vegetables of choice, and herbs and spices.
4. “Other salads”
– Egg salad – eggs are a great protein source, and you can work in a healthy mayo (like Primal Kitchen), and you can add vegetables to this as well. Take your pick and make it your own. Peppers, onions, carrots, and even cucumbers for more crunch. Make a large bowl or put it in a coconut wrap.
– Salmon salad – another great protein to make into a salad-type format with mayo, sour cream, and whatever mix of veggies. This can be freshly made salmon crumbled or you can buy salmon in a can if it’s wild-caught and has NO added oils (or is packed in olive oil).
Hint: Vary your veggies daily – each vegetable has different nutrients the more variety the more likely you are to have all the nutrients your body needs daily.
– Tuna salad – BUT – you need to pay attention to sourcing and the oils. Tuna from the cheap side of the store is processed in terrible oils and is really not a great fish. Tuna in general should not be had more than once a month – it’s naturally a dirty fish that holds on to toxins and metals. But mainly it’s just TERRIBLY processed here. There is some better tuna from Thrive or here on Amazon. Again this NEEDS vegetables mixed in. You can dress it with salad dressing or mayo style.
5. Rice base – wild or brown is best. This should be just those two days a week then if you use a rice base. Rice should not be daily for lunch and dinner – only a few servings per week. I have been noticing a lot of my clients have issues with rice and they didn’t used to. I believe there is a sourcing issue. So organic is always best and only those few lunches per week. You could go with a Greek bowl, a stir fry, or your own creation.
Overall I hope this got you thinking about what you can do for lunch that isn’t a traditional sandwich or a traditional salad. The most important part is to rotate your meats and your vegetables daily and do something different all week.
Need help with balancing your food? Not even sure what to eat? Have so many digestive issues when you eat you don’t know where to start?