If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that when it comes to meal prep, lunches are my biggest struggle.
Here’s the deal: lunches need to be different, most likely salads, full of vegetables, have a decent amount of protein, and not be leftovers. So I need to make two different lunch salads, for a total of 4-6 of them on any given week. (I post my weekly lunch salads on instagram – @emilygdingmann – if you’re interested!)
I tried to simplify once by making sandwiches instead of salads, thinking that it would require less prep time, but then one week I found myself chopping up vegetables in teeny-tiny pieces, for a special veggie cream cheese for vegetarian sandwiches. I was wrong. So I’ve gone back to my standard lunch template: 2-3 salads (from scratch) + 1 frozen meal + 1 meal out. Depending on the week and depending on what’s going on, things can certainly shift, but it helps me to have a general framework week after week.
A lot of my lunch salad inspiration has been coming from cookbooks and blogs lately, but this one came from a cafeteria. Our offices at work moved and they are now located in the middle of a really walkable neighborhood (Westwood!) with tons of lunch options, food trucks, delicious take-out AND a cafeteria on the lobby floor. The salads from the cafeteria are SUPER basic and nothing special, but after seeing a coworker have the “chicken special” eight days in a row, I decided to venture from the salad menu and try it out. The “chicken special” is a slight variation of the same thing every day: a thin chicken cutlet + sauce (and maybe a few frozen veggies) + white rice + a side salad. The salad leaves a lot to be desired, and the veggies were seriously lacking, but I loved the idea of this simple meal for lunch.
So I ended up making my own, adding TONS of vegetables and turning it INTO a salad. It was delicious. Filling, super nutritious, and with the combo of chicken (protein), lots of vegetables, rice (fiber and whole grains) and peanut dressing (fat and flavor) it’s oh-so-satisfying.
It still requires some prep and work, but you could also take some shortcuts:
rice: use the microwavable bags/pouches
chicken: grab a rotisserie chicken (though grilling it is really easy)
vegetables: buy the lettuce, cabbage, and carrots already cleaned and cut
I highly recommend it for lunch OR dinner.
And if you have any favorite lunch salads, please let me know! I’m looking for a new one every week…
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 6 Tbsp water
- sriracha, if desired
- cooked brown rice
- grilled chicken thighs
- salad: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, red pepper, green onion
- Combine peanut butter, vinegar, soy, honey and water in jar and shake until incorporated and smooth.
- Compile salads with vegetables, rice and chicken and drizzle with dressing.