I love salads, because they're like beautiful arrangements of all my favorite foods. They're portable, versatile, and satisfying (my salads are definitely not rabbit food). Here's a handy guide to packing a on-the-go healthy lunch, or a sit-down meal that will we suited to your preferences. The Base:
Choose a variety of greens that will keep things interesting. A good place to start is a base of romaine or iceberg lettuce, as they're high water content and add a refreshingly sweet bite to your meal. Then, add some heartier greens for a nutritional punch. I like rainbow chard, spinach, spring greens, and even massaged kale. Then, add some fresh herbs like cilantro or basil for a fresh and flavorful addition. Peruse your local farmer's market and try something new.
To make this a complete meal, you'll need a quality protein source. I like hard-boiled eggs, because it's fairly easy to find an affordable and quality source. They also pack well and will keep for a fair amount of time without making your greens soggy. This is also a good place to use up leftovers- roasted chicken is a great choice. If I'm packing my lunch far in advance and will need it to keep for awhile, I'll prepare my salad as normal, and just carry with me an unopened can of tuna or salmon. Simply crack open when you're ready! I like Safe Catch or Wild Planet Foods.
My favorite part! You can use pretty much anything you have on hand, but I'll offer some suggestions of my favorites. I include a variety of veg to keep things interesting, and because I'm a very textural eater and enjoy different textures in my salads. For some crunch, try shredded purple cabbage, chopped celery, or shaved brussels sprouts. For a refreshing bite, try sugar snap peas, cucumbers, and sweet peppers. For a heartier salad to really get you through the day, throw in some leftover roasted veggies like broccoli or cauliflower. Mix things up- try shredded or spiraled zucchini, and keep things fresh with different varieties of tomatoes or berries. An expensive but fun treat is to splurge on micro-greens for a new texture experience.
The key to making your salad filling and worthwhile is a quality fat source. I love guacamole, and tend to use that fairly often. Freshly sliced avocado is another great choice, as well as green or black olives. You can use a quality olive oil with some balsamic for an easy homemade dressing, or if you do well with dairy, some grassfed cheese.
Get creative here! Utilize fresh herbs, vinegars, oils, and spices to keep things interesting. I like to use seasoning blends over top of canned tuna or plain chicken to spice things up. Check your labels for weird additives or questionable ingredients, but most stores have an organic or "simple" line of spices. Mix and match flavors from day to day- one day might be Italian-inspired with fresh tomato, basil, balsamic, and olive oil. Another might be Mexican with guacamole, shredded chicken, lime, jicama, and cilantro. Don't be afraid to try something new.
Don't Be Afraid of Simple.
While arranging pretty salads can be fun and make packing lunch exciting, sometimes you just need some quick fuel. Don't be afraid to utilize your resources- bagged lettuce from the supermarket is still lettuce. I've even found 100% grassfed hot dogs at my local chain grocery that work well in a pinch. Use what you've got on hand, and don't let perfect get in the way of good.
Know that you're doing something great for your body by taking the time to prioritize your nourishment! Have fun with it, and notice the difference it can make in your attitude by being prepared for the day. If mornings are busy for you, try prepping your veggies the night before, and throwing on some protein and fat before you leave. The great thing about salads is that they tend to taste better the longer you let them mingle! Pack with some snacks to fill the gaps (apples, almonds, quality jerky, etc.) and have a great day!