Light, Satisfying Weekday Lunches

September 04, 2015 Cooking for One

A light, satisfying weekday lunch is what we dream about, because it can affect how we look and even how we feel for the rest of the day. It helps us feel like we’re able to stay focused and on track with our afternoon schedules.

Besides satisfying my hunger, my main concerns at lunch are fast and easy. I have work to do, so I don't want to be in the kitchen for a long time. Having some basics already made certainly helps. I like to keep beans stocked in the pantry, make extra standard ingredients—like rice, quinoa or farro—and keep pre-chopped veggies on hand throughout the week.

I want to avoid slipping into bad habits—reaching for a quick burger, eating out (usually larger portions with loads of salt) or indulging in last night’s leftovers (pizza). When we’re busy, either at home or at work, we tend to grab something that may not always be a good choice.

The unwise choices mentioned above often cause the infamous post-meal food coma. Certain foods change our brain chemistry, resulting in the sudden urge to nap an hour or so after lunch. There are ways to avoid the 2 o’clock crash, though. Here are some techniques for creating lighter, yet still satisfying, lunches.

Besides satisfying my hunger, my main concerns at lunch are fast and easy

Pack a lunch the night before. The dream lunch is something nourishing, quick and easy to put together the evening before. It keeps you from standing over the stove when you have other things to do or grabbing a fast-food lunch when you're out running errands. Make the effort to pack a lunch by tossing together a Mediterranean-inspired salad with tomato, cucumber, red onion, celery, a variety of herbs, garbanzo beans and a light vinaigrette dressing.

Resist your craving for heavy foods. Let's be honest—you’ve probably craved pasta at some point in the past week—or day. It’s easy to indulge in last night’s meal or your favorite takeout leftovers. Instead, resist the craving and take a little extra time to prepare a delicious salad that has black beans as the main ingredient. It takes only 20 minutes to prepare, and it’s a much smarter choice. No more donuts or bagels for meals, right?

Don’t overload on one type of ingredient. You may have heard that overeating is what makes you sleepy. Actually, it's consuming too many carbohydrates that causes the 2 o’clock crash. Enter this one-bowl dish, a perfect balance of ingredients.

Eat smaller portions. Spacing out your meals and snacks can also prevent an afternoon crash. With so many tortillas on the market, try this wrap, filled with garbanzo beans, shredded chicken, feta cheese, tomato and cucumber. You can eat half for lunch and the other half for an afternoon snack!

Light, balanced lunches help keep you satisfied and ward off the mid-afternoon slump. What’s your favorite light lunch?

* Tip: Midday meals don’t come much easier than these one-bowl lunches!

Meet Sandy Coughlin

View all articles by this author