One of the biggest challenges for a low-so eaters happens everyday around noon (or 10:30 if you’re like me and you just can’t wait that long).
I’m talking about lunch.
If you hang out at home, near a kitchen, and a stocked pantry and spice drawer, well then, the only thing standing in your way of a filling afternoon snack is a little bit of time. But if you’re out and about or at work, eating good food suddenly poses a bit of a problem.
Grab-and-go meals are a big part of our work culture, whether you actually take the time to pick up food with friends/coworkers or hurry back to the desk. And when it comes to low-so fast food options, they are often limited or non-existent (especially if you do not work in a busy, downtown area).
So what do you do? Well that is exactly the question I plan to help solve over the next few weeks. And together, we will explore the various ways you can quickly (keyword: QUICKLY!) enhance the options around you, all so you do not succumb to high-sodium meals nor spend hours in the kitchen prepping your lunch.
First up: salad. Over the years, I found that the easiest thing to order low-sodium is a salad, especially with the numerous amounts of build-your-own salad spots these days. But even those salads often fall into the bland category as they usually end up pretty naked — no dressing, no beans or corn or peas (as they often come from a can or blanched in salted water), no grains (again, salted boiling water), no meats (often pre-seasoned), no dressing (usually high in sodium), no bread (high in sodium)…you get the point.
While I love lettuce, it just doest make for a very exciting me. Nor a filling meal, and that means temptation for other not great choices, like potato chips or candy bars. But if you spend a little time on Sunday pulling together some snazzy toppings, your lunch (and salad) options need not ever fall flat again.
Let me present to you my 10 Favorite Ingredients that make any lunch option transform a very happy meal (even if it is a bowl of butter lettuce). All of these ingredients can be quickly “made” at the beginning of the week and then stored in the refrigerator at work. Use them one at a time or all at once, you choose your own adventure. They offer endless flavor and texture and enjoyment, no matter how you mix them up.
No-Salt-Added Beans: Drain them straight from the can, add some spices, and pack them in an air-tight container. They require literally no work and add a huge boost of bulk (and protein) to your meal.
Hard boiled Eggs: If you have 8 minutes, you have time to make hard boiled eggs. And if you have hard boiled eggs on hand, you have guaranteed delicious meals (breakfast, lunch, and snack time!) for the week ahead.
Green and Red Onions (this counts for two): Take a few minutes to thinly slice and dice some onions. They add a big burst of flavor and by cutting them into small bits, they’ll taste perky and not abrasive. If they are still too strong for your liking, add some lemon juice or olive oil to the air-tight container to mellow out the flavor.
Unsalted Nuts and Seeds: Give them a quick toast and then toss with oil and spices. Pack it up and sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle. They’re the new and improved crouton.
Other Greens: Packing up some spinach, arugula, or thinly sliced kale ribbons will help add color, interesting texture, and some extra flavor (arugula can be a bit peppery tasting and spinach actually has a little “salty” kick). If using sturdier greens, like kale and collard, add a little citrus juice and olive oil to the airtight container.
Citrus: Yup, a little lime, lemon, or even an orange will brighten up your lunch. It’s the most essential Low-So SOS ingredient around.
Grains: Whenever you make couscous, quinoa, polenta, noodles, rice (etc) for dinner, make extra. Then, add spices — my favorite right now being turmeric for its amazing flavor, color, and healing properties. And don’t be afraid to toss in some frozen veggies for added fun.
DIY Dressing: There is no excuse to not make your own low-so good dressing. Keep it simple with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or give some tasty ingredients a quick spin in the food processor for more developed flavors — like this avocado tahini dressing, this orange carrot dressing, or these green sauces to get your started. Then pack in an airtight container and slather away.
DIY Table Blend: Never leave the house without salt-free spices. Whether you put a little Mrs. Dash in your purse or make your own blend (check out these “SALTernatives”, having low-so good spices on hand guarantee big flavor whatever you eat and wherever you go.
And in less than 30 minutes total, you have TEN incredible ingredients to perk up your weekday ahead. So please, this weekend, take a few minutes to prep, and then mix it all up and enjoy. No more high-sodium meals and no more low-so sad desk lunches.
What will you pack?