After years of careless eating, I found a bulging waist line and other signs of being overweight. It was only then that I remembered a friend’s advice –eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a commoner, and leave dinner for the enemy. The rationale behind this statement was that at breakfast, the body’s metabolism is at peak performance, and it is the best time to load the body with nutrients that will serve as fuel for the day’s activities. So a well planned breakfast helps kick off the day to a great start.
The next challenge then was to find ideas that fitted in to the ‘lunch like a commoner’ mold. Thankfully eating habits have changed and we all have adapted our palettes to other cuisines, whose ingredients are easy to find and prepare. A bit of research, and a few visits to the supermarket, had me ready with numerous healthy lunch options, small meals that can be eaten anywhere, at home, while traveling, or in the office. All that is required is a good lunch box which preserves the flavor, freshness and taste of food, like the Bento Box, for example.
- Multi-layered whole wheat sandwich – Sandwiches are amongst the easiest to prepare and can be packed with nutritious layers according to taste. A complete commoner’s lunch, the sandwich takes 5 minutes to assemble. Take 2 slices of whole wheat bread, thinly spread butter, or preferably low fat margarine, add 2 lettuce leaves, slices of tomato and cucumber, a slice of cheese and turkey ham each, some parsley, chili flakes and salt. Wrap in cling film and carry, to be eaten without a mess anywhere, anytime.
- Vegetable noodles- For those with a preference for Asian food, noodles are quick to prepare and sumptuous to eat. A packet of instant wheat noodles boils in less than 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a nonstick pan, saute in a few drops of oil, thinly sliced vegetables like carrots, beans, paprika, cabbage, broccoli, spring onions, leeks and any other seasonal greens. In a couple of minutes when they are tender-crisp, add the noodles and season with salt, white pepper, soy sauce and chili flakes. Can be eaten hot or cold.
- Pasta salad- Pasta again, takes just a few minutes to boil, and can simply be tossed with paprika-red, yellow and green, celery, steamed broccoli, beans, carrots and some fried garlic. Non vegetarians can add shrimp, cooked shredded chicken or ham to make it more appetizing. Seasoned with salt and oregano, this serves as one of the best quick lunches.
- Turkey and salad wrap- Wraps are easy to prepare, pack, carry, and eat without dirtying hands. Cooked sliced turkey, shredded cheese, lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumber, paprika and arugula leaves, can all be packed into the wrap to make a wholesome meal. If the place is cool, a spoonful of mayonnaise can hold it all together in the wrap and also make it moist.
- Fried rice- Steamed rice can be tossed with finely chopped carrots, beans, green peas, paprika, cabbage, spring onions, leeks, chicken and scrambled egg, to make a nutritious lunch that can be eaten hot or cool.
- Stir-fried chicken salad- Quick to assemble, it’s a good way to use leftover chicken. Combine chunky shredded chicken with all vegetables in the refrigerator, like cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, baby corn, peas, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes, toss on high heat for a couple of minutes, season, and a low carbohydrate lunch is ready.
- Baked potatoes- Potatoes are welcome at any time of the day, and these are easy to cook. Wash potatoes in their skin, slit in the middle, stuff with a dash of butter and seasoning and bake till cooked. As the slits widen after cooking fill them with all seasonal vegetables especially peas, carrots and paprika. Wrap in foil and carry in a lunch box.
All these should make perfect lunch options and can be repeated every week, while working, and hot meals saved for eating at home.