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What’s On Your Fork, SASF? Healthy Meal Planning for Lunch

What’s On Your Fork, SASF?

Healthy Meal Planning for Lunch

When it comes to having lunch at work, do you pack or buy?  Lunch should not be taken lightly; it is one of the best chances to stock up on needed nutrients that will continue powering your body and mind for the day. It’s helpful to think of planning for lunch not as a problem to solve but an opportunity to refuel. It can add a bolt of energy to your day and may also provide a time to pause, socialize and reflect. Barriers to planning well for lunch exist, including time limitations, access to optimal ingredients, inability to be creative in the kitchen, and difficulty in transporting food to and from work, to name a few. We need not let these come in the way of making lunchtime pleasurable and revitalizing. When it comes to planning for lunch meals, bringing your own is the best way to make sure you’ll have healthy options at arm’s length. Consider the five Cs below to plan for lunches that pack a nutritional punch and don’t break the bank:

  1. Colors – Ask yourself: do my lunches include colorful items, like fruits and vegetables?  Sandwiches, salads, and even lunch snacks are more exciting to eat when they are bright. Try adding cucumber, carrots, or jicama slices to your sandwiches and even bright fruit, such as strawberries and kiwi, to your salads. You’ll be adding flavor, vitamins and minerals to your meal, which helps in overall body performance and endurance.
  2. Content – Are the items you pack substantial and include foods from all five food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, protein)? Including a variety for lunch ensures we meet the daily recommendations best for optimal health. Think outside of the box when including grains and protein; whole grain pasta, crackers and brown rice count, as does tuna, chicken, and tofu for protein.
  3. Creativity – Are you in the habit of bringing the same items to lunch each day? Mix it up! Try to bring leftover dinner items for a change, or use different ingredients to encase a sandwich, such as lettuce or rice crackers instead of bread.
  4. Cost – Buying lunch from local restaurants on a daily basis can add up quickly; let’s do the math: $15 on lunch five days a week can equal $75 per week. Preparing and bringing lunch to work will cost a fraction of this amount, freeing up dollars for leisure activities.
  5. Convenience – Can you identify a day or two when you prefer to spend time in the kitchen? Spend an hour if possible on these days preparing healthy snacks and dishes that can be brought to work throughout the week. Ideas include cutting up raw vegetables for salads, baking whole grain breakfast muffins, making basic homemade dips and salad dressings, and preparing a soup or chili.

Try one of the three salad recipes below for lunch next week! They were tested as part of a Healthy Lunch Planning Lunch n’ Learn, hosted by Constance Deaner, our Dietetic Intern, on May 11.

The Sports and Wellness and Human Resources teams have launched a variety of wellness programs as of April. Stay tuned for postings for additional nutrition “Lunch n’ Learns,” weekly staff walks, fitness challenges, recipe tastings, a staff wellness fair, a “Biggest Loser” competition, and more!

Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad

Serving Size: 4 servings


  • 1 can beans, chickpeas or kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 cans water-packed chunk light tuna, drained
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
  • 1½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup lemon juice, divided
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens

Directions: Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, ¼ cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Combine the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil and salt in a large bowl. Add salad greens; toss to coat. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.

Asian Quinoa Salad

Yield: 2 Servings

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 25 Minutes

A quick and easy healthy quinoa salad dressed in sweet and tangy Asian flavors, loaded with tons of veggies!


  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chow mein noodles, for serving

For the Sesame Vinaigrette:

  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger


  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together rice wine vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, sugar, ginger and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  3. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, cabbage, bell pepper, carrots, corn, green onion and avocado. Stir in sesame vinaigrette.
  4. Serve immediately, topped with chow mein noodles, if desired.

Kale, Clementine and Feta Salad With Honey Lime Dressing

Prep time: 20 mins

Serves: 4


Kale salad

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • 4 clementines, peeled and sliced into rounds or small strips
  • 4 small radishes, sliced into thin rounds and then into skinny strips
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds

Honey-Lime Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium jalapeño, membranes and seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine grain sea salt


  1. First, make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Prepare the kale by slicing out the stems and chopping out the leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  3. Drizzle salad dressing over the kale (you might not need all of the dressing) and toss well so the kale is lightly coated with dressing. Add the prepared avocado, dried cranberries, clementines, radishes, cilantro, feta and sunflowers to the bowl.
  4. Toss the salad to combine and serve.