You might think it is odd that I only go out to lunch during the weekdays once or maybe twice a year. How is that possible? Especially since those of you who know me know that I LOVE FOOD?! I have developed a cornerstone habit that saves money and keeps my body well nourished, all while tantalizing my taste buds on a daily basis, and it is all about the lunch I bring from home.
When others see me eating my lunch, whether it be a student who has come to ask a question during office hours or a colleague at a noon meeting, their typical response is something along the lines of, “Wow, that looks like a really amazing salad!” While I have coined it “Timaree’s Crazy Salad”, since it has quite a lot going on, this combination tastes so incredible to me, that I actually look forward to enjoying every single bite each day and don’t even want to go out!!! How lucky am I that I get to fuel my body with a fantastic meal for lunch that is economical and ready whenever I am? The good news is, you can have this, too!
This lunch epitomizes the mantra that I share with my college students, “Love the food that loves you back!” The health-promoting properties are second to none, so not only will it love you back, but I am fairly confident that you will love it so much, that you’ll miss it if you run out! The secret for me is to prep my “Crazy Salad Base” and assorted toppings on Sunday.
Since most of my days are spent working very long hours, my lunch needs to be filling and supply enough substance to sustain me! If the word “salad” conjures up a tiny pile of lettuce leaves, it is time for you to meet a salad that will satisfy you! I have described my substantial salad base in detail below, but I also wanted to help you remember to include “hearty” toppings that will sustain your energy. Just remember the acronym RLS: roots, legumes and seeds. Get creative! Here are a few combinations that I really love on my lunch salad: diced and steamed sweet potatoes, lentils and sunflower seeds; roasted beets, kidney beans and walnuts; jicama, black beans and pumpkin seeds. I love all of the legumes, especially the heirloom beans, so I tend to change it up each week.
Here is my year-round “Crazy Salad Base.” I start with 2 bunches of kale, usually one Lacinato and a purple/red kale (stems chopped finely) – bathed in ice water and then into a salad spinner, a bunch of scallions, 5-9 stalks of celery and the leaves from a large head of parsley. I like each bite of my salad to be a great mix of textures and flavors, so I chop all of those delightful organic vegetables very small. Then, I combine them with a bag of “Rainbow Salad” – which contains a mix of julienned vegetables, including purple cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. That mixture then gets tossed with a one pound container of organic mixed greens (13+ different greens), in one of the huge catering bowls that I keep in a garage cabinet. I fill a plastic or glass storage container with this salad base for each day, add the “hearty” toppings and finish them off with a sprinkling of dried or fresh fruit, usually raisins and/or goji berries, sometimes chopped apple, diced tangerines or oranges. My salads are truly a “party” of flavors and textures, that keep me engaged and savoring even the very last, delectable bite! Depending on what is in season and on hand, I might also add a few extras right before tossing with a homemade dressing, including my pickled red onions, zucchini, cucumber, chopped fresh tomato, basil, cilantro, avocado and/or diced mango, (dressing and onion recipes here at www.thenutritionprofessor.com).
I choose to devote time each weekend to buying and preparing my salad ingredients. Yes, it takes time and effort, but I am worth it, my family is worth it, our good health is worth it. Remember, self-care is your responsibility! I ask a lot of myself (mind and body) on a daily and weekly basis. I also want to feel great! When I eat well, I have the energy I need and I am happier being me. When I have my lunch salad meals set up for the week, nourishing myself during a hectic day becomes as easy as drizzling dressing, and shaking the container while taking a few deep breaths, then savoring one bite after another. I hope that you will start creating your own “Crazy Salads” to celebrate National Nutrition Month, and live this year’s theme “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle” one satisfying forkful at a time!
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work, and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. This delicious recipe, as well as a fun Salad Foodie Bar, is part of her innovative cookbook – The Foodie Bar™ Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com