These Gluten Free Lunches are for anyone who wants a delicious healthy lunch, without a complicated recipe. Keep it simple!
Even if you're an avid meal prepper, lunch is often forgotten. It's easy to think you'll have plenty of leftovers or to tell yourself you'll have time to whip up a beautiful salad. But when the time comes? It's too easy to grab a not-so-satisfying granola bar or skip lunch altogether.
The thing is, when you have such a busy day to get through, fuel is important! You need energy to do your best job both at work and at home. But hey, I get not wanting to add yet another recipe to the week's meal prep to-do list. Enter, the mix and match Gluten Free Lunches chart!
To use this chart, simply choose something from each category to build a healthy and satisfying lunch. You can mix it up from day to day or week to week depending on how much variety you crave. Lunch should be something you look forward to!
What makes a satisfying lunch?
You may need to experiment a bit to see what type of lunch is the most satisfying to you. Do you love a big mid-day salad or do you prefer sitting down to something warm? Or, like for me, does that change with the season?
Still, a few things are pretty universal when it comes to the satisfaction factor.
Not surprisingly, two of these things are protein and healthy fats. Without these, no matter how delicious a meal is, it won't keep you full until dinner. This is why it's so important to prep ahead! While grilling a few chicken breasts, hard boiling some eggs or, hey, buying some canned salmon, are super simple things to do, they won't happen if you don't plan ahead.
Another element that contributes to a great lunch is a variety of tastes and textures. Make sure you have something crunchy. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you make some fruit or a healthy treat to enjoy at the end of your lunch. The more you're looking forward to the meal you made, the less likely you'll get takeout instead!
Easy Gluten Free Lunches Chart
I know that one of the issues with crafting delicious, satisfying lunches is the mental effort needed. After planning breakfasts, healthy lunches and dinners for our families, we're sometimes just DONE thinking about food. This is why I love the idea of the mix and match chart!
Simply glance at the chart when you're doing your weekly meal planning and choose 1-2 easy lunch options for the week.
To assemble a filling lunch I recommend choosing 1 protein, 1-2 items from the veggie column and at least one extra. Here are some examples of a few lunches you might assemble using the chart:
- Canned salmon over salad greens with a vinaigrette and a side of fruit
- Hummus with crudités, fruit and mixed nuts
- Grilled chicken over zoodles with pesto
- Salad greens topped with hard boiled eggs, cucumbers and carrots with paleo ranch and a side of popcorn
You can keep it super simple on busy weeks and get more creative when you have time!
Bonus tip: Make a double batch of a different salad dressing each week and use half for family dinner salads and half for your lunches. Also double up on any sauces like pesto or chimichurri that you happen to be making for dinner. Freeze the extra and use it for lunches a few weeks later so you don't get sick of the flavor.
Recipes to use in Mix & Match Lunches
Here are a few recipes for things like quick vinaigrettes and delicious dips to keep your mix and match lunches exciting!
Remember, you can also purchase things like pesto if you simply don't have time to make them. I recommend Thrive Market for healthier options for things like this. They're also a great source for nuts, olives, etc.!
Protein Recipes: Italian Meatballs, Chicken Salad, Slow Cooker Green Chili Beef, Coconut Lime Shrimp, Slow Cooker Chicken Verde, Sweet & Crunchy Tuna Salad
Veggie Recipes: Top 10 Roasted Vegetables, Smoky Paprika Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, How to Make Zoodles
Recipes for Sauces and Dips: Chimichurri, Almond Butter Dipping Sauce, Baba Ganoush, Dairy Free Cilantro Pesto, Romesco Sauce, Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes: Lemon Herb Vinaigrette, Paleo Salsa Ranch, Easy Dairy Free Ranch, Strawberry Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
Extras: Almond Butter Energy Bites, Carrot Cake Bites, Chocolate Bliss Energy Bites, Sweet & Savory Rosemary Pecans, Homemade Popcorn
What are some more simple healthy lunch ideas?
I find the mix and match strategy works really well when it comes to creating simple healthy lunch ideas, but of course it's not the only option! Here are a few other ideas to ensure you always have something healthy and delicious waiting for you mid-day:
Mason Jar Salads: There's a reason these swept Pinterest and it's not just because they're so pretty! It is way more efficient to prep several salads at once than to get out your cutting board and each ingredient every day. But how to keep them fresh? No one likes a soggy salad!
This is where the mason jar salad comes in. The ingredients stay separate which helps keep them fresh for longer. The real key here is to put the salad dressing in the bottom of the jar. Then create a buffer by layering some protein or a grain on top to keep the dressing separate from the veggies. Make sure to put your greens in last, at the top of the jar, to keep them fresh.
If you love the idea of mason jar salads, this article from The Kitchn has lots of great tips!
Double the Protein: I am a big fan of the “cook once, eat twice” strategy and it comes in super handy at lunch time! What's the difference between this approach and just eating leftovers? With cook once, eat twice, you reimagine part of the meal to serve it in a different way.
So you might double (or triple!) the amount of protein you're cooking, and serve the extra protein atop a salad for lunches that week. OR, you might cook a double batch of quinoa and use the extra as a base for Buddha bowl-style lunches that week. This is a great way to make the most of your time in the kitchen without feeling like you're eating the same thing all week long.
If you're intrigued, make sure to watch my YouTube video all about cook once, eat twice!
Raid Your Freezer:
This third strategy is one I implement often. I love freezing single servings of things like soup, chili or lasagna for days I want a nice, hot lunch.
If you don't currently have a freezer stash, there are two ways you can go. The first option is to plan 2-3 items you'd like to have for lunch and dedicate a couple of hours to making them. Then portion into individual containers and store in the freezer. The second option, which is what I like to do, is just to freeze a couple of portions whenever I make a meal I know would freeze well. This leads to more variety and negates the need for an extra meal prep session.
Whichever way you go, make sure to label your containers so you always know what something is and how long it's been in the freezer. I actually like to take it a step further and keep a freezer inventory so I always know what's available!
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