The catalyst for this post was that my brother-in-law asked for some new ideas for lunch that do not involve lunch meat. Great question! There are lots of reasons to move on from those salty, preservative-packed slices of processed meat but regardless of the motivation, I thought it might be interesting to come up with some alternatives for him. He’s a really busy dad of 3 adorable kids and an excellent EMT so he clearly needs a quick, nutrient-dense lunch that he can make at home and bring with him on the go. Here are my ideas when you decide to toss the lunch meat in favor of some high protein alternatives:
- Bean salad - beans are some of the most nutrient-dense foods in the grocery store and so cheap too! I make a huge bean salad and use it for 3 or 4 lunches throughout the week or as a side dish at dinner. I stock up on dried or canned beans whenever they’re on sale so I always have some on hand in a pinch. The bean salad recipe is below. Make it the night before and I promise, you’ll love it.
- Lentils - lentils are chock-full of protein and crazy quick to cook! They’re cheap and filling and really versatile. Mix them up with some brown rice or boiled potatoes with a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Then you can add any other vegetables you have kicking around the crisper (peppers, zucchini, green beans), and toss with a vinaigrette or just some crumbled goat cheese for a really flavorful meal that hits all your nutrient needs in one dish.
- Eggs - eggs are an EGG-cellent source of protein. Hard boil them and they can be easily transportable, or mash them up with 1 tbsp greek yogurt + 1 tbsp mustard + 1 tbsp mayo and you’ve got a low-fat, high energy spread for a whole wheat english muffin or whole wheat bread.
- Black bean burgers - I make these all the time and usually make smaller portions so I can freeze a bunch to pull out for dinner or lunch time playdates for my son and his friends.
- Hummus - haven’t tried this chickpea-based dip yet? It pairs so well with veggies and I even slice up hard boiled eggs, slather on the hummus and make a sandwich out of it. It’s safe for school lunches and a great way to get protein without worrying about nut allergies.
- Turkey meatloaf pita sandwich - we eat a lot of leftovers for lunch at our house, but if you’re on the go then you can’t exactly bring a plate, knife and fork with you. Try putting a slice of that delicious meatloaf from last night into a portable pita and you’ve got lean protein and whole grains for lunch.
It’s so important to think of your food as fuel for your body. We need a good balance of carbs (whole grains are best), protein (lean) and fats (mono- or polyunsaturated) to keep our bodies working at their best. Your basic deli meat is filled with chemicals and salt that have no benefit for you, so try adding these new protein sources to your lunch. Thanks for the topic Ryan!
Bean Salad Recipe:
2 cans chick peas - drained and rinsed
1 can black beans - drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper - cut into small chunks
1 green bell pepper - cut into small chunks
1 scallion - sliced thin
Dressing: 2 tbsp vinegar + 6 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp dried mustard
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Pour dressing over beans and vegetables, stir to combine and coat.
- Cover and store in refrigerator.