When I first started getting into the whole ‘get fit and eat better’ mindset a good few years ago, I felt a bit discouraged at the prospect of eating a boring salad lunch for the rest of my life.
I quickly learnt that salad lunches do not have to be boring, and that, in fact, you can make some pretty badass salads. However, I also learnt that you can spend quite a lot of time prepping salad ingredients, especially proteins. That might have been fine when I was a childless student in my early twenties and had plenty of time at my disposal, but these days, spending two hours prepping my salads for the week just isn’t an option. Thankfully, I’ve made a salad lunch often enough over the last years that I can share the EXACT building blocks of a satiating and satisfying leafy-green lunchbox. The only thing that might take a little more than a few minutes is preparing your protein of choice. Apart from that, this formula should have you throwing your salad lunch together in no time at all!
First, choose your vessel
Any old lunch box will do. To me, glass is always preferable to plastic, and a mason jar is great if you want to be a total hipster. Otherwise, the only thing to look out for is that it’s completely leak-proof, otherwise you’ll end up with salad dressing everywhere.
Next, select a dressing
Whether it’s from a bottle or your favourite DIY recipe, you want to add your dressing to the bottom of your container. I learnt this trick from Tone It Up – it keeps your salad from getting soggy, and when you’re ready to eat, all you need to do is give the whole vessel a shake!
Build your leafy green base
Add your greens on top of your dressing. I like to alternate mine every week. Sometimes I’ll go for spinach, other times for rocket or kale or a bistro mix – whatever is available and looks good!
Add the veg
Again, go for whatever is in season and looks delicious. There are zero rules here, but I like to stick to two different vegetables to avoid taste overload, and also to make sure I can use up everything I buy. I always try to go for unpackaged veg where I can (notoriously difficult with things like cherry tomatoes… WHY!?) and try to go for organic when a vegetable is on the Dirty Dozen list.
Protein, protein, protein
I always add protein to my salad lunch in some shape or form. There are literally hundreds of different ways to add a vegan protein source, and I really try to vary this from week to week to make sure I’m eating a real variety of foods. As I type this, I’ve got some Seitan on the hob, which I’ll slice up and add to this week’s salads. Other times, I go for cubed tofu (press for a few hours, then marinade in hoisin sauce and bake for 20 minutes – perfect). Other easy favourites are chickpeas or tinned black beans. When I have a little more time than usual, I also like to cook a big batch of lentils (boil in stock rather than plain water for extra flavour) and add about one quarter of a cup to my lunch.
Top it like it’s… hot?
Okay, that doesn’t work. But seriously, top your salads. Again, your options are almost unlimited. Need some extra crunch? Go for a mix of seeds and nuts. Did you use black beans? Add some salsa, avocado, and maybe a few crushed tortilla chips for a taco salad. Other favourites are cashews, puffed quinoa, dried blueberries or cranberries, or even candied pecans if you’re feeling extra indulgent!
I hope this makes your salad-prepping a little easier. If you have any amazing tips for making salad lunches more exciting, please share them with me in the comments – I want to try them!