7 Days, 7 Lunches

Friday, September 03, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

Lunchtime's a real danger zone for most people trying to lose weight and keep their bodies—not to mention their wallets—in shape. For most of us, lunch happens somewhere in or around the workplace, which means looming nutritional and financial disasters if there isn't a brown-bagging strategy in place. If I don't bring my lunch to the Beachbody® office, there are always the siren songs of the nearby McDonald's®, KFC®, and Wienerschnitzel® to reduce my bank account and expand my waistline. Or I could take the marginally healthier approach of buying the $10 salads from the lunch guy who shows up at the office, yet another semi-delicious path to financial ruin.

The best choice is to make your own lunch. You control what goes into the meal and what goes into your body. Instead of the artificial colors, flavors, and various incarnations of high fructose corn syrup you get from the local fast food chain, you can fill your plate with fresh whole foods that will energize your body and save you a ton of money. As my grandfather used to say, there's no point putting your paycheck through your stomach. So here are some healthy ideas to get you through the day with high energy and low cost.

Note: All Nutritional Information is for one serving.

Sunday: Tuna and White Bean Salad

On Sundays, I like to make a big batch of soup or a salad that will keep for a few days so I have leftovers for the week. While it's noble to attempt to prepare a fresh lunch from scratch every evening or morning, schedules and snooze alarms can sidetrack the best-laid plans. It's nice to have a big bowl of something in the fridge as a backup so if I sleep through the alarm bell in the morning, I won't drive through the Taco Bell® in the afternoon. This recipe's a great source of protein and fiber, and if you want to improvise, it's a great way to use up leftover veggies in the fridge. This meal's good to go for up to 2 days after you make it.
  • 2 6-oz. cans water-packed tuna (reduce olive oil amount if using oil-packed tuna)
  • 2 cups canned white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned or jarred artichoke hearts, chopped (reduce olive oil amount if using oil-marinated artichoke hearts)
  • 1 bunch parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Mix first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk or mix garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in a small bowl or cruet with salt and pepper to taste. Add dressing mixture to large bowl with first eight ingredients, and toss. Serves 4. (For extra zip and fiber, serve on a bed of raw arugula or spinach leaves.)

Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
372 33 g 11 g 40 g 12 g

Monday: Turkey Avocado Wrap

Somewhere between a pita and a tortilla, a lavash is a low-fat wrap from the Middle East. It's typically lower in carbs than pitas and lower in fat than tortillas, but not all lavash wraps are created equal. When you're shopping, read the label to make sure your dietary requirements will be met. Try to find whole wheat versions. Some brands also augment the protein and fiber contents or add flavors like spinach or sun-dried tomato (which add more color than nutritive value). Making a wrap is a great way to repurpose leftovers like chicken, turkey, or tofu. You can make some delicious combos using what's in your fridge . . . Or try this recipe. (I used Joseph's whole wheat lavash.)
  • 1 lavash wrap
  • 1/2 avocado, mashed
  • 4 slices (3 oz.) deli-style turkey breast or 2 oz. firm tofu
  • 2 slices low-fat Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup arugula
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 2 thin slices red onion
Spread mashed avocado on flattened lavash. Layer remaining ingredients on top of lavash.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
460 45 g 14 g 31 g 20 g

Tuesday: Healthy Chicken Caesar Salad

If you know Michi's Ladder, you might remember that Caesar salad is way down on Tier 4, the Dodgy Tier. What gives? It's a salad, right? Yeah, but when it's all glopped up with mayonnaise-y dressing and deep-fried croutons, it's not really much in the nutrition department. This recipe uses a tofu-based dressing, so you get extra protein instead of extra fat and calories. You won't taste the difference. And if you skip the chicken, this makes a great vegetarian meal or side dish. The dressing also makes a great sandwich spread or veggie dip.
    Tofu-Caesar Dressing:
  • 1 package (10 oz.) soft silken tofu
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (use anchovy-free sauce if you're vegetarian)
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until creamy. Makes 16 2-tablespoon servings.

Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per 2-tablespoon serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
40 3 g < 1 g 1 g 3 g
  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, torn in bite-size pieces
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, broiled and diced
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat croutons
  • 2 Tbsp. Tofu-Caesar Dressing
  • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground pepper
Toss lettuce, chicken, and croutons with dressing. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and ground pepper on top.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (less if dressing is already prepared)

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
311 39 g 4 g 18 g 9 g

Wednesday: Shakeology® Oatmeal

At Beachbody, there's usually some Shakeology around, so if I've forgotten my lunch, I often improvise with some Shakeology and whatever ingredients I can scrounge (but no stealing from the office fridge—not cool!). This mixture of instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and Shakeology ends up tasting a lot like cookie dough. That would have been my lunch of choice as a kid, but now it's good for me!
  • 1 cup unflavored instant oatmeal, prepared
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Shakeology
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter, unsalted and unsweetened
  • 1 Tbsp. flaxseeds
What follows are the microwave directions. You could alternatively scramble the egg and heat the beans in a small frying pan.

Prepare one packet of oatmeal. Now listen up—this is important. LET THE OATMEAL COOL until it's close to room temperature. If you add the Shakeology when the oatmeal's too hot, you'll kill the healthy enzymes in every scoop, and you don't want that on your conscience. After the oatmeal's cool enough, mix in the Shakeology, peanut butter, and flaxseeds, and eat!

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
430 28 g 10 g 51 g 15 g

Thursday: Lentil and Feta Salad

Lentils contain lots of healthy protein and are tasty and economical. They're also good sources of iron, as well as other vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. And they come in different colors, including red, green, and brown, so you can make a salad as appealing to the eye as to the palate. This Middle Eastern–style recipe makes for a filling lunch, or you could have half a portion with half of Monday's Turkey Avocado Wrap. If you use canned lentils, try to find low-sodium varieties. Your best bet is to cook dried ones the night before. You can also boil the lentils with a bay leaf or other spices for extra flavor.
  • 3 cups cooked or canned lentils
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine first nine ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper, and toss with first nine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two. You can eat it as soon as it's done, but it just gets better the longer the flavors combine. The next day is the best! Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (mostly chopping)

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
424 21 g 16 g 45 g 19 g

Friday: Pita Party

This is a great desk lunch. It's like having a cocktail party at your desk (minus the cocktails). You can combine the ingredients so that no two bites are the same. For a busy day without time for a proper sit-down lunch, this is a good way to graze. If you have a bento box–style container with compartments, this is a perfect time to bust it out. The fat and salt contents of hummus vary greatly by brand, so if you don't make your own from scratch (we'll have a recipe in an upcoming newsletter), make sure you read the nutrition label. To reduce the calorie content even more, invite a coworker to your party! (If they don't have tzatziki at the store, combine 1 cup of nonfat yogurt with one minced garlic clove, half a chopped cucumber, fresh chopped dill, and salt to taste.)
  • 1 whole wheat pita, quartered
  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 1 cup tzatziki
  • Optional: Cut-up carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, etc.
Bring containers of hummus and tzatziki to work, and dip pita pieces in either or both of them. Bring your favorite crudité-style veggies and dip them as well for a sinless end-of-the-week treat.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
511 30 g 13 g 71 g 14 g

Saturday: Mini-Pizzas

This recipe's from my friend Ali, who is allergic to gluten but has found a way to still enjoy pizza on the weekend without the gluten and without a lot of the fat and calories of store-bought or delivery pizzas. Try this recipe with your own favorite toppings. It's also a great recipe for kids.
  • 1 spelt (or brown rice) tortilla
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chicken breast, chopped
  • 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella (or soy cheese), shredded
  • 4 tomato slices
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly toast the tortilla. Be careful not to overcook it—just a couple of minutes, enough to give it the structural integrity to hold the toppings. After you've toasted the tortilla, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on top. Add basil, mushrooms, and chicken, and top with cheese and tomato slices. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Let cool slightly and serve. It's so low in calories, you could even have two!

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving; 1/2 frittata):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
310 14 g 2 g 35 g 12 g

Feel free to eat any of these lunches any day of the week. And repeat your favorites. Most of these can be integrated into your favorite Beachbody meal plan, including P90X®. Come back next week for part three of our series and get recipes for 7 days, 7 dinners. Bon appétit!