Dinner was an almost seamless transition. It’s pretty straightforward to do protein, veggies, and fruit or to throw in some rice or gluten free pasta here and there. At breakfast instead of relying on cold cereal and yogurt (which I love but can’t have), I’ll have roasted veggies, fresh fruit, and an egg or some avocado.
But lunch with no sandwiches or crackers (there just aren’t great gluten free crackers out there!) was a bit tricky. I can certainly throw together a salad or leftovers from the night before, but my go-to lunch nearly every day for the last few years is a lunch bowl. It’s basically a Mediterranean diet/Paleo approach, with a focus on lean protein, healthy fats, veggies, and fruit. Easy, delicious, and flavorful!
I started using the hashtags #rainbowlunch and #onelovelylunch to keep track of some of the different variations I put on this lunch bowl idea. So many of you have shown interest, it makes me think I’m not the only needing a little lunch inspiration. Here are a few basic building blocks I use when building a lunch bowl.
1. Aim for color.
My goal is to get as many colors as I can in for lunch. My breakfast is pretty heavy on greens, so sometimes I find I’m more in the mood for carrots or tomatoes over salad greens, but I aim for as many colors as possible.
- Green: Avocado, salad greens, green beans, fresh herbs, cucumbers, broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, etc.
- Orange: Sweet potato, peaches, orange bell pepper, carrots (my fave), butternut squash, oranges, etc.
- Yellow & White: Yellow bell peppers, yellow tomatoes, summer squash, quinoa, mushrooms, rice, etc.
- Red & Pink: Tomatoes, fresh berries, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, watermelon, etc.
- Purples/Blacks: beet sauerkraut for a hit of probiotics, California black olives, blackberries, or rainbow-colored heirloom tomatoes.
2. Choose healthy fats and proteins.
My skin has never been better and I’ve never felt better than when I really started making healthy fat and protein a priority. I used to get hangry (hungry + angry) every 2 hours or so when my meals were more carb-centric. These days, I make sure to get a good serving of healthy fat and protein in at each meal. I rarely need to snack and my energy is SO much better.
A few favorite proteins:
- Chicken and Turkey – There are a few brands at the deli counter without carrageenan, nitrates or nitrites. You can always pick up a rotisserie chicken (or make your own!) or use leftovers from the night before.
- Eggs! – Not just for breakfast, eggs are a great choice. Scrambled, fried, or poached all make great additions. For a make-ahead option, you can soft- or hard-boil eggs in batches to prep a few days at a time.
- High quality pepperoni, salami, or chicken sausage – Look for brands without nitrates, MSG, or other preservatives. Sometimes, you just need a change from turkey and these are a fun choice to keep things interesting.
- Nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters – Sometimes, there’s nothing better than an apple dipped in almond butter. Or, if I’ve run through my stash of proteins, I know that I’ll always have a handful of almonds, some pepitas, or a dollop of nut butter on hand to add to my lunch. Try cashew, peanut, almond, or pecan butter for variety. If you’re nut intolerant, sunflower seed butter or sprinkle some dry-roasted pumpkin seeds over your lunch for a little crunch.
- Olives – I love olives of all kinds. Sophie’s favorite are California Black Ripe Olives. They make great finger-toppers for littles, and the monounsaturated fats (good fats!) are some of the very best for you. We’ve found they’re really versatile and help change the vibe of a lunch bowl in a flash.
3. Fill in with Fruits and Veggies!
Most days, I don’t end up having any grains until dinner (if then). I enjoy fruits and veggies so much that I really do love building my lunches around them. They’re bright, colorful, and flavorful. Summer’s such a good season for everything fresh that the combinations are endless.
This summer, I’ve been crazy for green beans, cucumbers, baby tomatoes, peaches, Ranier cherries, strawberries, and watermelon. Baby carrots are available year-round, and in the colder months, sweet potatoes, roasted butternut squash, or brussels sprouts slaw will make an appearance more frequently.
It’s my favorite, easily-customizable way to build a better lunch. What are your best tips?
p.s. Don’t forget to enter the California Ripe Olives Midsummer Mediterranean Givewaway to enjoy tasty flavors now and all year long!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.