Boring Salads Be Gone: 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Lunch

user-img
Written By

Rhea Dali

user-img
Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Img 3318 E1459896491871 960X675 1 | Boring Salads Be Gone: 11 Ways To Spice Up Your Lunch

I love my lunch box!

It’s nothing super special—got it at Target for $14, black and navy blue; but it’s spacious—plenty of room to tote my breakfast, lunch, supplements and a snack or two for my 12+ hours I am typically on the go.

My go-to lunch as of late has been my “kitchen sink” salad (featured above): leafy greens, ground turkey burger patties and/or pulled chicken, diced Japanese sweet potato, roasted asparagus, coconut butter and a splash of coconut or apple cider vinegar on top.

I package everything in tin foil or baggies separately, pack my bag with ice and throw it all together in a Tupperware bowl when I’m ready to consume.

Boom.

No boring brown bag here!

What’s in your lunch box?

While my lunch is a great energizer in my busy day and as much as I like hearty salads, I often talk to individuals who tell me they feel like they HAVE to eat salads because…

It’s the healthy, grown-up thing to do,” OR,

“I order it when I’m at a restaurant because it’s the ONLY healthy thing on the menu”

They begrudgingly choke down lettuce, tomatoes, shaved carrots, and dry chicken, wishing it was a piece of crispy thin pizza, a turkey wrap or even a peanut butter and jelly instead.

They generously drizzle their greens with as much fat-free Ranch or make the experience somewhat pleasurable  with their Diet Coke on the side at least.

But, hey, they did it. They ate a salad for lunch and earn their gold star for another day of “choosing wisely” (and healthfully).

Others like the idea of lunchtime salads, and make themselves eat them, BUTTTTTTT…all the raw veggies and greens in their salad upsets their stomach.

“Salads make me feel bloated” (or gassy, cramp, etc.).

What gives?! they cry.

Banish Salad Bloat

The answer: Raw veggies, like raw spinach or other leafy greens, are harder for your body to break down then cooked veggies.

Think about it:

Raw broccoli or cauliflower vs. Steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Cooked carrots vs. steamed carrots. A raw potato vs. a roasted potato (duh). And raw spinach vs. sautéed spinach.

Why?

Vegetables, in general, contain quite a bit of insoluble fiber (fiber, or remains, that are not easily digested and often eventually end up in your stool).

While veggies are SUPER HEALTHY for you and your overall well-being, too much insoluble fiber (especially if you already have poor digestion) can be difficult on the digestive system.

Veggies higher in soluble fiber than others include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • The stems and peels of veggies and fruits (like broccoli stalks or apple skins)
  • And raw greens (spinach, kale, lettuce)

Cooking not only softens and warms your veggies (preventing your body from having to work so hard to break them down); but cooking also often comes with a dose of healthy fats when you sautee or heat them on the stove (like coconut oil, ghee or olive oil)—further aiding the digestive process and the fats help lubricate your digestive system and cellular flow.

In addition to easier digestion, cooking your vegetables also boosts their antioxidant content (i.e. more vitamins and minerals!).

Heating vegetables releases antioxidants by breaking down cell walls.

This is particularly true for green vegetables, such as spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard, which are high in calcium, magnesium and iron.

The raw versions of leafy greens contain high levels of a compound called oxalic acid, a substance that binds these minerals, ultimately reducing mineral absorption.

Cooking releases some of the calcium that’s bound to oxalic acid.

Three cups of raw spinach, for example, has 90 milligrams of calcium, while one cup of cooked spinach has nearly triple the amount (259 milligrams).

So knowing all this…

What is the “salad solution”?

When it comes to salad time…build a HEARTY salad (i.e. not just raw veggies, but protein, healthy fats and even cooked/steamed veggies tossed in there).

As I shared above, my salads are anything but just greens, raw cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and a little bit of dressing.

I am a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of girl, and they’ve got, well, some meat (and potatoes) to them!

If the thought of salads has you thinking cardboard and egg whites are also in the picture, it’s time for a lunchbox makeover!

And while you’re at it—consider giving your salad dressings a makeover TOO! Conventional salad dressings are typically chalked full of sugar, artificial sweeteners and additives.

So what’s a gal to do to dress up a salad?

Here are some of my favorite go-to (additive and sugar free) options:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Coconut vinegar
  • Avocado/Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Lemon Juice
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil & vinegar
  • Tessemae’s Whole 30-approved dressings (try the whole pack; I like the Organic Lemon Chesapeake Balsamic, and Southwest Ranch)
  • Steve’s Paleo Good’s dressings
  • Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard and/or Greek Dressing (order here)
  • Homemade salad dressings (no added sugar). Paleo Leap has an extensive list here.

Now for the MAIN EVENT: The “hearty” meal salad. Try one of these 11 salads below for some grub that goes far beyond: “Salad greens, no croutons, cheese or dressing please.”

While you’re at it—start incorporating more cooked greens and veggies into your diet throughout the day (Goal: at LEAST three vegetables per day would be a good place to start).

11 Salads to Spice Up Your Brown Bag Lunch

Kitchen Sink Salad

  • Spinach Greens
  • Japanese Sweet Potato (roasted and diced)
  • 1 TBSP Coconut Butter
  • Pulled Rotisserie Chicken (or other leftover protein)
  • Roasted Asparagus Spears
  • 2 TBSP Coconut Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Chicken Salad “Salad”

  • Power Greens
  • Pulled Chicken
  • 1 TBSP Primal Mayo (or other canola-oil free mayo)
  • 1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 Chopped Apple (I like Honey Crisp or Granny Smith) or diced grapes
  • ½ Cucumber, diced

Mix all chicken salad ingredients together and top power greens with it. I like to add a side of these Sunny Garden Herb (seed-based) crackers by Livin’ Spoonful.

 

Burger Up Salad

  • Greens of choice
  • Turkey Burger or Grass-fed Beef Burger Patties
  • Garnet Sweet Potato Rounds (roasted crispyand sprinkled with cinnamon)
  • Steamed Broccoli and/or Zucchini
  • ½ Avocado
  • 1-2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

Side note: Sweet Potato ‘Chips’

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 400-degrees. Wash and scrub sweet potato. Dice with knife or pierce with fork. Wrap in damp paper towel. Soften in microwave for 4-7 minutes (depending on how big the potato is). Slice easily into ‘chips’ (or fry style). Place on baking sheet with parchment paper or greased baking sheet with coconut oil. Sprinkle cinnamon (or other preferred seasonings: sea salt, pepper, paprika, etc.) on chips. Roast at 400-degrees for 30-45 minutes until desired crispiness.

 

Sunshine Salmon

  • Greens of choice
  • Canned Wild Sockeye Salmon (or pan-fried or baked fresh wild-caught salmon)
  • 1/3 – ½ Avocado
  • Roasted Zucchini, Broccoli, Asparagus-Medley
  • Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice/Juice from an Orange or Lemon

 

Taste the Rainbow

  • Power Greens
  • Butternut Squash, roasted and diced
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • 1-2 TBSP Dried Cranberries
  • Pulled Chicken
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

 

Garden Fresh Herb

  • Mixed Greens
  • Fresh goat cheese crumbles (if you do goat cheese) OR creamy sliced avocado
  • Fresh sliced fruit of choice (pick ONE: strawberries, peaches, orange slices, green apple or grapefruit)
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Herb chicken thighs
  • Olive oil & Balsamic vinegar drizzled on top

Side Note: Herb Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs baked at 375-degrees for 30-40 minutes, garnished with fresh herbs of choice—like rosemary—and brushed with extra virgin olive oil

Butternut Kale

  • Baby Kale
  • Butternut squash diced (I like to buy the pre-cut squash and bake at 350-degrees on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes)
  • Cranberries or unsweetened dried cranberries (handful)
  • Protein of choice (chicken, tuna, flank steak or salmon)
  • 2 TBSP. coconut vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice

 

Breakfast Salad

  • Baby Spinach
  • 2 eggs ‘over easy’
  • 2 Slices Bacon/Turkey Bacon (nitrate free) or turkey sausage links (I like Applegate Farms Chicken Apple Sausage links)
  • Diced sweet potatoes or butternut squash
  • ½ avocado 

Taco Salad

  • Mixed greens
  • Ground turkey or grass-fed beef “taco” meat
  • Roasted zucchini and yellow squash
  • Health fat of choice (1-2): Black olives, Avocado/Guacamole, Full-fat raw grassfed cheddar cheese
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Greek Salad

  • Romaine
  • Sliced chicken breast or grass-fed steak
  • Grass-fed raw feta or goat cheese
  • Black olives
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Balsamic vinegar

Chef Nicoise Salad

  • Baby spinach or greens of choice
  • Canned wild salmon or tuna (or tuna steak) or Sashimi
  • 1-2 Hardboiled eggs
  • 1-2 slices nitrate-free bacon
  • ½ avocado
  • Olive oil and vinegar drizzled on top
  • Baby tomatoes
  • Optional: Steamed asparagus spears and/or sliced cucumbers

Want more ideas for lunches, or easy-peasy breakfasts and dinners? Book a grocery tour or simple meal prep session and we’ll put some tools in your tool belt!

2 thoughts on “Boring Salads Be Gone: 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Lunch

Leave a Reply

Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Please leave your valid email address below.