Lunch Ideas

By June Martin R.D.

Photo by Sweet Life on Unsplash

Getting inspired for lunch ideas can feel impossible and it’s easy to fall into a rut. You can love PB&J and still get tired of it!  Leftovers are always a great option but that’s not always possible. Whether you’re packing a lunch or eating at home, planning ahead saves time and money. The key to great lunches is having a basic framework and then mixing it up each week. The best lunches include at least 3 food groups and lots of basic pantry ingredients.  Salads and sandwiches are versatile and easy options that are packable and easy to eat cold if you don’t have the ability to heat up a meal. Get creative! if you don’t like traditional sandwiches on bread consider tortillas, pitas, rolls, and even crackers.

Salads don’t need to just be green! Lettuce is fine but a great lunch needs more. Stock your pantry with the basics – canned tuna, salmon, chickpeas and lentils are easy, healthy and quick lunch options. Choose unsalted varieties or rinse well. They can be used as sandwich fillings or added to salads. Pasta is a classic salad base – mix it up with different shapes and sizes of noodles. Not a fan of pasta salad? Try using barley, couscous or rice as a salad base. Lentils and legumes are hearty enough to be a salad base on their own. When planning meals for the week, consider cooking extra meat, chicken, or hard-boiling some eggs for even more lunch options. Boil extra pasta noodles or rice for making salads or rice bowls.

Pull it all together with a basic dressing drizzled on your salad, bowl or mixed with your sandwich filling. Any salad dressing will do in a pinch. But check out the Kidney Community Kitchen for ideas for homemade dressings. No time?  Try a drizzle of olive oil, squirt of lemon or lime juice (or balsamic vinegar) and some fresh or dried herbs.  Full disclosure – while I often plan on making a beautiful fresh dressing for my salads I often end up with olive oil, lemon juice and pepper.

Here’s a basic lunch builder to help create some ideas:

LentilsPastaChopped cucumbers
Black BeansCouscousOnions
TunaBarleyGreen onions
ChickenPitasThinly sliced carrits
EggsTortillasChopped apples
Leftover sliced meatsCrackers, unsaltedSliced grapes, chopped celery, lettuce, spinach, cabbage

Cooked rotini pasta, can of mixed beans (rinsed well), sliced carrots and chopped red pepper (make a dressing with vinegar, oil and a crushed clove of garlic).

Rice bowl: rice, black beans, chicken, frozen corn, chopped jalapeno peppers or red peppers. Top with a tbsp of shredded cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, shake on some chili powder and a healthy squirt of lime juice.

Lentil salad: canned lentils, halved cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, green onions, arugula. Add chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Eat as is or stuff in a pita.

Tuna pasta salad – any small pasta, canned tuna (rinsed and drained well), fresh or dried dill, chopped celery and onions. Whisk together 1tbsp mayo and 1 tbsp lemon juice and toss together.  Leave out the pasta and this is a great sandwich filling.

Try adding leftover cooked chicken to this great pasta salad: