If there is one meal that I am asked about the most in my nutrition consultations it’s lunch. Everyone needs my quick healthy lunches for busy mums! This seems to be the meal that busy people struggle with the most. Whether you are a mum with other small mouths to feed at lunchtime, or you’re working from home, or working in an office, somehow lunch is a tricky time of day. Unless you’re being taken to The Savoy in which case it’s a marvellous affair, but sadly those days are long gone. *Sigh*
Anyway. By lunchtime you are generally pretty hungry and you want something to not only fill you up, but to keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. It has to be quick and easy to prepare and, if you’re like me (which I hope you are since you’re reading my blog) it has to be packed full of nutrients!
And yet the importance of this meal is often completely underestimated. If you get lunch wrong, you’ll be on the coffees and cakes by 3pm. A very large majority of the people that I speak to get the classic mid-afternoon slump. In order to avoid this, get yourself a decent lunch!
So I have gathered together my top 5 quick healthy lunches for busy mums (and people!). Gone will be the days of defaulting to a ham sandwich or a shop-bought soup. You just need a few key ingredients and 10 to 20 minutes of your precious time in order to prepare yourself a wholesome, filling lunch to keep you full for the afternoon.
You just need to follow a fairly simple template to ensure your lunch is balanced and delicious. I love this plate which shows you roughly which elements to include:
5 quick healthy lunches for busy people
1) Quinoa, Avocado, Salmon/Mackerel Salad
This is probably my go-to salad when I’m in a real hurry as it really only takes minutes to prepare. Just throw together some cooked quinoa (either leftover from a batch cook or from a pouch eg. Merchant Gourmet), half an avocado, smoked mackerel or cooked salmon and any other salad vegetables such as watercress, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil and balsamic vinegar and it’s ready to go.
For other great salad ideas, have a read of my Spectacular Salads post.
2) Black Bean and Sweetcorn Soup Two Ways
This was one of those soups that came together quite randomly from a very limited selection of ingredients! Black beans and sweetcorn go really well together and can be turned into a Mexican delight with the addition of some avocado and lime juice or given an Asian twist with soy sauce/tamari and spring onions. Black beans are a great source of protein, fibre and iron. If buying tinned, try and go for organic or rinse them very well first. Some supermarkets sell cartons rather than tins.
For the Asian twist:
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 red chilli, sliced (or more if you like it hot!)
1 chunk ginger, finely chopped
1 small leek, finely sliced
1 can or carton black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can sweetcorn, drained and rinsed
750mls veg stock eg. Marigold bouillon
2 tbsp tamari
Juice of 1 lime
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and leek for 5 minutes until soft. Add the black beans, sweetcorn, stock, tamari and lime juice and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with cucumber sticks and chilli slices.
For the Mexican version:
Omit the ginger and the tamari. Add two chopped vine tomatoes to the soup. When it’s cooked, blend it with a stick blender, but it keep it slightly chunky. Add 1/2 diced avocado and some crushed tortilla chips if you have them.
3) Feta and Avocado Salad bowl
Again, such a simple salad to put together but it’s the little touches that give it an extra punchy flavour. I dry-toasted some pumpkin seeds which takes all of 30 seconds and added some sliced sun-dried tomatoes to this salad. Use your trusty quinoa again as a base and then just layer up the rest of the ingredients. I use avocado most days for its great protein and healthy fat content; cherry vine tomatoes are little bursts sweetness; sliced sugar snap peas add crunch and then crumble the Greek feta cheese. A simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing is perfect for this salad.
This has to be my favourite type of lunch because the only prep work that is required is getting a saucepan out of the cupboard. If I’m making a one pot dinner I will always try and save some for lunch the next day (unless hubby has seconds, like he did with my prawn and aubergine curry last night!) as it makes life so much easier. If you tried out any of these recipes, they make perfect heated-up lunches:
5) Any Way Eggs
A few months ago, I did a food intolerance and discovered I was intolerant to eggs. I was absolutely gutted because I probably ate eggs at least three times a week for lunch. They are the perfect food, packed full of protein and so versatile. I’d hard boil them and add them to salads, have them poached with some sliced avocado and smoked salmon or go for a simple scramble with a few veggies chucked in.
But if I had a little more time to play with, it was a frittata all way. I can’t believe how much I miss my frittatas! You need a really good ovenproof non-stick or well-seasoned omelette pan for this. Fry up any selection of vegetables from onions, garlic, leeks and greens to leftover roast potatoes, sweet potatoes or butternut squash, add some ham, pancetta, chorizo if you fancy then 3-4 beaten eggs. Let the bottom cook on a medium heat for a few minutes (careful not to burn), add crumbled feta or goat’s cheese and put the pan straight into the oven for 10-15 mins. Delicious hot or cold with a little side salad and plenty for tomorrow’s lunch too.
So there you have some of my favourite quick healthy lunches for busy mums that really don’t take too long to prepare. Would love to hear how you get on.