It’s lunch hour at the office and your stomach is growling. You’re debating between fast food, vending machine food, or the slightly stale sandwich you brought from home yesterday and left overnight in the refrigerator -none of which is appealing. Where do you turn for a healthy and nourishing lunch without resorting to any of the above options? To the office microwave oven.
Here’s What You Need
Combinations of the following ingredients will make five low-fat, high-fiber, nutrient-dense lunches that you can mix up at home the night before, take to work in the morning, and have ready at the office in just minutes. Note that many of the cooked items, like spaghetti, rice and sweet potato can be planned leftovers from dinner the night before.
1 to 2 cups cooked spaghetti
1 cup cooked wild rice
3 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 cooked sweet potato
1 dozen mushrooms
1 bunch of broccoli, cut up
1 dozen cherry tomatoes
Canned Italian spiced tomatoes
Canned pinto beans
Frozen green peas
Frozen leaf spinach
Lunch #1 - Curried Rice and Peas
Place 1 cup of cooked Basmati rice into microwave container. Add 1 to 2 cups of frozen peas. Sprinkle with curry powder. Refrigerate overnight. At work, stir, then microwave for 5 minutes. Serve with a tossed salad.
Lunch #2 - Wild Rice and Sweet Potatoes
Mix 1 cup of cooked Basmati rice and 1 cup of wild rice with a cubed sweet potato. Add a tablespoon of fresh parsley, if desired. Place in microwave container. Refrigerate overnight. At work, stir, then microwave for 3 minutes. Serve with a tossed salad.
Lunch #3 - Spinach Spaghetti
Mix 1 cup of cooked spaghetti and a cup of frozen leaf spinach. Add pasta sauce, chopped parsley and chives. Refrigerate overnight. At work, microwave for 5 minutes. Mix and microwave for another minute if spinach is not completely cooked. This dish is great with fresh fruit.
Lunch #4 - Tomato Broccoli Pocket
Place cut-up broccoli in a microwave container. Add 12 quartered cherry tomatoes on top. Top with parsley and chives. Do not mix. Refrigerate overnight. At work, mix, then microwave for 6 to 8 minutes. Serve in a whole grain pita pocket.
Lunch #5 - Rice and Beans
Combine 1 cup cooked Basmati rice, 1/2 can spiced Italian tomatoes, 1/2 can pinto beans, 12 sliced mushrooms, and parsley in microwave container. Refrigerate overnight. At work, microwave for 3 minutes. Serve with raw veggies or a tossed salad. You can also use brown rice in place of the Basmati rice.
Food Safety Tips:
• Make sure you transport your microwave lunch in an insulated container with an ice pack; refrigerate immediately when you arrive at work.
• Do not make all ingredients up at the beginning of the week. Some of them will not last more than 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator. It is best if you make them a day or two ahead of time; many times this can be done while you are making dinner.
• Microwave food in containers made for this purpose.
For More Ideas:
Recipes here are adapted from the The LowFat Vegetarian Archive website at www.fatfree.com/recipes/lunch-pack. Visit their website for more microwave lunch recipes and ideas. Try combining brown rice, spaghetti and other grains with your favorite veggies and lowfat sauces. Add fresh herbs and seasonings to taste.
By Beth Fontenot, MS, RD.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.