I want to eat the same lunch every day.
September 13, 2017 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I eat the same thing for breakfast every day and it really helps me keep my diet on track. Lunch is a separate beast. I also have obnoxious dietary restrictions including no dairy, eggs, or gluten. What should I eat every single day?

I want to be able to make a big batch of something on Sunday and get five weekday portions out of it (I'm happy to toss a few in the freezer if necessary).

Dietary restrictions:
- No cow dairy (though a little bit of goat cheese/milk is usually fine)
- No eggs
- No gluten
- High protein and low-ish carb

- Has to be portable enough to pack in a lunch bag with an ice pack
- I don't have access to a microwave or other heating contraption so has to be palatable chilled or room temp
- No big salads (I find that my prepped veggies get sad and wilty by the end of the week, and salads don't fill me up as well as I want them to) *unless you have the best and most resilient salad recipe on planet earth! Please do share that recipe.

I have applied all these principles to breakfast, and every morning at work I eat a concoction made with chia seeds, oats and coconut milk and topped with walnuts and frozen, sliced strawberries.

Ideally, I would love to have one singular go-to lunch, but for the sake of variety, if I ended up with, say, four total recipes and I made a different one every week, that would also work.

Friends, your help and guidance is much appreciated! Thank you in advance!
posted by rodneyaug to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Bean or whole-grain based salad, with lettuce packed separately. Take them in two containers, combine on a plate at work. Done.

As for the recipe - try a can of the beans of your choice, a chopped onion and a couple chopped celery stalks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Beans. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian has a ton of great recipes. Dirt cheap, easy to make, reheats well, high-protein. Pair it with a basic salad or a cup of vegetables in the preparation of your choice.
posted by perplexion at 10:48 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chicken salad. Won't keep forever but 5 days in a nice cold fridge is fine. Buy a package of roasted chicken meat at Trader Joe's or wherever. Shred it up. Add lots of chopped vegetables (peppers, celery, pickles.) Plenty of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, lemon juice. Easy, tasty, filling, high protein, low carb, gluten free, nondairy, no heating. Done and done.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:48 AM on September 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

This may sound boring but for health, portability and ease I like raw veggies (broccoli, carrots, peppers) and a couple of turkey meatballs (alternative could be hard boiled eggs), with some kind of dip, usually either hummus or Greek yogurt based spinach dip. And one piece of easily portable fruit, apple, orange, kiwi etc.
posted by Wanderwhale at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

How about something with lentil/bean based pastas?
posted by miratime at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2017

Massaged kale salad is remarkably resilient. There are a lot of variations that let you base it around other ingredients you like, google up a bunch. But the kale with oil and acid keeps fresh really well. Might be worth a shot if you want to do something salady.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:54 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I do beans with a bit of tofu, onion, jalapeño, and olive oil. I put it into 5 mason jars, put them in the fridge and I'm done. Same amount of calories each time as well. Easiest ever.
posted by Vaike at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I usually have oat cakes sandwiched together with almond butter and a piece of fruit.
posted by hazyjane at 10:59 AM on September 13, 2017

a heavily marinated (but not saucy) chicken is often tastier cold than hot. you could eat it with salads at the start of the week and with quinoa and some dried fruit/beans later in the week.
posted by noloveforned at 11:00 AM on September 13, 2017

(example of a thai marinade that is probably tasty, let it go at least four hours)
posted by noloveforned at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2017

I do beans with a bit of tofu, onion, jalapeño, and olive oil. I put it into 5 mason jars, put them in the fridge and I'm done. Same amount of calories each time as well. Easiest ever.

This sounds awesome; I would make it black beans and also add some salsa, guacamole and cilantro.
posted by kitcat at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

BLT sandwich?
posted by Beholder at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2017

you need to (as several folks have suggested already) upgrade your idea of what goes into a salad. Slaws are your friend here - things like cabbage, kale, shaved Brussels sprouts (trader joes sells bags of prepped mix including these three together) will do fine- id put whatever dressing you were using in the bottom of the container, add the greens on top and shake it the morning you are taking it to work. celery, cucumbers, peppers, are all also fine, and cherry tomatoes would do just fine as well. delicate greens are a no but that doesn't mean a salad of say broccolini, sun dried tomatoes, and olives, wouldn't do just fine all week.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2017

oh, and if you are averse to egg-free mayo based dressings for your slaw maybe look at either vinaigrette type dressings or the wonderful world of tahini based dressings (or, again, if I am lazy as I usually am, TJs goddess dressing)
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:06 AM on September 13, 2017

Humus and veggie sticks with cup of soup.
Fruit roll up for desert or dairy free pudding cup.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:12 AM on September 13, 2017

You make this simple peanut dipping sauce that keeps forever, and bring a variety of blanched vegetables (carrots, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, etc), firm tofu, hard boiled eggs, slices of chicken breast or whatever other protein you like, to dip in it.
Everything can be made ahead and will keep well, and the sauce is crazy delicious.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, what I had today for lunch fits your requirements:

- white beans
- quinoa/rice mixture
- corn
- peas
- salsa
- fresh spinach
- hot sauce
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2017

Burrito bowl "casserole" - just make a week's worth at once, light on rice (or replace with quinoa), black beans, curtido or just plain cabbage (holds up better than lettuce) or broccoli slaw either right in it or on the side, tomatoes if you want or just tuck a few cherry tomatoes on the side for nibbling. Go deluxe if you want and bulk it out with some jicama. Either get some of those guacamole minis or make your own (freeze in scoops on parchment paper, then store frozen scoops in a bag). It'll be a little bit burrito bowl, a little bit taco salad, and now I also want to make a week's worth of this.

For meat, if you've got an instant pot or crock pot, you can bulk-make enchilada chicken or carnitas or barbacoa or whatever you crave, and that might be the one thing you vary week by week.

I would personally make a dressing of salsa and vegan sour cream, but the world is your oyster there. Skip the guac and make avocado ranch (or one of the million other avocado-based vegan creamy dressing recipes), just use straight salsa, whatever makes it easy.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:29 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the past few months I've had the same thing for lunch every day. We put a couple chicken breasts in the slow cooker on a Sunday with a different sauce - BBQ, Indian, a jar of salsa, a jerk marinade, whatever. When it's done we shred it with a couple forks and portion it out into containers, along with some steamed frozen vegetables.

I keep it at my desk until lunch time and eat it cold. It's cheap, healthy, easy, and delicious, and changing up the sauce means we never get sick of eating the same thing.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 11:32 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hiyayakko! A big slab of cold tofu dressed with green onions, bonito flakes, soy sauce, and maybe some grated ginger if you like. I'm a big fan.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:55 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think chicken breast sauteed in olive oil with garlic, with a can of italian-flavored tomatoes and rosemary added later in the cooking process, tastes great cold, esp. if cut into bite sized pieces. With pilaf made from the acceptable grains? And some greens.
posted by puddledork at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2017

I just wanted to point out that you don't have to eat cold food if you don't want to. I have a food flask that I use if I'm having soup for lunch. As long as I properly preheat it by pouring in boiling water, leaving 10 minutes and then pouring it out and adding hot soup, it keeps my food very hot right through to mid-afternoon.
posted by hazyjane at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm the same when it comes to lunch time salads - they just aren't satisfying enough, especially if they're wilty. I found this recipe a few months ago and it has been the best thing to prep ahead of time. It's called a salad but it's not lettuce and a vinaigrette.

I present to you: the moroccan chickpea quinoa power salad.

It's easy enough to throw together on the weekend, and even if you mix the dressing in at the start of the week, it doesn't go mushy or weird by the end of the week. The recipe says it yields 6-8 servings but I would guess that's probably as a side (I also don't put in the parsley, so maybe that bulks it up?). When I make it, I usually get 4 meal-sized lunches out of it. It's filling and delicious and I love that you can make all of it ahead of time and you don't have to fuss over adding things in the morning or remembering to bring something alongside it. I made it for a friend and she came up with all sorts of things she would love to try adding to it so she could make it every week but tweak it a little for variety, so you could do that too every now and then.

I know quinoa is a bit iffy for those with celiac, just due to not knowing where it was grown, but I hope quinoa is okay for you!
posted by gursky at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Chicken salad is a great idea. I regularly make the chicken salad in this Hungry Girl BLT Salad Sandwich recipe. Just eat it with a fork, or on a gluten-free wrap. I usually double the bacon
posted by radioamy at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2017

The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous)The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous) by Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats seems to be an answer to your question, if you use soba- or rice noodles.
(There are gluten free soba noodles out there)
posted by mumimor at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2017

Thank you all! You're all making me very hungry. Beany veggie salady things seem like a real winner here in terms of make-ahead potential, versatility, and satisfaction.

I'd love to hear more recipes/ideas if you've got them!
posted by rodneyaug at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2017

Tuna and white bean salad is wonderfully delicious and improves with a day or two of marination. Use cannellini or great northern for the beans if possible, they stay firm where navy beans and butterbeans are too creamy/mushy.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love the Alice Waters lentil salad, and it definitely keeps for a week. It's best at room temperature. Here's the recipe. There are a couple variations listed, so you could do one option one week and a different one the next if you want. I tend to prefer a little more vinegar in it than the recipe calls for. You can use Trader Joe's precooked lentils from the refridgerated case if you're extra lazy like I am.

Lentils (and beans) are high protein compared to grains, but not compared to meat. If you want higher protein, I'd add some chicken or tofu on top. If you want more greens and/or more bulk, buy prewashed bagged spinach and do spinach + lentil salad + meat/tofu as your standard meal.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:15 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite lunch salad. Add chicken if you want. Be sure to salt and drain the apples and cucumbers. If you salt and drain, the salad will last a week. http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2014/2/17/power-green-salad.html
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2017

My "recipe" for burrito bowls (basically, black beans and rice + chicken and toppings), which I love for pre-cooked lunches:

Start some rice if you want rice (brown works fine, or quinoa, or any grain if grains are fine - you could also do cauliflower rice if you can stand it!). Cook a bunch of chicken breasts or thighs in your favorite salsa - you can do this in the oven (30-ish minutes at 350, check for done-ness), a pressure cooker, on the stove, or in a slow cooker.

While the rice and chicken are cooking, sautee some diced onions on medium - when they're translucent, add seasoning (salt/pepper/garlic is fine, I also like goya sazon and chili powder or taco seasoning), and then some black beans. If you've got bell or hot peppers, you can dice em up and throw em in as well.

You can easily assemble this into containers for lunches, with the above hot ingredients in one, and a separate one for cold ingredients. Good cold ingredients include cilantro, pico de gallo, pickled veggies, shredded cabbage, guacamole/sliced avocado, or some sort of slaw.
posted by lunasol at 9:39 PM on September 13, 2017

Hey! Tons of delicious recommendations here - but for me, the best thing to eat every day is a bottle of Soylent 2.0. 400 Calories, delicious flavors, dairy and gluten free, shelf stable, and takes 0 effort.
posted by bbqturtle at 10:34 AM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

This mini crockpot is one of my husband's favorite things ever. It allows him to take leftovers to work for lunch. No odors from it either, like you can get from using a microwave to re-heat food.
posted by jvilter at 11:09 AM on September 14, 2017

I had the same problem. My solve is to go back to my roots: peanut butter and jelly. It's filling although it doesn't solve to your low carb. Is there a non carb bread option?
posted by TravellingCari at 6:29 AM on September 19, 2017

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