When every minute counts in a busy week, keeping your kitchen well-stocked is key to whipping up delicious lunches in record time. With these staples, you'll be able to create meals that are full of flavor, deliver big nutritional benefits and come together in a snap!
From the Freezer Aisle
1. Whole-grain packs: Though simmering a batch of whole grains over your lunch break might not be feasible, par-cooked packs from the freezer aisle make it quick and easy to enjoy these wholesome grains in a matter of minutes. Try quinoa for extra protein, barley for a boost of B vitamins or wild rice for essential amino acids and health-protective antioxidants. Watching your carbs? Cauliflower rice offers a nutritious and low-calorie alternative with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C.
2. Pre-cooked chicken: Pressed for time? Keeping a stash of pre-cooked chicken in the freezer will ensure you get the protein you need even on a tight schedule. Whether you bake and freeze your own or pick up a store-bought option, chicken is super versatile and can be easily added to almost any entrée you can dream up.
3. Wild blueberries: A rich source of anthocyanins, wild blueberries are a super food worth enjoying year-round. Wonderful in oatmeal, mixed into yogurt or thrown into smoothies, stash some in the freezer for a sweet treat with big benefits.
4. Veggie packs: Picked at their peak and flash frozen to preserve quality, frozen veggies are a colorful and convenient way to get in your five-a-day. Vegetables offer up a host of health-protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber while being low in calories. Enjoy them plain, added to soup or mixed into a stir-fry.
Stocking Your Fridge
1. Hard-boiled eggs: Eggs prove that big nutrition can come in a little package! Aside from being an excellent source of complete protein, eggs also serve up a wide variety of vitamins and minerals as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. In addition to eating as a quick snack, you can also throw together a delicious salad that packs a nutritional wallop by slicing and serving with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, grated Parmesan and a drizzle of honey mustard.
2. Plain Greek yogurt: High in protein and rich with immunity-enhancing probiotics, plain Greek yogurt is wonderfully creamy and easy to use in a variety of recipes. Layer Greek yogurt with fresh berries and sliced almonds for a filling parfait, put atop a taco salad in place of sour cream or mix it in with a bit of pesto for an easy pasta dish. If you plan to use Greek yogurt in hot or acidic dishes, be sure to grab the full-fat stuff so it won't curdle on you.
3. Feta crumbles: Feta's creamy texture and tangy flavor lends itself to any number of exciting lunch ideas—and has over 30 percent fewer calories than most cheeses! Tuck it into a Greek gyro, sprinkle it over a Mediterranean-inspired salad or toss it into your favorite pasta.
4. Spinach and/or mixed baby greens: An excellent source of carotenoids, vitamins C and K, folic acid, calcium and iron, leafy greens are a nutritious heavy hitter like none other. Aside from being perfect for salads, you can also sneak these tender greens into your favorite soups, pasta dishes and smoothies to make the most out of every bite!
5. Washed and ready to eat veggies: Let's be real, when you've only got a few minutes to throw lunch together, no one's got time to do much in the way of veggie prep. To keep this essential food group from falling by the wayside, keep a colorful stash of washed and ready to eat veggies on stand-by in the fridge, such as baby carrots, sugar snap peas, celery sticks or baby bell peppers.
6. Apples: Sweet and crunchy apples deliver a wide variety of nutrients, making them a perfect pick anytime. Plus, apples are a rich source of phytochemicals and polyphenols, antioxidants that may work to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while potentially reducing risk for stroke, cancer and diabetes.
1. Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans, this quick and easy source of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber are a must-have in your pantry. Simply drain and toss with flaked tuna to make the classic Italian chickpea and tuna salad, or smash together with a few other kitchen staples to make a creamy hummus for dipping and wraps.
2. Water-packed tuna fish: Speaking of tuna, be sure to keep a few cans on hand for quick, no-cook lunches! A cold-water fish that's high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, tuna is a quick and nutritious option when time is short. Since mercury contamination is a concern in certain varieties of tuna, be sure to choose light or skipjack tuna most of the time.
3. Whole-grain bread or wraps: Whether you're grabbing a loaf of whole-wheat bread or a stack of pitas, whole grains offer a wider range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants plus an important source of fiber. Look for 100 percent whole-grain options ("whole-grain" will be listed as the first ingredient) and get creative with your fillings!
4. Barilla Protein+ pasta: Made from durum wheat, lentils, chickpeas, spelt and barley, Barilla Protein+ pastas are higher in fiber, protein, iron, B vitamins and folate when compared with your typical box of pasta. Perfect for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, Barilla Protein+ pastas are a simple way to boost the nutritional quality of your next pasta dish.
5. Canned crushed tomatoes: Though it's hard to beat a ripe tomato, canned crushed tomatoes are a great alternative when they're no longer in season or you tend to see them go rotten on the counter. An excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin K and lycopene, crushed tomatoes have a whole lot to offer when it comes to health and wellness. Crack open a can to whip up a quick batch of marinara, your favorite chili or a cozy homemade tomato soup.