Lunch Ideas: Thinking Outside the Box 2 comments

Lunch Ideas: Thinking Outside the Box


A few weeks ago, I polled our facebook page to see what CC followers would most like to learn from the blog. The first response from Susan was…

“Lunch seems to be the hardest for me. I would like a variety of ideas. We often do sandwiches but would like variety. For dinner I’ve been trying to find some casseroles and one pot meals. Thanks!”

Susan, I hear you. Having sandwiches all the time, while not exactly bad, can leave a lot to be desired as far as lunches go. My first piece of advice, let go that notion that sandwiches or wraps are the only “lunch food.” There are so many options out there, you’re not restricted to any food category for your lunch meals. Anything you’d want for dinner, eat it for lunch, too!

Below, I’m sharing two tips that will set you up for success in your lunch planning, and THEN I’m sharing some of my go-to lunch ideas.  I’m also sharing a recipe that’s one of my new favorites.  Our Cooking for Optimal Health class last night agreed — it’s one of their favorite meals too!


Columbia’s Cooking Pro-Tips for Having Healthy Lunches


Pro-tip 1: If you know you’ll be taking your lunch for the week, PLAN AHEAD.

As Trish says “if it’s not planned, it’s not happenin”.  Don’t find yourself at home with nothing to take for lunch. When you do your grocery shopping, pick up a few items that you’d like for lunch during the week: bread for sandwiches, whole grain pasta, brown rice or boxed soup, then a few vegetables and toppings to go along with it. Always have these staples on hand, so even if you don’t have anything prepared ahead of time, you can make something from what you have.

I find that, for most people, we have more time to cook for dinner since it’s after work, we have time to get groceries and prepare a meal. Whereas at lunch, I have 5 minutes in the morning to assemble… something.

Knowing this (that I have more time in the evenings to prepare my meals), I can cook for dinner AND lunch at the same time.

Pro-tip 2: Cook for leftovers!

When you’re taking all of this time and effort to make dinner, make extra so you can have delicious food to take to work for lunch! You’ll spend less time in the kitchen in the long-run.  BONUS — after dinner, divide your leftovers into to-go containers so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Just grab your packed lunch out of the fridge and you’re off! I actually find this easier than assembling sandwiches or anything else in the morning, anyways.


So now that you have two of our pro-tips, here are a few of CC’s go-to’s for healthy and delicious lunches…


Columbia’s Cooking Lunch Ideas

  • “Anything Bowls”
    1. Burrito bowl: brown rice, black beans, salsa, spinach and avocado
    2. Quinoa bowl: quinoa topped with roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, red peppers, broccoli) seasoned with your favorite spices or vinegars
    3. Asian bowl: basmati rice (or brown rice) topped with stir-fried snow peas, carrots, broccoli, cabbage flavored with soy sauce and a drizzle of honey
    4. Buddha bowls: Recipe below!
  • Sandwiches
    1. PB and J on whole wheat bread
    2. Hummus + veggies in a whole wheat pita
    3. Veggie burger on a whole grain bun
  • *Filling* Salads
    1. Dark leafy greens topped with your favorite veggies and beans
    2. “Taco Salad” with black beans, corn, salsa and avocado over Trader Joe’s cruciferous crunch blend (my favorite!)
    3. Spring mix topped with fresh fruit (berries, apples, pears), pecans and balsamic or raspberry vinegar
    4. Pasta salad
    5. Potato Salad
  • Pre-packaged or pre-made meals
    1. Boxed soups — Dr. McDougal brand, Pacific or Engine 2 all have vegan options with pita or baked potato
    2. Pre-made veggie burgers with potato fries
    3. Brown rice and veggie bowls (in the frozen foods section– just be sure to read the labels!)
  • Leftovers from dinner!


And lastly, one of my new favorite recipes is the Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato and Chickpea Buddha Bowl. I’ve made this recipe multiple times, and every time I love it more than the last. I made it for our Cooking for Optimal Health class last night and it was a HUGE hit! Find the recipe here.


Now, we have two Columbia’s Cooking Questions for you and your feedback is very important to us


Columbia’s Cooking Question


  1. What meal idea would you add to this list? OR try an item from our list and let us know how it goes!
  2. If Columbia’s Cooking offers a 2-3 day intensive class covering our 12-week curriculum in 3 days, would you rather come over the weekend or on weekdays? This will help us offer courses better suited to your needs.

Share your answers by commenting below.
Thank you!  Be sure to check in next week when I share more Pro-tips and dinner ideas + our FAVORITE dinner recipes.


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2 thoughts on “Lunch Ideas: Thinking Outside the Box

  • Barbara

    One more brunch idea: New Hope Mills makes a compliant whole wheat pancake mix that contains no added sugar. Made delicious blueberry pancakes today using plant milk, unsweetenened applesauce instead of egg and some flax added to the mix. Did use a bit of coconut oil on the non-stick griddle because the first batch stuck like crazy.