Healthy lunches are always tricky at this time of year. It’s easy to ditch the salads and reach for starchy comfort foods, which can often leave you feeling lethargic. Plant-based foods can fuel your body and boost your mood during the cold winter months and lunch bowls are an easy way to get all the right nutrients, as well as being extremely versatile and cheap to make.
I’ve devised a basic formula below which you can select from to create different flavour and food combinations depending on what you’re craving…
- Grains: These will form the base of your bowl. Choose from brown rice, quinoa, soba noodles, millet, couscous or other grains. Wholegrains have loads of dietary fibre and if you choose brown rice or quinoa you’ll also get an extra hit of protein too.
- Protein: Beans or pulses such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans or edamame are an excellent way to add protein to your bowl. You may want to pan-fry them in spices for extra flavour. You could also add marinated soya-based products such as tofu or tempeh.
- Greens: Dark leafy greens form an important part of a well-balanced diet. Kale and spinach are obvious favourites, with a whole host of essential nutrients. I like to steam them, pan-fry them, or crisp my kale up in the oven with some olive oil. Broccoli is also a great addition for extra iron and vitamin C.
- Veggies: It doesn’t just stop at Greens! Other fantastic veggie additions include sweet potato, squash, beetroot, avocado, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and sauerkraut… Be mindful about what’s in season to maximise the nutritional value of your veg.
- Extras: Finish off your bowl with a good dressing such as hummus, tahini, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, tamari or a hot sauce or salsa! You can also sprinkle your bowl with fresh herbs, or add seeds or nuts, which add extra protein, healthy fat and a good crunch.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s an easy recipe for one of my favourite combinations:
Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Spicy Chickpea Lunch Bowl
Makes: 4 servings
Total cooking time: 45 minutes
- 180g brown rice
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 large broccoli head, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 200g kale leaves, stems removed
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
- Toppings: a handful of cashew nuts & sesame seeds (you can lightly toast these if you want)
For the lemon tahini dressing:
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and set a saucepan of water to boil.
- Once your oven is hot enough put your sweet potato on to roast in 1 tbsp olive oil for 30 mins. Add the rice to your pan of boiling water – it should take around 25-30 minutes to cook through.
- To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a small dish and set aside.
- After around 15 minutes of roasting add the broccoli to the roasting tin and coat with some of the olive oil from the sweet potato, adding a bit more if necessary.
- Meanwhile, make the spiced chickpeas. Heat a splash of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the chickpeas and garlic. Cook on a med-high heat for around 3-5 minutes, before adding the tamari, followed by the paprika and cumin, coating evenly and cooking for a further 3-5 mins.
- Around 5 minutes before the sweet potato and broccoli are done, add the kale to the roasting tin and allow to wilt and crisp for a few minutes.
- Once all of your elements are reading you can assemble your bowl! Brown rice, spicy chickpeas, sweet potato, broccoli and kale, topped with your tahini dressing and sprinkled with cashew nuts and sesame seeds.
Looking for other ideas for easy lunches? Check out my recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Coconut Soup.