4 ways to bring lunch to life
Do you ever find yourself reaching for a quick sugar fix in the afternoon or eating like a ravenous garbage disposal in the evening? Many of us do this because we are eating lifeless foods for lunch and perhaps even at breakfast. Research shows that lunch in the Western world is often the most neglected and poorly planned meal of the day.
Lifeless foods are so processed and lacking in nutrition that your body does not register them as “real food”; soon after you have eaten them, your survival instincts kick in and you start foraging for foods with substance. If you then choose more eye-candy food instead of the wholesome nutrition that meets the needs of your dynamic body, the cycle will continue. You will eat and continue to eat, creating problems with both your wardrobe and your wellbeing.
There is a direct relationship between what you eat and your quality of life and health. To strengthen the pillar of healthy eating, you need to have strong food parameters in the household. When you lose your focus on wholesome meals, the “Just this once” approach can morph into a “Does it really matter?” mentality and pretty soon there is a ripple effect of ill health. This may play out as poor concentration at work or school, irrational behavior, coughs and colds, or chronic illness.
Even when you understand this connection, you may be tired of the monotony of creating lunches, let alone contemplating how to make them healthy. You might feel that healthy food equates to boring food. Or you may have the best intentions but find yourself in constant food battles with your family. No parent wants to disguise vegetables for their children or partners, bribe them or force them to adopt healthy eating habits. There has to be an alternative—and there is.
Cooking is not rocket science (although baking may be!) and you can turn all of your food battles into eating adventures with a little inspiration. To get you started, we’d love to share with you a few healthy recipes, snack ideas and sweets that are ideal for weekdays or for a celebratory weekend lunch from our new book, Lunchbox Solutions.
The recipes include information about some ingredients you may not be familiar with, such as coconut oil and agave syrup. These can be easily found in health food shops and we highly recommend them as health-conscious substitutes for their commonly consumed counterparts, like margarine or white sugar.
Whether you have been eating nutritious foods for a century or the concept of ‘whole foods’ is completely foreign and new to you, with a step by step approach, quality ingredients and a little enthusiasm, you can create marvelous culinary combinations.
Sweet potato quinoa salad
Quinoa has a very good nutrient composition compared with common cereals and is an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and selenium; it also contains lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus and iron. It is gluten-free (it’s actually a seed), low in carbs and it is a great replacement for many other grains. It adds crunchy texture to dishes and it works beautifully with sweet potato in this dish.
Agave syrup or nectar is a delicious natural sweetener made from a succulent plant native to the desert regions of the Americas. The primary sugar in agave is fructose, which has a relatively low GI score of 42 (the glycaemic index, or GI, is a numerical system of measuring how much a given food raises your blood sugar). Agave syrup contains beneficial fibre and many trace nutrients—including calcium, iron, and vitamins B and C—and has no chemical additives or fillers.
Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat (that’s right—healthy. In fact, super healthy) that supports immune system function. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal agent and it is easily digested and absorbed. It is a safe oil to use for cooking because it has a high burning point and does not go rancid when heated.
As for the haloumi cheese (optional garnish), the thought of frying cheese might raise a few health-conscious eyebrows but this particular cheese is not entirely bad for us in comparison to most fried foods. Made from sheep and goat’s milk, haloumi is unsweetened and quite salty in taste and surprisingly, it is not very high in fat. It is an excellent source of protein, very rich in calcium and it makes an intriguing garnish for kids.
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes, or 15 minutes if using pre-cooked quinoa.
3 cups diced sweet potato (approx. 1cm cubes)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil (for roasting sweet potato)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups quinoa (uncooked) or 4 cups (cooked)
4 cups water
180 grams haloumi cheese (optional)
½ tbsp coconut oil (for frying haloumi)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Lebanese or Mediterranean cucumbers (small, dark green cucumbers), diced
1 cup diced green beans
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped shallots (optional)
½ cup lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup (or more if you would like it sweeter)
¼ tsp chilli flakes
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a medium baking pan or roasting dish, toss the sweet potato cubes in the melted coconut oil and sea salt. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and golden. Set aside to cool. (Tip: if you are pressed for time you can also place the cubes in boiling water and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until just tender, then drain and cool).
Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan and add the uncooked quinoa. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy (about 15-20 minutes).
If wishing to add Haloumi cheese cut the cheese thinly (approximately ½ cm or ¼ inch slices) and in a medium frying pan, heat ½ tbsp coconut oil. Place the haloumi in the pan and cook on medium heat for two minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool, then drizzle with lemon juice.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa (cooled), sweet potato cubes, cucumber and beans.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced shallots (if using), lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, agave syrup (or honey), chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Drizzle this dressing over the quinoa salad and toss through gently. Arrange haloumi slices on top and serve.
NOTE: If you don’t want to fry the haloumi, you can also place the cheese slices on a baking tray that has been rubbed with coconut oil and place in an oven heated to 180°C for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Water (enough to boil the pumpkin and sweet potato)
4 cups pumpkin pieces, peeled and cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 ¼ cups sweet potato pieces, peeled and cut into 2.5cm cubes
1½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk (or non-dairy milk, such as almond milk)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp ground cloves (optional)
3 tbsp agave syrup or honey
4 thyme sprigs or fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Fill a large saucepan with water and add the pieces of pumpkin and sweet potato. Cover and bring to the boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender, then drain and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Combine the pumpkin and sweet potato with the remaining ingredients (except the garnish) in a food processor and blend until smooth (you can also use a hand blender). You may need to process the soup mixture in two batches depending on the size of your machine. If needed, adjust the consistency by adding a little more milk or stock while blending.
In a saucepan over medium heat, gently reheat the soup and serve garnished with thyme or parsley.
Spiced banana, date and walnut muffins
Coconut sugar is a great tasting, low GI (35) sugar alternative (cane sugar has a GI of 68 and agave syrup has a GI of 42). It is produced from the tropical coconut palm and is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. In addition to this, it contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. Coconut sugar is unfiltered, unbleached and preservative free. The caramel flavour is delightful and it can be used in baking (use 1:1 as a replacement for brown sugar in any recipe) and as a healthy alternative to cane sugar in tea and coffee.
1 tbsp coconut oil (to grease pan)
¾ cup (180 ml) coconut milk, nut milk or milk of choice
½ cup (120 ml) honey or agave syrup
2 tbsp coconut sugar
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas
¼ cup coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all-spice (optional, as some children may find this flavour a little strong but adults love it)
1 cup finely chopped dates
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare a muffin tray by greasing it with the coconut oil. For extra decoration, you can line the muffin tray with cupcake papers.
In a food processor or blender, mix the eggs, milk, agave syrup (or honey), coconut sugar, salt and vanilla extract until well combined. (Tip: if mixing by hand, mix the eggs and milk together before adding the other ingredients.)
In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, then add to the mixture and beat until smooth.
In a large bowl, sift the coconut flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice (if using). Add the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the dates and walnuts.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared muffin tray, so that each mould is half-full.
Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack, cool for another 5 minutes and serve.
Nutty mango and passionfruit yoghurt parfait with toasted muesli
This yoghurt parfait is an exquisite, healthy snack. It’s easy to make and within minutes you will have a sweet treat that everyone will love!
You can use either homemade yoghurt or a biodynamic, additive-free brand. As for the toasted muesli, you can make up your own or use your favourite, high quality brand.
We have included bee pollen because it is an incredible superfood—a highly absorbable source of protein that is rich in amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients. It works well with these fresh ingredients (bee pollen cannot be cooked as it destroys its medicinal strength).
1-1½ cups plain biodynamic yoghurt
¼-½ cup agave syrup or honey, to taste
2 tsp bee pollen
1 cup toasted muesli
2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and cubed
Pulp of 4 ripe passionfruits
½ cup flaked almonds or macadamia nuts
A few chia seeds (to sprinkle on top)
In a medium bowl gently mix the yoghurt, agave syrup (or honey) and bee pollen until well combined. Check for sweetness and add a little more if needed.
Place a little of the yogurt mixture in the bottom of each serving container (for a great presentation, use glass tumblers). Add a small layer of toasted muesli, followed by a layer of mango, passionfruit pulp and nuts. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used, finishing with the passionfruit pulp, nuts and a sprinkle of chia seeds for decoration.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
Lunchbox Solutions is available as an eBook from www.welladjusted.me/lunchboxsolutions.
4 ways to bring lunch to life
Lunch is often a neglected or hurried meal but with a bit of thought you can reinvigorate your lunchtimes.