We’ve all had days when lunch has taken the form of a granola bar or a not-so-healthy grab-and-go option. After all, between the morning rush to get out the door on time and the unpredictability of a busy schedule, sometimes it can seem almost impossible to pull off a balanced meal mid-day. However, according to Sarah Nycum of the Charlottesville, Virginia-based family meal delivery service Nycum Company, with a little advanced planning and the right pantry items, dining at your desk doesn’t need to be a sad affair. Here, Sarah shares five ingredients that will transform your daily lunch routine, plus easy and innovative ways to incorporate them into meals you’ll love:
Ingredient 1: Salmon. “Salmon is a healthy and practical way to take lunch to the next level,” Sarah says. Prepare your salmon the evening before by drizzling fillets with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baking them at 425 degrees until done (the timing will depend on the thickness; when the fillets flake easily with a fork, they’re ready). The next day, incorporate the fish into a salad with greens and fruit—Sarah likes this recipe for a Strawberry Salmon Salad—or enjoy it with leftover roasted vegetables.
Ingredient 2: Lentils. Sarah recommends always keeping this adaptable super food in your pantry. “Jam-packed with protein, lentils can be added to salads, pita pockets, dips for veggies, or can be a meal in itself with just a few simple ingredients,” she says. Whip up a batch at the beginning of the week and use it as filler or a base for whatever you have in your fridge. Sarah’s current favorite preparation is this recipe for Lentil and Goat Cheese-Stuffed Zucchini.
Ingredient 3: Shrimp. “High in protein, low in calories, and quick to prepare, this is our definition of lunch,” Sarah says. The seafood takes very little time to prep and cook, making it a perfect pick for busy weeknights and day-after lunches. Sarah recommends making this recipe for shrimp and broccoli stir-fry and enjoying the leftovers for lunch; cooking shrimp with garlic, lemon, and butter and mixing it into a salad the next day; or preparing shrimp your favorite way and having it with quinoa, rice, or vegetables.
Ingredient 4: Mozzarella. This versatile ingredient—especially when purchased in the pearl-sized Perlini or bite-sized Bocconcini version—is great to have on hand for a quick and easy lunch. With just a few ingredients, you can whip up a Caprese salad, pizza, or sandwich. Sarah likes this recipe for French Bread Pizza Caprese, which you can be prepared in under 10 minutes.
Ingredient 5: Asparagus. “Delicious roasted, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, or prepared fresh, asparagus is popular in any dish for lunch,” Sarah says of the ingredient that can easily be thrown into a pasta or salad. One of her favorite ways to incorporate asparagus is by adding it to a frittata (she recommends this recipe), which will yield lunch for days. Another simple and delicious option: wrap a few spears in prosciutto or bacon and bake until crispy.