Planning ahead and packing a health-full lunch can be an overwhelming challenge each week, especially as our course work builds, or our rotations become increasingly challenging. The idea of “meal prep” can also induce negative feelings. What if I don’t like to eat the same thing every day? What if I don’t know where to start? What about all the free pizza they serve us each day?
Packing salads in either 16 or 32 oz wide mouth mason jars (depending on how hungry you are, or if you want to save room for that free pizza) can be a great way to plan ahead, pack a health-full lunch, and include a variety of flavors. Mason jar salads can stay fresh in the fridge for 4-5 days, giving you the freedom to pack them up Sunday for the whole week.
Following a few easy rules will help keep your salad fresh (and not soggy) all week. Put whatever salad dressing you choose into the bottom of the jar. A few of my favorites are Annie’s Goddess Dressing (https://www.annies.com/products/dressings/goddess-dressing), Toasted sesame dressing (https://www.traderjoes.com/FearlessFlyer/Article/4679), and balsamic vinaigrette (https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218337/our-favorite-balsamic-vinaigrette/). You can use any kind of salad dressing that you enjoy- whether you choose to make them yourself or buy a few different kinds at the store to mix up the flavor profile of your salad. Proteins such as tofu, chickpeas, edamame, black or kidney beans, or chicken will go into the jar next, followed by layers of your other ingredients. Pack your greens on top of all your other ingredients. The tighter you pack your jars, the fresher they will remain for the week.
Here is a list of ingredients that I have found work well in salad jars:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Roasted sweet potato cubes
- Cubed tofu (http://www.nasoya.com/healthy-tofu-products/organic-teriyaki-tofubaked/ or make your own)
- Kale, spinach, spring greens
- Cooked quinoa or brown rice
- Beets (https://www.lovebeets.com/meet-our-beets/)
- Roasted broccoli
- Diced red onion
- Cooked chicken
- Black or red beans
- Shredded or crumbled cheeses (like feta or goat)
- Blueberries and strawberries
- Shredded brussels sprouts
Once you decide what ingredients you enjoy, it’s easy to mix and match for a week of health-full lunches that are easy to grab and go on your way out the door each morning. Using a few convenience purchases, like pre-cooked tofu, rotisserie chicken, triple washed greens, or canned beans can help cut down the prep time without astronomically increasing the cost of your lunch. I have included links above to a few of the ingredients that I like to use to keep it simple in my kitchen.
Here are a few mix and match ways to make it through your first week of mason jar salads:
Make (or buy) ahead ingredients:
- Rotisserie Chicken or Baked Tofu
- I cup of quinoa or brown rice
- Roasted sweet potato
- Roasted broccoli
Green Goddess Jars
Toasted Sesame Jars
Greek Style Jars
Mock Mayweather Jars
- Cook the make ahead ingredients. Peel and chop 2 sweet potatoes, toss with a little oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet at 450 for 25-30 minutes. After this is in the oven, prep and chop your broccoli, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 450 for 15 minutes.
- Cook your grain (rice or quinoa) according to package instructions
- Prep and chop the remaining veggies- cucumbers, beets, slice the tomato and fruits if using.
- Place the dressing in the jar, then the remaining ingredients in the order listed.
- Pack the greens in tightly (you really need to shove them in J), and seal it up!
- Store your jars in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you are ready to eat, you can shake them up and eat out of the jar, or pour them into a bowl and enjoy!