As I talked about in the breakfast part of this post, I attempted a clean eating challenge with my aunt and cousin last week. Clean eating is a diet based on only fresh food (nothing processed) and relies mostly on fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and lean meat/fish. Its goal is to detoxify your body, leaving you feeling healthier, more energetic, and fitter. Healthy eating can sometimes seem bland or boring, but many of the recipes I discovered in the challenge are anything but that. Full of flavor, color, and a variety of ingredients, these recipes make meals exciting, even though no ice cream, white bread, red meat, or sugary food is allowed. This post covers the lunch portion of the challenge.
Lunch is always the meal I struggle with the most. Breakfast and dinner are easy—they are the beginning and end of every day. But when do you eat lunch? In the exact middle of the day? When you get hungry? And should you eat a lighter lunch that’s more similar to breakfast and snack throughout the day or eat a big meal that’s like a dinner? This fall, while training for rowing and working with very little time to do much else, I lived off of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and Clif bars (yes, multiple per day). My goal was to put off eating lunch at work as long as I possibly could. Sometimes I only made it until 10:30 before I got hungry; on very rare occasions, I could make it until almost 1. I can’t say I really enjoyed lunches or eating with this plan. Lots of brown, bready, nutty food that I stomached only because I was training so much.
When I’m home or somewhere I don’t have to bring my lunch with me, I often start snacking, resulting in a few big snacks throughout the day but no distinct meal. With the clean eating challenge, I was forced to eat a distinct lunch and snack, and I found I enjoyed this strategy much more. All of the lunch ideas were waaay more exciting than peanut butter sandwiches and I always felt like I had eaten enough for at least a few hours (I wish I had found these ideas in the fall!). If you are following the clean eating challenge exactly, the lunches almost always involve a new combination of leftovers from dinner and are portable, making the recipes very easy to implement.
Here are a few of my favorites. Like the breakfasts, I often took some creative liberties, leaving out or adding some ingredients here and there.
Shaved Asparagus salad with shallots and fried egg: This was a weekend lunch, so it involved more cooking than the other ones. I also fried Brussels sprouts with the egg instead of using shaved asparagus and added in some fried lemon slices. When cooked, lemon gets much sweeter—I cannot eat sour foods at all, but cooked or grilled lemon is one of my favorites. Definitely a new combination of foods, but overall, I was very pleased! The runny yolk mixing with the greens was delicious.
-1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
-4-6 Brussels sprouts, cut into sections
-1 tbsp olive oil
-2 cups arugula
-1 large tomato, cut into chunks
-1 lemon—use ¾ for juicing and slice ¼ of it
-1 tbsp chopped parsley
-2 large eggs
Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then add sliced shallot. Cook for one minute, then add Brussels sprouts and lemon slices and season with salt and pepper. Cooking time depends on how you like your Brussels sprouts; I cooked them for 5-10 minutes since I like them a little mushy. If you prefer a crunch, try about 3 or 4 minutes. Place arugula, tomato, and parsley in a bowl, then add Brussels sprouts and shallot on top. Toss with lemon juice. For the fried egg, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Then crack the eggs in the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes over low heat. Add the egg to the top of the salad.
Kale, chickpea, and celery salad with orange vinaigrette: The vinaigrette makes this salad slightly sweet. Lots of different flavors and textures mix in this salad. The mint is another good addition.
-2 cups chopped kale
-1/4 cup canned chickpeas
-1-2 chopped celery stalks
-1/2 cup cooked quinoa
-2 tbsp orange vinaigrette
-5-6 chopped mint leaves
For the orange vinaigrette, mix 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice, ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1 crushed garlic clove. To create the salad, simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and toss with the salad dressing.
Asian chicken salad with almonds and lime vinaigrette: This was one of my favorites! Once again, the dressing helps make this salad great. Very crunchy.
-2 tbsp lime vinaigrette
-1/2 head thinly sliced Napa cabbage
-1 grated medium carrot
-2 tbsp raw sliced almonds (optional to toast them)
-4 oz roasted chicken
Make the lime vinaigrette with ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp honey, ¼ cup olive oil and whisk. Make the salad by tossing all ingredients in a bowl with the dressing, then topping with thinly sliced chicken.
Quinoa, fennel, and blueberry salad with mint and lime: I loooooove salads with fruit in them. And I love mint. This one has both. The recipe didn’t call for any greens, but I mixed in some arugula.
-1/2 cup quinoa
-1/2 cup chopped roasted fennel
-1/4 cup chickpeas
-1/4 cup blueberries
-5-6 mint leaves, thinly sliced
-juice of ½ lime
-2 cups arugula (optional)
Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!
Arugula salad with green beans, salmon, and Dijon vinaigrette: The salmon with Dijon vinaigrette was all I needed to fall in love with this salad. I made it for dinner so that I didn’t have to wait until lunch the next day to eat it.
-1 tsp Dijon mustard
-1/2 lemon, juiced
-1/8 tsp salt, pepper
– 1 tsp chopped parsley
-1 tbsp olive oil
-3 cups arugula
-1 cup steamed green beans
-4 oz salmon
Make the Dijon dressing by whisking the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper, parsley and olive oil together. Toss the arugula and beans with the dressing and then top with salmon.
All recipes from Buzzfeed’s Clean Eating Challenge http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/clean-eating-challenge