Feature Friday: What do you eat for lunch

 

Renee is a rock star Voedenite. As a busy nanny for a family of five, she's got a lot on her plate and, in turn, has to put a lot of food on their plates! As a child of the internet age, she's well-versed in Pinterest searches  and blog browsing for recipes but turned to Voeden to streamline the process.

Her secret to staying healthy with a hectic schedule comes down to one word: preparation. We asked her to share her tips and tricks for healthy meal prep the Voeden way and we're pretty amazed at her dedication. 

Do you have any dietary restrictions? 

Yep! I can’t do dairy. It was a tough transition for me (and I was in denial for a while and ate it anyway), but these days I’m thriving without it.

 What is your daily schedule like? 

My daily schedule is…somewhat grueling. I’m up at 5 and at work by 6:45.  I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work during the week.

 What do you do for lunch?

Sometimes I’ll eat leftovers and sometimes I’ll make a sandwich or a wrap, but that’s mostly on weeks that I don’t have time to prep ahead, for one reason or another.  My favorite lunch, by far, is a big hearty salad.

To be honest, I didn't always love salad. Even now, I’m a weird salad eater. I don’t usually like traditional salad dressings (I prefer a “sauce” that lightly flavors everything), I prefer lots of chopped raw veggies to a load of greens and I need my salads to have lots of flavor and be filling. I know that greens are good for me, but let’s be real: they just don’t fill me up on their own. What has been really working for me is making salads according to what I’m craving—with healthy ingredients and lots of added greens, of course. Some of my favorites:

  •  Dean’s Adventure Tacos with chicken and fajita veggies
  •  Chopped black bean burger with shredded red cabbage and BBQ sauce
  •  Roasted chickpeas and root veggies with pesto
  •  Black beans, corn, tomatoes and seasoned walnut “meat”
  •  Coconut tempeh with stir fry veggies, quinoa and peanut sauce
  • Falafel and tabouleh with cucumbers and hummus
  • Italian pasta salad with olives and cherry tomatoes (that’s right, I will put pasta on a salad. It’s delish.)

The beauty in making hearty salads with strong flavors is that I can mix in some hearty greens like kale and collards (which I usually tolerate, not love) without worrying about taste. My favorite will always be romaine and baby spinach, though!

This week I made a “knock off olive garden salad” with homemade Italian dressing and chickpeas for an added protein punch. So delicious! I also put salami on it. Because salami is delicious. (It was organic! No nitrates! I'm just trying to be real here, people.)

mason jar salad

How do you prep ahead to make it "grab and go"? Or do you prepare your lunch the day of? 

Two words: Mason jars. I found this tip on Pinterest several years ago when I had time for such diversions. I re-visited the idea a few months ago and it’s been my go-to lunch ever since. I prep four mason jar salads on Saturday or Sunday and then it’s just grab and go for the week. The key is to put the heavy veggies/protein/dressing on the bottom, which allows the greens to stay dry. That way they’ll keep all week!

Is this a new routine for you? If yes, what did you do before and why did you change your routine? 

It is. For a long time, I didn't prep my food for the week at all.  I’m a nanny/house manager, so I work in a home where I do all of the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. So, in theory, I could just buy what I wanted for myself and cook it every day. The problem is, mornings and lunchtimes get hectic, even on the days the little ones are in preschool from 9-1 and I eat lunch alone. There just isn't enough time to make a decent lunch. Most days I resorted to frozen meals, sandwiches or cereal. PB&J is delicious, but usually left me sluggish (and, oddly, craving sweets?) by mid-afternoon. I needed something that was quick but nutritious—and that had staying power.

What is your actual lunch time like? Do you take a break? Where do you eat? 

On Mondays and Thursdays I eat lunch with the twins, who are four. On those days, we eat together. They’ll have a small bowl of soup or mac and cheese with a half sandwich or wrap on the side, plus a little bowl of chopped fruit. They do like salad, but usually just steal a few bites of mine. They’re good eaters, so our lunchtimes are pretty calm and chatty. It is definitely our best meal of the day.

The rest of the week (when the twins eat lunch at school), I’ll take about a half hour break for lunch, right before I have to head to preschool pickup. I eat at the kitchen table and enjoy the quiet time.

 How do you feel after lunch? 

I feel great after lunch! Lunch is my reset button in the middle of the day. Eating with the twins is always a joy—they’re talkative and hilarious, and we don’t get a lot of time during the day to just sit and talk to each other, so lunchtime is a treat. On the days I eat alone, I enjoy the time to reflect, slow down, day dream. And eating veggie-loaded, nutrient-dense food always gives me the boost I need to take on the afternoon.

Any other tips on how to prep food/snacks for a busy day?

Prep, prep, prep. 

Whenever I find myself with a free hour, I prep something. The veggies for all of our meals for the week (along with some just for snacking) are always prepped on Monday. As much as I love chopping and cooking, I have to be realistic with myself: dinnertime with 3 children is crazy and anything that can be done to streamline the process SHOULD be.

Also, the freezer is my best friend. I always have individual portions of baked oatmeal (my favorite breakfast), smoothie bags, and carrot and pumpkin muffins in the freezer. This way, even when the mornings get crazy, I have no excuses to “just have a latte” for breakfast.