Lunches, energetic afternoons

Call me a masochist but I love making lunch. Whether it’s a simple brown bag for one or an elaborate country picnic for ten, there’s nothing like a good lunch—and no letdown like a boring one!

Forgotten veggies

Vegetables often get short shrift at lunchtime. And when they do find their way onto the plate, it’s often the same old same old. Carrot sticks may look nice and deliver plenty of beta-carotene, but few of us can happily munch them day after day. Here are a dozen ways to mix things up, all of them easily packed in small containers. Give them a try!

  • Coleslaw
  • Grated carrots, with or without raisins
  • Pickled beets
  • Corn kernels
  • Tabbouleh
  • Bean salad with celery and bell peppers
  • Raw peas or snow peas
  • Green beans or asparagus vinaigrette
  • Cherry tomatoes of various colours in season
  • Salsa with tortilla chips
  • Vegetable, tomato or carrot juice
  • Vegetable soup packed in a thermos

Calcium and protein boost

The following foods contain not only calcium to help maintain healthy bones and teeth but also enough protein to see you through to your next meal.

  • Small carton of plain or flavoured milk
  • Enriched soy beverage, plain or flavoured
  • Fresh unripened cheese such as cottage, bocconcini, feta or quark
  • Ripened cheese: the harder the cheese, the higher the calcium content
  • Milk-based desserts: tapioca, flan, blancmange, rice pudding, vanilla or chocolate pudding made with milk
  • Soy pudding or mousse
  • Plain or flavoured yogurt (for children, choose ones sweetened with aspartame)
  • Drinkable yogurt
  • Canned salmon with bones

Take a dip

Dollar stores now sell packages of three or four resealable mini contain¬ers, about three centimetres across; they’re perfect for single servings of dip or salad dressing. Food markets carry any number of dips for crudités that are both tasty and nutritious: various types of hummus, artichoke or spinach dips, roast red bell pepper spread, tapenades, eggplant caviar, tzatziki, guacamole, feta and sun-dried tomato dip, and the list goes on. Make sure you always have a supply in the refrigerator.

Wrap it up

Sandwiches are practically unavoidable at lunchtime, but that doesn’t have to mean white bread cut into little squares or triangles. Surprise your kids by putting a wrap in their lunch—a sure-fire hit! The great thing about this kind of sandwich is that it fits comfortably in one hand. Cultures the world over have their own versions: Greek souvlaki on a pita, West Indian roti, Japanese maki cones, Mexican fajitas and Vietnamese spring rolls, to name only a few.

Let's hear it for wraps!

Ten delicious variations

Bread - Spread - Filling...

  • Pita - Tzatziki - Cooked lamb or pork souvlaki + cucumber + mint leaves
  • Tortilla - Hummus - Turkey breast + romaine lettuce + grated carrots
  • Pita - Sun-dried tomato pesto - Goat cheese + romaine lettuce + pitted black olives
  • Nan - Plain yogourt - Cooked strips of beef + cilantro + sliced mango
  • Pita - Baba ghanouj - Bell pepper strips + slices fresh mozzarella + aragula
  • Tortilla - Guacamole - Cooked chicken + Monterey Jack + lettuce + mild or hot salsa
  • Pita - Fig jam - Prosciutto + fresh basil + parmesan shaving
  • Nan - Brie or tofu spread - Thinly sliced green apples + pecans + watercress
  • Tortilla - Quark cheese or sour cream - Smoked salmon + baby spinach leaves + tomatoes + capers
  • Pita - Onion jam - Roast beef + alfafa or other sprouts + sharp cheddar or blue cheese

How to make a perfect wrap

  1. Fold the bottom third to make a base, taking care not to push the fillings too close to the edges.
  2. Fold the left side toward the centre.
  3. Turn up part of the right side at an angle to prevent leaks.
  4. Fold over the rest of the tortilla and wrap in plastic or paper.

Fruits pack a punch

Fresh seasonal fruits

Banana, apple, clementine, orange, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, persimmon, apricot, grapes, very ripe kiwi halves (eat with spoon), berries, etc.

Fruit chunks

Fun to eat by spearing with a toothpick. Melon, mango, papaya, pineapple. There are also frozen fruits that thaw quickly enough to be ready for a morning snack.

Canned fruit

Look for fruits packed in real juice instead of syrup.

Fruit compotes, applesauce

Sold in single-serving cups, tubes and tubs. Choose ones without added sugar.

Dried fruits and fruit bars

Be aware that sweet foods, including naturally sweet ones, can promote tooth decay by sticking to your teeth. No toothbrush handy? Rinse with water or nibble on a protective food like cheese or raw veggies.

100% fruit juice

Juices sold in Tetra-Paks freeze well and can serve as ice packs to keep other foods cool. Steer clear of drinks that have lots of added sugar and little real juice.

Hélène Laurendeau

A nutrition and health enthusiast who loves to share: this description fits Hélène Laurendeau to a tee. She has been active for more than 25 years in the media and communications field. Nutritionist, host, columnist, author and speaker, Hélène holds a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and a Master degree in Epidemiology. She has spread her knowledge alongside Ricardo every week since 2005, as part of his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, as well as in Ricardo magazine, where she pens the Bien se nourrir (Eating Well) column.