Let’s face it: we’re all busy. Whether you’re consumed by work, school, or parenting, we can all agree that there aren’t enough hours nor cups of coffee to get us through a hectic day. Whenever I’m feeling particularly harried, I stop prioritizing the things I would normally deem important. This includes, but is not limited to: exercise (ugh), sleep (double ugh), and cooking. This last activity is particularly significant since I pride myself on cooking for and feeding myself throughout the week.
Over time, I’ve developed some strategies (or hacks, if you will) that aid me during days when my time is limited. The best part? No batch cooking required! If you’ve been reading for a while, you know how much I love making big batches of grains and beans over the weekend and using them in recipes throughout the week. But sometimes–and lately, all the time–I can’t afford to spend three hours slaving over a hot stove; a gal’s gotta make time for leaf-peeping before the trees are barren!
Below I’ve divulged some of my favorite tips for whipping together a wholesome plant-based meal in five minutes flat. If this isn’t proof that veganism can be quick and easy, I don’t know what is.
Components of a Healthy Lunch
The hallmark of any meal is a good dose of carbs. Usually, grains like brown rice or starches like potatoes have to be cooked in order to consume them, and that requires at least 30 minutes. Instead, look to the freezer section of your grocery store where you’ll find all manner of pre-cooked carbs: brown rice, quinoa, corn, etc. When you’re ready to prepare your meal, simply reheat in a pot with a splash of water, cooking for a couple minutes. If you’re even shorter on time, you can always rely on bread for a classic meal.
Plant-based proteins are so abundant these days, and thankfully, they have much shorter cooking times than meat. In fact, some proteins, like legumes, don’t need cooking at all if they’re canned. Stock up on canned beans and lentils, then simply drain and rinse before tossing into salads, grain bowls, soups, and stews. If you enjoy the taste of meat analogues, you can use vegan bacon for a BLT or deli slices for a “ham and cheese” sandwich.
Meals aren’t satiating without a good amount of fat thrown in. My favorite way to incorporate fats into a dish is to make a quick dressing. Simply add olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper to a glass jar and shake. You can then easily pack the dressing along with a salad or grain bowl and mix when ready to eat. My other favorite fats include avocado, nuts, and seeds (great on salads), and olives!
When making a five-minute meal, there’s no time for roasting or braising your favorite vegetables. Your best friends are frozen veggies and fresh salad greens. Don’t be afraid to splurge on the prepared stuff, either: pre-chopped red peppers can make all the difference if you’re on a time crunch. Above all, don’t be afraid to let your veggies have a starring role in your meals.
Healthy Lunch Recipe Ideas
So now that we have the fundamentals covered, here are some no-fail five-minute recipes that will power you through your busy days ahead.
Sesame Stir Fry With Tofu and Green Beans
Heat frozen rice in a skillet with a dash of water for one minute. Add one minced clove of garlic and stir. Add frozen green beans and stir again. Let cook for a couple minutes. Add some chopped, pre-seasoned tofu to the skillet, along with red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute. Once everything is cooked through, drizzle with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.
Beans and Greens Salad Bowl
In a large bowl, combine rinsed and drained canned chickpeas (you can also use canned black or pinto beans), mixed greens, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, walnuts, and chopped apples (or another fruit). In a small glass jar, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and a pinch of black pepper and salt. Shake to incorporate, then pour over salad and toss.
Easy BLAT Sandwich
Toast two slices of your favorite whole grain bread. While bread is toasting, heat a skillet with olive oil and cook two slices of vegan bacon for 1-2 minutes on each side. To assemble your sandwich, pile on sliced tomato, avocado, lettuce, and bacon. If you want to be traditional, swipe a bit of vegan mayo on one of the bread slices.
For more healthy lunch ideas, check out our collection of delicious vegan lunch recipes!
What are your tips for always making a healthy lunch?
Also by Molly: Vegan Bolognese Sauce With Tempeh & Red Wine
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