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April 1, 2014 | 3 minute read

Make-Ahead Healthy Lunches, Your Way

AICR’s Recipe March Madness – down to the Final 4 today – inspired me to share a recent kick I’ve been on to make a one-pot dish on Sunday that I pack for lunches throughout the week. With a little preparation and planning (and it doesn’t take much!) I end up with about 5 delicious and inexpensive lunches filled with cancer-protective nutrients.canstockphoto14256168

I start with a grain and cook 1 cup dry (to yield about 2 to 3 cups cooked) according to package instructions. Lately I’ve been using quinoa because it cooks fast, is delicious and packed full of protein and fiber, but you could also use brown rice, farro, bulgur or another whole grain. I cook it in a low sodium vegetable broth instead of water to give it a little extra flavor. Once cooked, let the grain cool in the fridge.

Next I pick a few ingredients to mix in, always with some added vegetables and/or fruit. Then I pack it into individual containers so I can grab for lunch in the mornings.

Here are three versions you can make with a few simple additions to the already prepared grain-base. When you make dishes like this, you can change the ingredients based on what you have around!


•    1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed

•    1 can low sodium corn kernels

•    Fresh tomato, chopped

•    Onion, diced

•    Avocado, chopped

* For extra flavor, try adding chopped cilantro, lime juice or hot sauce. The lime juice will help the avocado from turning brown.

my Mexican Quinoa Salad

my Mexican Quinoa Salad!


•    Sliced kalamata olives

•    Roasted red peppers, diced (or cherry tomatoes)

•    Reduced fat feta cheese

•    Finely chopped spinach

•    Cucumber, chopped

* Try adding a little balsamic vinegar, basil or mint for extra flavor.

Moroccan chickpea

•    1 can low sodium garbanzo beans

•    Red or golden raisins

•    Roasted butternut squash, cubed

•    Freshly grated ginger

•    Spices! Any combination of: curry powder, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon

These dishes have everything you need: whole grains, vegetables and lean protein. You can pack it up on its own, or make the dish last even longer by using a smaller portion as a topping over a bed of mixed greens. They can also make a great side dish alongside a piece of fish or other lean protein.

What would you add to your favorite grain for a one-pot lunch?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. You can follow her @SonjaGoedkoopRD on twitter.

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