Eating healthy can often be a chore, especially when we work away from home. I have always been a fan of “eating the rainbow” (each color corresponds to different nutrients and the more nutrients you eat the healthier you’ll be) but that is hard to do when you’re eating fast food, or whatever your office may have near. Bringing your lunch to work can sometimes be challenging as well. So one solution I have come up with is Mason Jar Salad. You can make a variety of healthy meals, store them in mason jars in the fridge, and grab one a day on your way out the door. As long as you know how to layer your lunch, it doesn’t get soggy or gross and can keep in the fridge for a week. For all of these salads, I prefer to use pint-sized, wide mouth mason jars, they make it easier to assemble and eat your food.
Mason jar salads are a great lunch option that provides you with a wide range of fruit, veggie, and protein options. You can also choose a wide variety of greens so you’re not stuck with iceberg all the time (boring!). Just make it ahead of time and shake it when you’re ready to eat!
Just remember these layering rules when you’re assembling your salad:
- Wet Stuff (Dressing, hummus, sauce, etc. always goes on the bottom!)
- Crunch (nuts, cabbage, vegetables, other crunchy textures)
- Greenery (Lettuce always goes in last!)
Salad dressing, hummus, and other sauces (such as guacamole) add flavor to bring the salad together, but it also provides important healthy fats which are necessary to get the most nutrients out of the vegetables. If you’re in a hurry you can make a quick salad dressing just by sprinkling some oil and vinegar (1 part vinegar and 2 parts oil and a pinch of salt and/or pepper) over the salad. If you want (and have time) to make your own dressing check out some of my favorite dressing recipes here!
Adding some protein makes a salad go from a side dish to the main course. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it’s also very important to make sure you have enough protein in your diet. Adding some into your lunch salad is a great way to do just that. Try tossing in some cheese (or cheese alternatives), cooked lentils and/or beans, seasoned and/or seared tofu/tempeh, nuts and/or seeds (these can go into the next layer as well), or toss in more traditional protein sources such as boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, steak, shrimp, crab, or whatever leftover proteins you have from dinner the night before.
Crunch and Fruit:
This is where the creativity really gets going. Try adding in some shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, berries (dried and/or fresh), apples, banana chips, shredded cabbage, nuts/seeds, roasted chickpeas, tortilla chips, etc. There really is no limit to what you can throw into your salad. I Really Like Food has a post with 20 options that would go great in this layer. Check it out here!
This is the base of most salads and usually make up the bulk of this meal. Lettuce, spinach, fresh herbs. All of these options go well here on this layer. It’s also the layer that can be the most boring (iceberg...blech) or the most interesting (try a mix of arugula, fresh basil, watercress, and parsley for a fun mix). Some popular greens to throw into a salad include romaine, spring mix, watercress, arugula, baby spinach, fresh herbs (mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, etc), and sprouts.
Recipes and Ideas-
Here are some “recipes” to get you started. In reality, they’re just a list of ingredients and you choose how much of each you want to toss in. My recommendation is to go easy on the herbs in the green mixes, they can easily become overpowering. I have made sure that the ingredients are in the order I would layer my salads.
1. Summoning The Southwest
I love Southwestern flavors, and if I had my choice I would probably eat them way more often than I already do. So it comes as no surprise that this salad is heavily on my rotation for lunch. Feel free to add in guacamole or substitute your favorite Southwest-flavored salad dressing.
Salsa (Fermented salsa adds probiotics into your lunch)
Sour Cream (or vegan alternative)
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, steak, or a mixture of chickpeas and black beans)
Red Onion, diced
Avocado, sliced (tossed in lime juice to retain the green color)
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Fresh Cilantro, chopped
2. Everything Eastern
My husband has a crazy love affair with Asian cultures, including the cuisine. This salad is a great way to bring some of those flavors to the office with you. Feel free to throw in some of your favorite Asian food items like noodles or rice. Just layer them right after your dressing/sauce and before your protein. This will keep everything nice and crispy for when you’re ready to eat.
Asian Sesame Vinaigrette or any Asian/Sesame Salad dressing
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, shrimp, tofu, or edamame)
Red Cabbage, shredded
Celery, thinly sliced
Radish, thinly sliced (or Diakon/Watermelon radish, shredded)
Roasted Peanuts or Soy Nuts
Fresh Cilantro, diced
3. Simply Southern
This salad brings quite a few Southern flavors to the table. From the pecans to the peaches, if you like Southern comfort food, this is the salad for you.
Georgia Peach Salad
Sweet Onion & Poppy Seed Dressing or your favorite Sweet Onion dressing
Protein of choice (you may be tempted to add fried chicken here, but I recommend grilled chicken, bacon, shrimp, boiled egg, or shredded cheese)
Apple, diced (tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning)
Spring Mix/Mixed Baby Greens
4. Keep It Simple
One of the easiest salads out there is the Caesar salad. It was made to be simple, and it’s popularity proves that it’s a big hit. Try changing up the proteins and switching out the croutons for other “crunchy” textures, such as roasted chickpeas or pine nuts.
Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Protein of choice (I recommend chicken, steak, shrimp, or tempeh)
Romaine Lettuce, diced
5. Ditch The Greens
I am not a fan of lettuce. If I must have lettuce I prefer things like Spring Mix or Romaine. So any salad I find that doesn’t involve lettuce is awesome. For this salad, simply use cooked quinoa in place of the greens. However, if you aren’t a fan of quinoa try rice, couscous, pasta, or riced cauliflower. You can also use any herbs you like in place of the parsley and/or mint.
Green Goddess Salad Dressing or any salad dressing of your choice
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, steak, or shrimp though this is optional in this salad)
Chickpeas or Black Beans
Feta Cheese (or crumbled Tofu)
Bell Peppers, diced (red, green, yellow, or orange...or a mixture of all)
Green Onions, diced
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Fresh Mint, chopped (optional, but tasty)
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. If you try any of these recipes, I'd love to hear about it!