Let’s face it, we’ve all been home more often these days, which can make it challenging to keep meals interesting. If you are finding yourself growing bored of your usual staples and making lunch on autopilot, look no further. Here are five tricks to help you get excited for your next lunch meal!
1. Classics with a spin
Take your lunchtime classics and get creative! Start with:
A grilled cheese sandwich, then change your go-to cheese or even add fruit. Try brie and raspberry jam or some thinly sliced Granny Smith apples for crunch.
Egg or tuna salad, adding smashed avocado instead of mayonnaise, pickled veggies for a crunch, spices and herbs, or hot sauce. You can switch up how you eat these by swapping types of breads, using lettuce to make a wrap, or even creating cucumber boats.
Your go-to salad and then experiment with proteins (e.g., chicken, shrimp, tofu, hard boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, or beans). Add grains like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or quinoa to further satisfy. Play with different dressings and choose new flavor combinations that make your taste buds happy.
2. Explore new flavors
When it comes to cooking, we often find ourselves using the same flavors over and over out of habit. Over time, this can result in mundane meals. Who says you can’t spice up your lunch a little?
Explore new flavors. Try regions like Greece, flavoring foods with lemon, oregano, feta cheese, and olive oils; or Asia, flavoring foods with ginger, lemongrass, and cumin.
Choose a theme. Each week set a new, fun theme like breakfast for lunch, meatless meals, or tapas week.
Add a twist. Trick your brain and taste buds by transforming a normal chicken and rice casserole into an exciting chicken curry casserole!
3. Do the prep beforehand
Your lunchtime rut may be caused by spending more time than usual cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Combat kitchen fatigue with these ideas!
Start small. Choose one ingredient to prep ahead of time (e.g., a grain or protein) or cut up your fruit so it’s ready for you to enjoy. Then, decide on different ways to mix and match this pre-prepped food for the week.
Choose easier meals. For instance, oatmeal made with low-fat milk and frozen fruit can be just as easily eaten for lunch as breakfast. Another idea is a Greek yogurt parfait with your favorite nuts and dried fruit.
4. Let the kids help
Another reason you may find yourself dreading lunch these days is because you’re having to make lunchtime decisions more frequently, for more people, with the whole family home. If your kids’ rapidly changing taste preferences leave you feeling stressed, why not let them participate in lunchtime decisions (within reason, of course)?
Younger kids: Creativity comes with every age, so let the younger ones have a hand at choosing one ingredient or meal throughout the week. If they can, let them help you in the kitchen—a sense of ownership just might spark an expansion in their tastes.
Older kids: Let your kids take charge of their food by choosing ingredients and recipes for the week, or even just one day. Give them the responsibility of the kitchen—that means clean up, too!
5. Challenge yourself to trying one new food a week
Have you ever watched a cooking show or video and thought, "I don’t know what that ingredient is, but it sure sounds good!"? Why not use this time at home to try and master preparing new foods?
At the store: Keep a list of new ingredients you see and want to try so you can pick one out next time you do your shopping. With a little online recipe research, you might just find a new favorite food!
At home: Build a portfolio of recipes and ingredients you’ve tried and like. When you feel like you’re in a rut, pull out an old favorite and give it a whirl.
Eat seasonally: Check out what’s in season and replace your usual standbys with whatever speaks to you in the moment.
Regardless of what your mealtime struggle is, we promise you’re not alone and there is a way out! Hopefully, these tips and tricks have you back on your way to being a lunch enthusiast in no time!