In the summer, you'd be hard-pressed to find more refreshing healthy lunch recipes for work than salads. But bringing a salad to work is not necessarily the easiest thing to engineer. After all, salads are usually best served fresh, and you'll have to prepare yours the morning of or evening before.
That's why we've united our 9 top tips for bringing a healthy salad to work--everything from what to make to how to get it there. Pick and choose your favorite tips and tricks, and summer lunches will soon be a breeze.
Picking the Right Recipe
One of the first things to do when preparing a salad for work is to pick the right recipe. Salads with delicate greens are tough to transport, and salads that require tons of chopping take up loads of time -- time that you probably can't afford to sacrifice first thing in the morning. When picking the right recipe, we use three criteria.
1. Think About Wilting
Remember that most salads made with greens are going to start wilting almost immediately after the dressing is tossed in; we usually pick veggie salads to avoid this, with things like raw tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage. If you definitely want greens in your salad, though, then pick something that will hold up; our black kale Caesar is one great option, with an egg free dressing that's safe to transport.
But romaine is another green that can hold up for quite some time, so a classic Caesar is a possibility too. Just make the dressing in the bottom of your container and place the greens on top; mix just before enjoying, and keep the croutons in a plastic bag to sprinkle over the top.
2. Use Time to Your Advantage
While with some salads you have to worry about wilting, other salads are actually better when given some time to marinate. In this case, making the salads a few hours or even the night before enjoying is actually a benefit, not a problem -- so use time to your advantage and pick recipes that are even better after a few hours in the fridge.
3. Be Aware of Smells
When you're choosing a meal to bring in to work, it's best to be sensitive to your co-workers, and that means being aware of things that have strong odors. Tuna and garlic are often the biggest culprits, but too much onion can be problematic too.
To counteract this unfortunate problem, choose ingredients with lots of flavor but not too strong a smell, like the olives, feta and fennel in our potato salad or the parmesan and lemon in our farro salad.
Picking the Right Vessel
Once you've decided what salad you're making, it's time to pick the vessel (or vessels!) in which to transport it. When choosing a container, we try to concentrate on two things.
4. Choose Something Sustainable
5. Consider a Bento -- or Similar Divisions
When you're choosing your vessel, not only will you want to pick something sustainable, but something that contains several compartments. This will allow you to separate your greens from their dressing, if you like, or separate something crisp and crunchy like croutons from the damper ingredients until it's time to eat.
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Some people choose to use bento style boxes for this, but you can also buy large and small containers -- one for the salad and one for the dressing. That way, you can put the smaller dressing container in the larger container, and even if it spills, it'll only dampen your salad a bit. Others choose to build their salads in a mason jar. Pick whichever way works best for you.
But perhaps the most important element of making sure your salads are perfectly primed for your work lunch is making sure that you plan ahead -- and that's not just about grocery shopping. Planning ahead involves choosing a recipe and assembling your salad, and while some assembly may need to be done the morning of so that your salad is as fresh as possible, some things can be done in advance.
6. Cook Beans
While canned beans might seem like an easy fix, you may wish to avoid canned beans when possible in order to avoid BPA. If you're doing this, you'll have to plan even further in advance to make sure that you can take full advantage of this vegetarian protein.
Cook a big pot of beans on the weekend, and then distribute them over the course of the week in preparing salads like a butter bean salad, our easy pasta salad with chickpeas or a Mexican-influenced black bean salad.
If you're short on time, some beans don't need pre-soaking, so you can always opt for those varieties.
7. Pickle Onions
Many salads don't require all that many ingredients if the ones you choose are packed with flavor. Make a big batch of the quick pickled onions from our favorite spelt salad recipe, and use them to add flavor to whatever you're preparing. They go great with a chopped Greek salad too!
8. Chop Veggies
If you plan ahead, you can have your own salad bar right in your very own fridge. Choose a handful of different veggie ingredients at the beginning of the week, and chop them up ahead of time. Things like mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers, carrots and cabbage (shredded, in this case) work well. Then all you'll have to do in the morning is grab a handful of whatever ingredients look good to you, and you'll have your very own tossed salad, ready to enjoy.
9. Bake a Loaf
Bulk up your lunchtime salads with some homemade bread. The great thing about including a slice with your lunchtime salad is that you can bake one loaf at the beginning of the week and keep including it all week long -- one day of work, five days of benefits! We love our homemade whole grain bread, this tasty no-knead bread and our gluten-free teff bread.
And best of all, when your bread starts to get a bit stale, you can use it to make homemade croutons instead.
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Salad image via Shutterstock: Alena Haurylik