NATUREAL's 5 Nutritious Winter Lunch Recipes
In the spirit of the holidays, which basically means tons and tons of food, we’ve decided to do something different on our blog this month. Today, we’re talking about foods that’ll help your health stay on track and recipes that you can try for lunch this week!
That’s right, we said lunch! You’ve probably heard a lot about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, the importance of a light dinner and the emphasis on nutritious snacks between meals but nobody ever talks about lunch.
“Why’s that?”, we wondered. So, let’s talk about lunch.
Eating lunch raises your blood sugar level in the middle of the day, which gives you the energy
you need for the rest of the day. It also enables you to focus and concentrate on the rest of the afternoon. According to Live Strong, if you’re feeling sluggish, eating even a small lunch can renew your energy and help you feel refreshed and ready to take on the next several hours.
Eating lunch also keeps your metabolism active, especially if you have a moderately sized meal and a snack before and afterward.
"Extended periods of starvation between large meals creates gaps which keep metabolism from staying active," - Dr. Kurt Hong, the Center for Human Nutrition director of Huntington Medical Foundation.
And what happens when your metabolism is slowed down, you ask? You pack on the pounds, that’s what!
A slowed metabolism will show you warning signs like these:
- You’re picking up weight and you can’t understand why.
- You’re having difficulty losing weight.
- You’re always tired.
- Your skin feels dehydrated and dry.
- Your nails are brittle.
- You’re experiencing hair loss.
- You have frequent headaches.
- Things are constantly slipping your mind.
- You’re always cold.
- Low sex drive.
- You’re feeling all the blues lately.
- You have a low pulse rate.
- You’re craving carbs and sugar all the time.
- An irregular menstrual cycle or intense cramping.
- You’re constipated.
It's common to want to skip lunch if you're trying to lose weight or cut calories, but that strategy rarely works. People who regularly skip meals tend to weigh more than people who eat often throughout the day. Skipping lunch can rev up your appetite later, causing you to overeat or choose foods that have poor nutritional values.
So, what can you do?
Eating any type of meal for lunch can help keep your metabolism active and your body healthy, but some foods pack more of a nutritional punch than others. Dr. Kurt Hong recommends combining complex carbohydrates with lean protein to form a concentrated, long-lasting source of energy. Examples include non-fat yogurt and granola, a lean turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, or low-fat cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. Ideally, a healthy lunch should offer a balance among the five main food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and dairy.
Here are five healthy vegetarian recipes for you to try out at lunchtime:
Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry
Noodle- and rice-free stir-fries are tasty low-carb lunch options that only take minutes to make. In addition to being quick and easy, stir-frying is also healthy. It results in tender-crisp vegetables that retain more nutrients than if they were boiled. And since stir-frying requires only a small amount of oil, the fat content is low.
What you’ll need:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 brown onion, halved, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced diagonally
- 1/2 red capsicum, cut into 2cm pieces
100g button mushrooms, sliced
- 400g can baby corn spears, drained, halved
- 2 green onions, cut into 4cm lengths
- Any other vegetables of your choice For the sweet and sour sauce:
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- To make the sweet and sour sauce, mix the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl until smooth. Add sugar, vinegar, apple juice, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and salt. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
- Heat a wok over high heat. Add oil. Swirl to coat. Add garlic and brown onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add carrot and capsicum and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add mushroom and corn and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Stir the sauce mixture and add to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute 30 seconds or until the sauce thickens. Toss through green onion and serve. You can sprinkle a few sesame seeds on the stir-fry for an extra oomph of deliciousness.
Creamy Cashew Pumpkin Soup
What are the holidays without some pumpkin, right?
Apart from pumpkin being the superstar of the holidays, it also has great health benefits! It’s really great for weight-loss; 100 grams of pumpkin only contains 26 calories. It’s also high in fiber and contains vitamin C, which also makes it an immune boosting food. Due to its high magnesium content, pumpkin is a great food for post-work out muscle relaxation and is also known to have antioxidants that control the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Dig into this wonderfully flavored bowl of creamy cashew pumpkin soup on a cold afternoon.
What you’ll need:
- 1 tablespoon oil or butter (or both)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced finely
- 4 cups of vegetable broth
- 15 ounce of pureed pumpkin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews plus extra for garnishing
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish
- Dried parsley for garnishing (optional) Assemble it:
- In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté onions in oil and butter until they are soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- Turn heat down to medium low, and add in the vegetable broth and pumpkin to the pot, and stir to combine. Add turmeric, basil, and cumin. Let it come to a gentle simmer and keep stirring occasionally.
- Add 2 cups of the soup and 1/2 cup of cashews to a high powered blender. Be very careful to vent the top of the blender so that pressure can escape as it is blending! Blend the cashews and soup until smooth and creamy (about 30-45 seconds). If you want your soup to be very smooth in texture, you can blend the rest of the soup (in batches as needed). If you want a little bit of texture from the onion pieces, just add the creamy cashew mixture back into the pot and stir to combine.
- Taste the soup and season with additional kosher salt and pepper as needed.
Ladle into bowls, and garnish with pepitas, chopped cashews and parsley if desired.
Cauliflower fried rice
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable rich in folate, and vitamins C, E, and K. It contains a high amount of fiber, which is important for digestive health and may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. It also provides a significant amount of antioxidants, which are beneficial for reducing inflammation and protecting against several chronic diseases. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, we suggest you go shopping for some cauliflower as it’s low in calories but high in fiber and water — all properties that may assist in weight loss!
Try out this cauliflower fried rice - a yummy low-carb dish, for lunch tomorrow!
What you’ll need:
- Vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, beaten (optional)
- 1 cup chopped scallions, light and green parts separated (you'll need 5-6 scallions)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger, from a 1-inch knob
- One 2-lb head cauliflower (or 2 pounds ready to cook' cauliflower)
4-5 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Asian/toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts (optional)
- Grate the cauliflower in a food processor fitted with the grating disc. Alternatively, grate on the large holes of a box or hand-held grater. Set aside. (Skip this step if using 'ready to cook' cauliflower rice.)
- Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large (10 or 12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt and scramble until the eggs are cooked. Transfer to a small plate and set aside. Wipe the pan clean. (Using eggs is optional if you’re looking to make a vegan dish).
- Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and set over medium heat. Add the light scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the grated cauliflower, 4 tablespoons of the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and continue cooking until the cauliflower "rice" is tender-crisp and the vegetables are warmed through, a few minutes. Stir in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, dark green scallions, nuts (if using) and eggs. Taste and adjust seasoning (adding the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce if necessary).
Tomato and Spinach Quiche
Spinach is a delicious superfood and here’s why it’s called that. This leafy green is said to contain 250 milligrams of calcium per cup and this would help keep your bones health including your teeth. Also, in order to get the best out of spinach, it is advised that you combine vitamin C rich foods along with this such as citrus fruits and increase your absorption of calcium. It’s also rich in magnesium, which is said to increase your metabolism, regulate your heart rhythm and maintain blood pressure. Lastly, spinach is rich in iron! In order to get the best out of iron content, you can add some vitamin C foods such as citrus fruits to spinach and improve your absorption of iron content.
While spinach is one of the superstars of vegetables, tomatoes are no less impressive. You might have heard that tomatoes are great for heart health, did you also know that they guard skin health and aid in digestion?
A 2011 study found that the combination of tomato paste and olive oil protected against sun damage, and boosted the production of pro-collagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm and youthful. Scientists believe that the lycopene in tomatoes is key. It’s at its highest concentration when tomatoes have been cooked, and olive oil boosts its absorption from your digestive system into your bloodstream.
The fluid and fiber in tomatoes may be helpful if you're prone to constipation. (According to the USDA one large tomato contains 6 ounces of fluid, and 1.5 grams of fiber.) Just be aware that in some people, the acidity from cooked tomatoes may trigger or worsen acid reflux and indigestion.
Now that you have all the information, here’s how you can make yourself a heathy and hearty quiche.
What you’ll need:
For the quiche crust:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 2 tbsp water, cold
For the filling:
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, (optional)
- 10 oz chopped spinach
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- For the crust: Mix flour and salt. Add the egg, the cold butter, and 2 tbsp cold water. Use your hands to form a smooth dough. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes (or longer).
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly grease a 9"/23cm quiche pan or pie dish.
- In a large bowl mix eggs, pine nuts, spinach, heavy whipping cream, and crumbled feta cheese together. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the chilled shortcrust dough until you have a circle that is slightly larger than your quiche pan.
- Line your pan with the dough then prick the bottom with a fork a few times and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.
- Pour the mixture over your crust and distribute well. Then gently press the whole cherry tomatoes into the filling.
- Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is set. If your quiche gets dark quickly, cover with aluminum foil.
Remove the quiche from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Consuming all types of plant based foods has associations with a reduced risk of many
lifestyle-related health conditions. A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who eat more healthful plant foods have a lower chance of dying from cardiovascular disease and all causes.
Plant based foods often provide a wide range of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and may contain antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work against free radicals, which are compounds in the body that may contribute to inflammation and cancer.
Lentils are high in fiber and according to the American Heart Association (AHA), increased fiber intake can reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or bad cholesterol. Not only does fiber have links to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, but it might slow the progression of the disease in high risk individuals. Lentils add essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the diet. They also provide protein and are an excellent replacement for meat in meals.
Lentils also provide a large amount of folate. Folate is one of the B-vitamins and is needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, convert carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA. Adequate folate intake is extremely important during periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence.
This essential vitamin can also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. A 2019 study of 14,553 pregnant women found that those who took more folate during pregnancy were less likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Lentils are also great for your digestive health. Adequate fiber intake serves as an important factor in weight loss by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system. Fiber in the diet helps to increase the feeling of fullness and reduce appetite. This can reduce a person’s overall calorie intake. The high fiber content in lentils also helps keep the digestive tract healthy, which in turn, prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements.
With so many great benefits of consuming lentils, you should definitely be tucking into a hearty bowl of lentil stew this winter.
What you’ll need:
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 2 leeks, white and tender green parts, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups lentils (green or brown)
- 2 cups kale, chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 2 red potatoes, cut into large pieces
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Any other vegetables of your choice
To cook the lentils:
- Depending on the type of lentils you’re using, cooking lentils can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Lentils don’t require soaking before cooking like other dried legumes.
- Rinse lentils with running water to remove any dust or debris.
- Use 3 cups liquid (water or broth) to 1 cup dry lentils.
- Add lentils and liquid to a large saucepan (large enough for the lentils to expand up to 3 times the dried size).
- Bring to a boil. Cover with lid and reduce heat and simmer on low for 20-45 minutes (depending on the type of lentils) or until lentils are tender.
- Add seasoning and salt after lentils have cooked. Adding salt while lentils cook can make lentils tough.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onions, celery, and leeks and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and stir.
- Bring to a boil, then cover, and let simmer on medium-low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
We hope you try out these 5 recipes for the next 5 days for lunch! Don’t forget to tag us in your delicious lunch pictures on Instagram.