Lunch Salad Ideas for Health Conscious Nurse Practitioners

For busy nurse practitioners, healthy eating at work can be tough. Even if you've successfully packed a lunch bag filled with carrot sticks, there's a break room full of chips, leftover birthday cake and other similarly tempting treats calling your name. Or, you may work in a clinic where pharmaceutical reps leave a nonstop supply of lunchtime takeout on your desk. How do you keep on track with your eating during the workday?

If you're going to stick to a healthy eating plan at work, whether you're trying to lose weight or simply prevent early onset diabetes, packing your own food is a huge help. But, it's got to be a tasty selection of items. This keeps you in control of your food consumption and ensures you have plenty of energy to make it through a long shift without caving in the cafeteria. As a sort-of health nut, I've packed many a healthy lunch in my days as a nurse practitioner. Here are a few of my favorite healthy salad picks (I'm no food photog so you'll have to trust me blindly on these!).

Chopped Thai Peanut Salad

The best thing about this recipe is that the veggies involved keep well in the fridge. I chop all necessary ingredients aside from the lettuce and make a batch of dressing on Sunday evenings so I can easily throw together a packed lunch before work the following weekdays. 

For the Thai Peanut Dressing:

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1-inch square piece fresh ginger roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more for a kick!)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator. Pour dressing over the top of salad immediately before serving. 

For the Salad:

Chopped red cabbage

Chopped romaine

Chopped red bell pepper

Chopped cilantro

Shredded carrots (available pre-shredded)

Chopped lightly salted peanuts 

Combine all ingredients in proportion to your liking. I use less romaine than I typically would for a salad to give that 'chopped salad' consistency. Add a protein like grilled chicken for extra hungry days. 


Green Dream Salad

For the Dressing:

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

Whisk all ingredients together. Store in refrigerator. Pour over salad immediately before serving. 

For the Salad:

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 bunch of green onions (4), chopped

1 avocado, diced

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Sprinkle with dried cranberries and roasted sunflower seeds

This salad is a must-try for the avocado lover. Admittedly, avocado doesn't always store well in a packed lunch. Consider placing the avocado at the bottom of your serving container with the other ingredients on top and tossing just before eating. 


Mandarin Almond Leaf Lettuce Salad

For the Dressing:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (more for a kick!)

Whisk all ingredients together or mix in a shaker. Store in refrigerator. Pour over salad immediately before serving.

For the Salad: 

1/2 cup almonds (or more)

Canned mandarin oranges, drained

Sliced red onions

Red leaf lettuce

Romaine or green leaf lettuce

Cook 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small pan on the stove.  STIR.  When the sugar liquefies, add the almonds.  When they are coated turn them on to a glass plate to cool.  When they are cooled break them into salad sized pieces. This should be done ahead of time to allow for adequate cooling. You can make extra candied almonds and store them in the pantry for future use.

Clean leaf lettuce and romaine. Tear into pieces.  Add thinly sliced red onion and drained oranges. At the last minute add almonds. This salad is lighter than my prior faves so adding a protein like grilled chicken or salmon (if you can avoid the break room stink) is a plus. 

What are your favorite lunches for the healthy nurse practitioner?


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