I've always been one to sleep late, and I'm a huge advocate of napping. It must run on my mother's side since my sisters share this fondness for snoozing. My father, on the other hand, is up before dawn and only needs an occasional five minutes of shut-eye in his recliner to recharge his batteries. But nap time is one thing; an energy crash at 4 p.m. when I'm running on a deadline is another.
I used to blame the afternoon lethargy on my sleep-loving nature, but lately I've started to second-guess this evaluation. After a bit of online research, I decided to revamp some of my mealtime choices in an effort to naturally boost my energy. I already eat a (mostly) balanced diet, so it's not like I needed a major overhaul. All I really had to do was to move the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy grains to the front of the refrigerator, so they are easier to grab when my sugar cravings strike. (Hiding Cadbury Mini Eggs from myself also helps, although this has not proven 100 percent effective.)
Breakfast is the easiest for me; I naturally prefer lighter fare in the morning. It's lunchtime that proves to be my downfall, when I mindlessly reach for leftovers and sweets to satisfy my hunger. My new trick? To prep a big, hearty recipe on Monday that can be used in a variety of ways to keep me satisfied throughout the week. This white bean and roasted vegetable salad is my latest; it's a spin off of my favorite roasted vegetable and orzo pasta salad.
The canned beans replace the processed carbs, as well as add lots of fiber and protein to keep me fuller longer. I can eat the salad plain, wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla, or mash and pile it on toast for a quick bruschetta. If I need it to stretch to an entrée, I can toss in some olive oil-packed tuna for a bigger punch. This easy little dish even pulls through as a potluck side when there's only a moment to plan. And with all this extra energy, no one will notice I don't have a minute to spare.
What about you? What's your go-to lunch to keep you energized when you are on the go?
White Bean & Roasted Vegetable Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 3/4" pieces
1/2 large red onion, peeled and chopped into 3/4" pieces
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil, divided
2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Finely chopped fresh parsley, to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the bell peppers, onion, and garlic cloves with 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to caramelize.
Toss the still-warm vegetables with the cannellini beans, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the salad to sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for at least one hour to allow the flavors to marry. Discard garlic cloves. Stir in chopped parsley; taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
Recipe originally published April 2009.
Related: Chicken, Tuna, Pasta: 15 Fresh and Filling Lunch Salads
(Images: Nealey Dozier)