Fresh Lunchtime Inspiration in a Jar

Fresh Lunchtime Inspiration in a Jar - Eat Spin Run Repeat

If you’re reading this, I’m pretty certain that you care about the food you eat. You’re no stranger to fruits, veggies, lean protein and healthy fats, and salads are probably consumed regularly in your house. Perhaps you’ve vowed to include more of them in your daily meal rotation this year, and perhaps you’re looking for some ideas to keep them exciting. If this is the case, then I’ve got just the thing to help.

Portable Salad Jars - Eat Spin Run Repeat

Ages ago, I posted a recipe for Chopped Chicken Salad to Go, a delicious chopped salad with a rainbow of veggies, all conveniently sealed into a mason jar. The food blog world seems to have re-popularized mason jars (I personally am a sucker for the trend and drink out of one at work) as vessels for everything from smoothies and soups to complete meals. Not only are they portable, but you also don’t have to worry about any nasty BPA leeching into your food as is the case for plastic containers. I’ve got a big drawer of glass containers in my kitchen, but lately, my lunches for work have been packed in these guys:

Portable Salad Jars - Eat Spin Run Repeat

About 99% of the time, my lunch consists of a great big entree-sized salad. They’re totally satisfying, nutritionally balanced, and unlike heavier meals, don’t lead to a mid-afternoon energy slump. If you want to infuse a little excitement into your lunch time fare (and get into the good habit of prepping a week’s worth of salads on a Sunday afternoon) here are some of my favourite make-ahead combos.

Fresh Lunchtime Inspiration in a Jar - Eat Spin Run Repeat

The Southwestern Black Bean Salad: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black beans, green onion, bell peppers, corn, cucumber, salsa.

The Southwestern Black Bean Salad

The Lean Green Veggie Machine Salad: Mixed greens, alfalfa or broccoli sprouts, cucumber, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, celery, tempeh, green dressing.

The Lean Green Veggie Machine Salad

The Waldorf Salad: Romaine lettuce, apples, walnuts, chopped chicken, red onion, celery, creamy herb dressing.

The Waldorf Salad - Eat Spin Run Repeat

The Caprese Tuna Salad: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, tuna, boccocini or mozzarella cheese, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette.

The Caprese Tuna Salad

The Asian-Inspired Quinoa Salad:  Shredded green and purple cabbage, cucumber, shredded carrot, fresh cilantro, edamame, quinoa, peanuts, sesame seeds, sweet ginger dressing.

The Asian Inspired Quinoa Salad

A few pointers:

  • Remember that greens are light and your other ingredients are likely heavy, so keep the greens at the top of the jar. This way, they won’t sop up any moisture and become soggy.
  • About 15 minutes before you plan to eat, tip the jar upside down to give the dressing a chance to coat all the other ingredients.
  • When ready to eat, ether take the lid off and dump the salad straight into a salad bowl/plate, or, if you’re on the go, eat straight out of the jar.
  • If you’re using tofu or tempeh cubes, place these ingredients near the dressing when layering the jars. This will save you having to marinate them ahead of time because they’ll absorb some of your dressing while the salad is stored.

Portable Salad Jars - Eat Spin Run Repeat

  • If you’re concerned about the ingredients becoming too soggy from the dressing and plan to eat the salad out of a bowl later, you can simply pack your dressing in a separate container and drizzle it on later.
  • For a complete and satisfying meal, include lean protein (animal or plant-based), plenty of veggies, healthy fats (such as seeds, nuts, and heart-healthy salad oils) and whole grains such as quinoa, millet, or rice.
  • Don’t be shy when it comes to jar size. Most veggies are fairly low in calories yet high in volume, so don’t be afraid to fill a big jar. I have some 2-cup mason jars which I’ll use on occasion, but most days I go for a 4-cup one and fill the top 1/3 with greens.

Portable Salad Jars - Eat Spin Run Repeat

So tell me…

  • What have you been taking to work/campus for lunch these days?
  • Do you like to pack your salads in jars? If so, what are some of your favourite combos?

42 thoughts on “Fresh Lunchtime Inspiration in a Jar

  1. ok this is the year (month? WEEK??) I finnnnnnnnnnnnally try this.
    yours are so pretty—I just know (surmise? intuit??) mine would be a…mishmash of color.

  2. I don’t get the whole lunch in a jar thing. Sure it looks pretty, but you need to dump it out to mix it up or you end up eating individual layers which isn’t as good as it all together – so you need an extra dish. Then, as you say you need a pretty big jar to get a large enough portion to fill you up. I’ll stick to a big bowl! Thanks for the salad suggestions though – they do look yummy

    1. That’s true, Sherry – the big bowl would be my #1 choice too. But another thing I like about the jars is that they don’t leak. I’ve had far too many other containers leak dressing all over my lunch bag/handbag etc, and it’s not fun going around smelling like dressing all day! 🙂

  3. My favorite one lately and I haven’t gotten adventurous or anything, is a mix of greens. Romaine, spinach and kale with green onion, zucchini and then whatever other vegetables I have available and then some spicy ham for protein. Reading your recipes makes me seriously think of branching out and especially trying new dressings. Is ham an appropriate protein?

    1. Mmm that sounds so good Suzanne! I have to admit I’m not a big ham eater (I guess it’s just because I lived in a Muslim country for 5 years where pork products are either banned or rare, I lost the desire to eat it), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good protein source. Some ham is highly processed though and flavoured with lots of salt and artificial ingredients, so be sure to focus on high quality. I think enjoying a wide variety of protein sources is a great way to ensure you’re covering your bases as far as nutrition goes. Hope that helps!

  4. I’m a total sucker for all things mason jar
    (This is my next purchase, and no, I don’t need it ), so this might make actually making lunches fun. I tend to stick to leftovers, which are not fun. How long do your salads last with the dressing at the bottom before you eat them? I am also worried about soggy ingredients, but hate carrying multiple tupperware.

    1. OMG that mug –> I KNOW!! I don’t need it either but I’m totally lusting after it as well. You and I would be a dangerous pair in that store, I bet! Regarding the dressing thing, I’ve found that if I put the dressing in first, followed by a pretty firm veggie like celery, or a protein source, they last as long as 5 days. It’s when you start adding lots of light or water-packed things like greens, cucumber, tomato etc that you get a lot of moisture. If you want to make all 5 on the weekend and are a bit worried about sogginess, I’d suggest leaving the dressing out of the 2 you plan to eat on days 4 and 5, and drizzle it in later. It might not coat as well but at least your veg will stay super crisp! Miss you! 🙂

  5. Almost everything goes in my jars for lunch….
    But my favourite thing is veggie chili, and veggie “PHO”
    I’m a chef/Pastry Chef but I still pack my lunch every day, even with the vast array of food around me.
    Makes it so much easier when I know what I have to eat for the day 🙂

  6. These salad ideas are so fun, Angela! I usually end up eating leftovers at home for lunch, but I wish I’d discovered the mason jar option when I was working at an office. Great tips!

  7. Love love Mason jars, I use mine for my overnight oatmeal- Great idea for salad on the go, will definately be trying these 🙂

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