If you're thinking about consuming less red meat for No Red (meat) October and beyond, one of the best ways to reduce the amount of meat in your diet is to eat vegetarian for lunch. If you're used to packing a deli sandwich or chicken salad, this might sound like a bit of a challenge, but I've come up with a menu for lunch meal prep, which takes less than 35 minutes of active time, and yields several days of healthy, filling, delightful lunches.
Our bodies need to consume all essential amino acids every day, and getting protein from meat is kind of a no-brainer, because it's a 100% complete protein. But it's hard to find every single amino acid in individual plant-based ingredients. So when eating vegetarian, you've got to carefully combine these proteins so that they complement each other, and form a complete protein together.
It might sound like a lot of math for packing a lunch, but it's actually super easy once you get the hang of it, and I've come up with a menu that is already planned for you. In this case, the wheat, sesame seeds, and chickpeas in tabbouleh and hummus combine to make a complete protein, and the feta cheese is a complete protein because it's an animal product.
Hummus with olive oil and za'atar
Feta mint wraps
- This will give you about four days of work lunches, plus some left over for after work snacking, or about 3 days of work lunches for you and your partner.
- The prepared food should keep for all 4 days, but only if you use really fresh ingredients, and make a tabbouleh that’s primarily parsley-based (parsley holds up better than cilantro, for instance). Make sure you wash all the herbs in cold water and dry them really well. This will prevent them from turning to mush when you mince them.
- The grocery list assumes you're making classic tabbouleh, but I added some optional pomegranate seeds, as pictured.
- It should take about 35 minutes to cook everything.
- The feta and mint should be eaten as little wraps, but don't wrap them ahead of time. Just use a mint leaf to scoop up a piece of feta, wrap it up, and eat it.
- The carrots are for scooping up the hummus.
- Using a bento box will keep keep everything fresher for a couple days, but if you don't have one, fan out the carrot chips in a line down the center of a plastic container. This will create a barrier between the hummus and tabbouleh. Spread the hummus on one side, scoop the tabbouleh on the other, pack the feta and mint in separate snack-size plastic bags, and place them on top of the tabbouleh if there's room.
- You can easily make this gluten free by subbing quinoa (or another gluten-free grain) for the bulgur.
- For a dinner meze menu (also known as mezze, mazze, or mazzeh), check out my easy vegetarian meze post.
2 15.5 ounce cans of chickpeas
Extra virgin olive oil
Za'atar, or your favorite spice or dried herb
Fine bulgur (#1)
2 cloves garlic from 1 head
5 large lemons
About 5 carrots (or a bag of baby carrots)
4 plum tomatoes
1 big bunch parsley (or 2 small bunches)
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch mint
optional: 1 small pomegranate
8 to 12 ounces feta cheese
to do list
- Wash and dry the mint
- Make the hummus
- Make the tabbouleh (add pomegranate seeds if you bought them)
- Slice the feta into chunks
- Slice carrots on the bias (or use baby carrots)
- Pack everything away. Top the hummus with olive oil and za’atar, or another herb or spice, and pack a little extra za'atar on the side.