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Health & Wellness
9/07/2023 by Alissa Palladino

Ask a Dietitian: Level Up Your Lunches

For runners and active individuals, eating a nutritious lunch is key to staying satisfied and energized throughout the day, not to mention recovering from a morning run or preparing to hit the track after work. But when work gets busy and time is limited, it's common to opt for convenience over nutrition, thus missing out on the opportunity to optimally fuel your body.

Fortunately, with just a little planning and prep, you don't have to choose. Before you pull up your favorite delivery app or slap together another PB&J, try one of these easy, tasty, nutrient-packed options.

Each recipe makes four servings so that you can have lunch ready to go throughout the week, and provides the balance of energy-rich carbs; anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy fats; muscle-building protein; and antioxidant-rich, colorful produce that runners need to thrive.

Deconstructed Burrito Bowl with Corn and Black Beans


· 1 15-ounce can black beans

· 1 15-ounce can corn kernels

· 2 cups brown rice, cooked

· 2 medium tomatoes, diced

· 1 medium red onion, diced

· 1 cup shredded cheese, such as Monterrey Jack or cotija

· 1 avocado, sliced

· ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

· 1 pound lean ground turkey, beef or plant-based alternative (optional but recommended for additional protein)

· 1 packet taco seasoning (optional)


· Rinse canned beans and corn.

· Chop tomatoes and onions.

· Prepare rice according to package directions (typically, a 2:1 water to rice ratio works if making on the stove top).

· Cook ground meat over medium heat, adding taco seasoning packet, if desired.

· Divide ingredients over four bowls or Tupperware with lid (Omit avocado and sour cream/Greek yogurt if prepping ahead).

· Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream plus ¼ of the avocado right before eating.

· If refrigerating, use within five days.

Asian-Inspired Slaw with Quinoa and Edamame


· 2 cups quinoa, cooked

· 2 cups edamame, shelled and steamed

· 4 cups shredded cabbage

· 1 cup shredded carrots

· ½ cup scallions, chopped

· ¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted if desired

· 1 pound salmon (cooked or raw), tofu or grilled chicken (optional, but recommended for additional protein)

For dressing:

· ¼ cup maple syrup

· ¼ cup peanut butter

· ¼ cup soy sauce

· ¼ cup rice wine vinegar

· Pinch of sriracha


· Cook quinoa and edamame according to package directions.

· Prepare all ingredients and divide across four bowls or Tupperware containers.

· Whisk together ingredients for dressing (and store separately in its own container).

· Top slaw with about ¼ cup dressing before eating.

· If refrigerating, eat within five days.

Mediterranean-Inspired Snack Plate


· 4 ounces whole grain or seed crackers

· 4 ounces almonds, or your favorite nut

· 1 pint cherry tomatoes

· 1 large cucumber, sliced

· 2 bell peppers, cut into strips

· 1 cup hummus

· 1 cup olives (black, green or Kalamata)

· 4 cups red grapes

· 1 pound rotisserie chicken or deli meat slices of choice (optional, but recommended for extra protein)


· Wash and prep vegetables

· Arrange ingredients on a plate or pack into a Tupperware container with section dividers.

Elevated PB & J

A fresh take on this beloved classic that ramps up the nutrition factor for runners. Swapping fresh or frozen berries for jelly increases heart-healthy fiber and antioxidants while limiting added sugar. Opt for whole grain bread with at least 2 grams of fiber per slice and seeds for an extra dose of healthy fats. Look for nut butters with the natural oil separation, meaning no preservatives or saturated fats have been added, and only nuts and salt listed in the ingredients.


· 8 slices whole grain bread toasted, if desired

· 8-12 Tbsp. natural peanut or almond butter

· 2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) berries such as blueberries, raspberries or sliced strawberries


· Spread 1-2 Tbsp. nut butter on each slice of bread. Layer with about 1/4 cup of berries. Make into a sandwich or eat open faced.

· For variation, you can try apple slices or bananas instead of berries and experiment with different nut butters such as cashew, walnut or sunflower.

· Enjoy with a side salad dressed in an oil-based vinaigrette or raw veggies dipped in hummus to round out the meal.

Alissa is an Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer dedicated to helping people optimize their health and athletic performance by harnessing the power of nutrition. Alissa currently offers virtual and in-person nutrition consultations, meal planning services and metabolic testing. Learn more at https://alissapalladinonutrition.squarespace.com or contact her at apalladinordn@gmail.com