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EVOO with Fresh Herbs
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Visit our Heatlh Lunches Pinterest Board for recipes that make great leftovers and dishes that can be thrown together quickly to pack for lunch.
When shopping for olive oil you're often confronted with a dizzying array of choices: Extra Virgin ... Pure ... Light. We offer a primer on the different grades - from Extra Virgin (the best) to Lampante (unfit for human consumption).

Lunch can present a minefield for working adults. It may mean dining at restaurants that serve gargantuan portions. It may mean eating greasy burgers and salty fries on the fly. Or it may mean bringing an unsatisfying, unhealthy prepackaged lunch to the office.

However, a little planning will ensure you make smart choices when dining out. And it will help you prepare a flavorful, healthy sack lunch for the office.

First, restaurants. They aren't always the healthiest place to eat. Although many restaurants are offering healthy alternatives to fan favorites, many eateries may tempt you with fillers like bread and butter, sugary beverages, or all-you-can-eat specials. Below are healthy tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the USDA:
  • Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of fried
  • Steer clear of all-you-can-eat buffets
  • Resign from the "clean your plate club" - when you've eaten enough, leave the rest or bring it home for tomorrow's lunch
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served "on the side" so you can add only as much as you want; or top with olive oil,vinegar, salt and pepper for an easy, healthy alternative
  • Choose entrees that feature seafood, chicken or lean meat, and avoid fatty meats; if you order meat, remove all visible fat and ask the chef to remove the skin from the chicken
  • Ask what kinds of oils foods are prepared with or cooked in; among the most desirable oils are monounsaturated oils, like extra virgin olive oil
  • Plan ahead and look for eateries with a big range of menu items; also, scan online menus so you can make smart choices beforehand
You also have options when it comes to sack lunches. They're cheaper than eating out, and you have greater control over what you eat. 

Here are tips for building a better brown-bag lunch:
  • Leftovers can make for a great sack lunch; make extra portions in advance
  • Make your sandwiches with whole grain breads, such as whole wheat and rye, versus white  
  • Ditto for pasta; choose whole wheat pastas and top with a healthy sauce made ahead of time, such as raw tomatoes or asparagus pesto
  • Go heavy on the greens and veggies, opting for colorful, nutritious salads that you can top with lean meats such as poultry or pork tenderloin, as well as the previous night's veggies like broccoli, green beans, or roasted sweet peppers
  • Avoid bottled salad dressings and make your own, using extra virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar
  • Make large batches of quinoa, grains and dried beans ahead of time; they're a blank canvas for adding healthy items like veggies, nuts, fresh fruit such as apples and grapes, as well as dried fruits

To start off August right, we've collected a batch of healthy recipes below. Serve at home and make extra for the office. You can also get tips from San Francisco Chef Parke Ulrich of Waterbar in our Q&A below. Healthy lunches are just a few pre-planning moments away from better nutrition all day long.    
Healthy, Flavorful Lunch Recipes
Charred Corn and Avocado Salad  

This is an easy and delicious summer salad that capitalizes on the abundance of corn and cherry tomatoes. Another nice touch: You can broil the ingredients, an easier method for cooking veggies than the grill. This dish - courtesy of Food52 - is great as a side for grilled meat and seafood. Make extra and bring to the office for lunch. You could prepare the vinaigrette with our fruity Arbequina.    

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Green Couscous
Famed London chef Yotam Ottolenghi calls this couscous salad "green" because of the color of the ingredients: arugula, green onions, green chile, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, dill and mint. "It has strong flavors and is extremely healthful, but still feels light and comforting," he says in his acclaimed  cookbook Plenty. "Adding some feta will make it a bit more substantial." You could use our robust Miller' Blend or Rich & Robust oils to pull together the salad's strong flavors.   

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Red Quinoa Salad   

Quinoa is a poster child for foods that taste good and are good for you. It has an earthy, nutty flavor and pairs well with a variety of flavors. This red quinoa salad - from the book Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic - includes toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, cucumbers, and feta cheese. It gets added flavor with a lemony dressing, which you could make with our fruity Arbequina.  

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Soba Noodle Salad with Snow Peas  

You can pick and choose which veggies to include in this soba noodle salad from the award-winning cookbook author Marie Simmons. Soba - the Japanese buckwheat noodles - are paired with snow peas, carrots, cucumber, and scallions in this Asian-themed salad. Marie says "feel free to put in slivered radishes for more color, or to substitute slivered green beans for the snow peas." The recipe, in Marie's book Fresh & Fast Vegetarian, calls for a "mild-tasting" extra virgin olive oil, like our Everyday Fresh and Mild & Buttery oils.  

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Eating in Moderation and Enjoying Life
Parke Ulrich
San Francisco, CA
Parke Ulrich
Parke Ulrich attributes his life-long interest in cooking and food to his German roots, big family, and meals that were always social gatherings. Today, the Philadelphia native is executive chef at San Francisco's highly acclaimed Waterbar. Ulrich's commitment to sustainably sourced seafood and fresh, local, organically-grown produce guide the restaurants daily-changing menu. And when it comes to healthy eating, Ulrich is all about "moderation." We asked him about healthy eating at the office ... or a restaurant.

What advice would you give people who go out for lunch and who want to eat a healthy meal?

I eat lighter, especially if it's hot outside: ceviche, salads, etc.

How do you eat healthfully when you're at a restaurant, your own included?

I share a lot with the people I am with.  We may do all appetizers and no entrees.  It is about moderation.

What's your favorite healthy lunch that you might make for yourself - ideally one that people could make for themselves and bring to the office?

Chopped vegetable salad.  Use raw finely chopped veggies - whatever you have - and dress them with vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette will soften (cook) the veggies over time.  Quinoa is also great to add.

What are your go-to superfoods that can be included in everyday eating?

Couscousquinoa, chia seeds - all are very quick to prepare!

What foods do you typically avoid for health reasons.

I do not avoid.  It is about moderation and enjoying life!  If I go for something fatty or rich then I am also balancing with fresh, and light.

Do you have a simple salad recipe that uses olive oil and that people could make for their lunch they bring to the office? (See below.)
Chopped Vegetable Salad
2 oz. each, finely chopped raw broccoli, carrot, summer squash
2 oz. marinated artichokes, chopped finely
2 oz. cherry tomatoes
3 oz. lemon vinaigrette (see below)
Mix all together in bowl or zip lock bag and store for transportation.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Keep chilled
Lemon Vinaigrette

Juice and zest of two lemons
2 oz. champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Place ingredients, except the oil, in a blender or small glass.  Using a  blender or stick blender, mix and slowly add the oil to emulsify to a creamy texture.  You may need to adjust with more lemon or more oil, depending on your taste and how much juice you get from lemons.  I like it assertive and tangy - not overly oily, as that will take away from the flavor of the vegetables.