Looking for easy, healthy lunch ideas? Want a quick way to pack some extra vegetables into your day? Mason jars are the best thing to happen to salads since lettuce. I’ve always been a fan of salads, but I’m especially loving the salad-in-a-jar trend. With just a few simple supplies, you can take part in the latest lunch craze — make your salad in a jar the night before work without worrying about sogginess the next day. Check out these step-by-step instructions for this hassle-free lunch.
The most important tool: a mason jar
A tall glass mason jar is essential for making salads ahead of time. Packing your salad vertically allows you to store the dressing in the bottom of the jar and your lettuce at the top. This means the two won’t touch until you shake everything up. Find a one-quart mason jar with a wide mouth — buy more than one for those times you leave it at the office.
Choose your greens:
Romaine, spinach, kale, arugula, red leaf, iceberg, broccoli, coleslaw mix — they’re all tasty and low-calorie options for the base of your salad. Choose one or create your own combo. My go-to? Chopped romaine.
Pick your protein:
Chopped, skinless chicken breast is classic, and tuna packed in water is a good option too. Get creative — try hard-boiled egg whites, chopped turkey breast, shrimp, extra-lean ground beef, lean ground turkey or even a chopped veggie burger. Just make sure your protein is completely cool before layering it into your jar. Nobody likes wilted lettuce!
Select your mix-ins:
Just because it's a salad doesn't automatically mean it's healthy. Be smart about your ingredients. Add as many fresh veggies as you like: tomato, cucumber, carrots, mushrooms, etc. For extra protein and flavor, choose one or two of these: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, edamame, corn kernels, avocado, reduced-fat cheese or dry-roasted nuts. On the no-no list: fried toppings, candied nuts, most full-fat cheeses — grated parmesan and crumbled feta are good options because a little goes a long way.
Choose your dressing:
I like to look for light dressings with 50 calories or less and no more than three grams of fat per two tablespoons. (I love the creamy dressings made with Greek yogurt.) Most importantly, watch your portions. Grab a measuring spoon and put it to good use. Other options? Use salsa or mix your favorite flavored vinegar with a just a bit of olive oil.
Time to build your salad-in-a-jar:
- Step 1: Add your dressing. This will keep your lettuce from getting soggy.
- Step 2: Add your protein and mix-ins. Pack hearty vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers closest to the dressing — they’re the least likely to get soggy. Leave plenty of room for lettuce.
- Step 3: Top things off with your greens, filling the jar to the top. Don't pack it in too tightly or the dressing won't distribute well when you shake it later.
- Step 4: Screw on the lid and place the jar in the refrigerator. Resist the urge to shake it up.
When you’re ready to eat — whether it’s that afternoon or lunch the next day — shake the jar to cover its contents with dressing. Then flip everything into a bowl (or eat it straight from the jar).