When you’re trying to be conscientious and pack your lunch rather than spend a mint on takeout, you’ll want to plan accordingly both for your diet and for the season; in the warmer months of the year, the last thing you’ll want to eat is anything hot.
On your lunch break, when you’re in between stressful cases, you’ll want a lunch that’s filling and satisfying yet light at the same time, so here are a few meals you can eat out in the park with your friends, at your desk during particularly busy days, or anywhere that suits you—and the best part is, all of them can be eaten cold or room temperature.
Mason jar salads
Packing a salad to go can be a bit of a pain—you typically need separate containers for your dressing and your greens so nothing gets weirdly soggy. However, a basic mason jar offers up a perfect solution; for the perfect mason jar salad, simply put the dressing right at the bottom of the jar and pile nonabsorbent vegetables like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, and the like along the bottom while placing more delicate toppings like tomatoes and cheese higher up in the stack. Top everything with a few handfuls of your favorite greens and tightly close the lid, and you’ve got a salad that will not only last for a few days, but that can be easily shaken right into a bowl and eaten at work—or on a bench in the park.
Pasta has a bit of a bad reputation: It’s too fattening, it’s too heavy, it’s only good when it’s served piping hot. But when you make a cold pasta salad, you can buck all of those reputations and satisfy yourself with a perfect summertime lunch. At home, cook a shorter pasta (fusilli, elbows, penne, and orzo tend to yield the best results) according to the package instructions and immediately dress it with olive oil once it’s drained, then prep the rest of your ingredients. Later, you can mix it all together for a lunch that’s at once light and perfectly filling. Avoid ingredients like butter or cream that require reheating. Add tasty ingredients like cucumber, tomato, feta, and olives—and don’t forget a smattering of your favorite fresh herbs and black pepper to add flavor.
Creative Mediterranean salads
Thanks to centuries of warmer climates, the Mediterraneans seem to be accidental experts at creating the perfect desk lunch, and many of their basic salad recipes can yield super satisfying and fresh results. During the summer, you’ll be able to score one of the freshest ingredients around—watermelon—and pair it with protein, greens, and herbs for a perfect summer lunch. Chop up some watermelon, crumble good feta over the top, and sprinkle all of it with sea salt, black pepper, and the herbs of your choosing, as well as greens like spinach or arugula to finish it off. If you’re craving carbs and crunch, grab some pita chips and use them to scoop up every last morsel of this tasty, delightful dish.