Need a Healthy Lunch? Can Do!

A marinated bean salad comes together quickly and keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Between working from home, online learning and topsy-turvy schedules, lunch can be stressful and surprisingly chaotic. Your spouse wants a quick bite between Zoom meetings, the kids are whining about peanut butter and jelly (again!), and your teen has polished off the last of the chips.

“Lunch tends to be tough for people, because we don’t necessarily think about it. So, we need to have a plan of action,” said Autumn Ehsaei, a dietician with Perennial Nutrition in Cary.

“Keeping it easy is key. Quick, easy lunches that you can throw together the night before or the morning of. If you are able to do it in the moment, something that takes 10 minutes or less is the goal.”

One of the easiest lunches is eating last night’s leftovers on top of mixed salad greens, she says. A hearty lunch can be created with bits of chicken, roasted vegetables, veggie burger patties and canned beans on a bed of lettuce and spinach. Or if you haven’t been to the store lately, try a base of baked sweet potato, cooked brown rice or even oatmeal.

“It’s a really good way to make leftovers last longer,” said Ehsaei. “If it’s something that you have just a little bit of something left, and it’s not enough to eat on its own, this is a great way to bulk it up into an entirely new meal, and use that food up so it doesn’t go to waste.”

Another way to liven up lunch is to mix up a versatile bean salad that can be eaten with tortilla chips, slipped into a cheese quesadilla or spooned over salad greens. The salad can be made ahead of time and lasts several days in the fridge.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
Serves 4

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice from one lime
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons Chipotle Pepper Tabasco Sauce, or other hot sauce

Combine all ingredients, and let stand for one hour for flavors to combine. Toss again and serve.

Variation: Omit cilantro, lime, cumin and hot sauce. Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley. For dressing, combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and whisk in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, if desired. Pour over other ingredients (beans, corn, bell pepper, tomatoes, parsley and onion). Let stand one hour before serving.


  • Ted says:

    Looks yummy! And thanks for the variation ideas because cilantro is just not my thing. It’s way too strong for me. Love everything else in the recipe.

  • Glenn G. says:

    Frozen edamame also works in this recipe. Either swap out the corn or try 1 cup of corn and 1 cup of edamame.

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