One of the “perks” of working as a clinical dietitian in a hospital is eating in the cafeteria at no charge. Although the wide array of food to choose from is far from healthy, there is a salad bar that is doable. As its reputation suggests, hospital food is not quite gourmet, but it is easy in a pinch. So after all of my pleas to BYOL (bring your own lunch), I myself had fallen into the trap of not bringing my own food every day. I have to admit, it was quite enjoyable not making lunch the night (or weekend) before, or dealing with the burden of preparing the lunchbox in the morning and then actually remembering to take it with me when I left the house. Not to mention the cost savings. So with all of these positives, there is no reason to go back to making my own lunch, right? Wrong- and here is why.
As I said, the healthiest option is the salad bar, and although it is full of color and selection, this selection NEVER changes. It is virtually the same salad every single day. So there I was, with this great opportunity to eat salads everyday for free. However, I quickly began to notice that this may not be so “great” after all. I was finding that in order to spunk up the salad, I fell into the habit of adding buttery croutons, or wontons, or more than a little cheese, or changing the dressing to a creamier one because oil and vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.
Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with adding a few croutons here and there, or enjoying a creamy dressing on occasion. My problem began after lunch, when I got back to my office and attempted to return to work. It was near impossible. My brain fog was so thick that I needed to work twice as hard to focus. Every day I felt like I could just close my eyes and take a snooze. It was difficult for me to express my thoughts or use clinical judgment with my patients. I attributed this to not sleeping enough at night. So I made it a point to get to bed earlier to ensure proper sleep. This made no difference. I began drinking coffee in the afternoon in an attempt to regain my consciousness. As you can imagine, hospital coffee is far from hospitable, so of course I needed a little half and half to get it down. This became a daily cycle, until I started thinking about my past experiences at work. I never felt this crappy. Was it the job? Is this just me now that I am almost 30? Do I have chronic fatigue syndrome?! What’s going on here!?!?
It was this after-lunch malaise that forced me to reevaluate my lunchtime habits. I was completely sick of that salad bar anyway, so I decided to go back to my BYOL philosophy. By going to my local farmer’s market and keeping my lunches meat-free, I am able to load up on veggies and not break the bank. This way I don’t feel too bad about giving up my free lunches. As soon as I put the BYOL back into effect, I experienced a night-and-day difference in mental clarity. I had energy to complete the day strong, there was no more mid-afternoon coffee breaks, and I was able to rest assured knowing exactly what was in my lunch. Plus I really enjoy knowing that I am giving my cells the best possible nutrition. I implore you to do the same!
I have expressed my love of soups in previous posts. They are such a great way to jam a plethora of vegetables into one bowl. I also love the fact that I can make a big pot on Sunday and have lunches for a week. I can usually even freeze some for those Sundays I don’t have time to hit the farmer’s market. This Coconut Curry Soup is a staple. It is loaded with amazing benefits. The coconut milk provides healthy fats while providing a rich mouth feel. The curry, ginger, and garlic offer anti-inflammatory effects, while broccoli and onions provide the cancer-preventing punch. Now, rather than eating who-knows-what for lunch, I treat myself to this healthy midday elixir- and I hope you will too!
- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
- 2 Medium Onions
- 2 2-inch Knobs of Ginger, Peeled
- 6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 5 Large Carrots, Thinly Sliced
- 2 Tablespoons (good) Curry Powder
- 8 Cups Water
- Salt to Taste (start with 2 teaspoons and add more as you like)
- Broccoli Florets from 1 Head of Broccoli
- 2 Cans Light Coconut Milk
- 6 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
- ½ Cup Cilantro, Chopped
- Sautee onions, whole ginger, garlic, and carrots and curry powder in coconut oil until onions become soft and translucent.
- Add water and salt. Bring to a boil until carrots are tender and cooked through (usually about 15 minutes).
- Add the broccoli to the boiling soup and allow it to cook for 4 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, scallions, and cilantro until just before the soup comes back up to a boil.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the whole ginger peices before portioning into smaller lunch containers.
- This soup is easily reheated in the microwave. Enjoy!!