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Recipes for workplace lunch, snacks: Lentil loaf, pasta salad, honey cocoa balls

02/23/2015 05:05 EST | Updated 04/25/2015 05:59 EDT
March is Nutrition Month and the Dietitians of Canada are urging people to eat healthier in the workplace.

"A little advance preparation, I find, goes a long way and it's a great investment in any employees' health ... The things that we do, like the lunches that we pack for ourselves and the breakfasts that we create, also impact on our kids so it's all about the healthy lifestyle habits," says registered dietitian Gina Sunderland.

"Everyone feels better when we're eating better and, you know, we get sick less and our kids get sick less."

Winnipeg-based Sunderland does some preparation on the weekends, such as slicing and freezing a lentil pumpkin loaf so there's no excuse for not grabbing a healthy breakfast during the week.

She might make granola with fibre-rich grains or stir up batches of soup for toting to work or school and has her two teenage boys help with prep, baking and adding items to the grocery list.

Make-ahead pasta salads are great for toting to work or school for lunch.

Sunderland used to walk in the door starving after her hour-long commute home and grab the first thing she saw — not always the healthiest choice. Now she munches on a crunchy apple and handful of nuts and sips from a bottle of water and walks in the door much happier. It also helps curb overeating at supper.

Other dashboard-board dining options are homemade trail mix portioned into 50 ml (1/4 cup) servings in snack-size containers or bags, a little bag of air-popped popcorn or colourful raw veggies.

Here are some recipes that can be prepared ahead for healthy eating at work or school.

LENTIL PUMPKIN LOAF

Orange zest, cinnamon, cloves and ginger add flavour without too much sugar to this nutrition-packed treat. Lentils add fibre and protein and are easy to incorporate into soups, sauces and baking.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

250 ml (1 cup) canned pumpkin puree

250 ml (1 cup) lentil puree

50 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil

2 eggs

175 ml (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

15 ml (1 tbsp) orange zest

250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour

250 ml (1 cup) whole-wheat flour

10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda

7 ml (1/2 tbsp) cinnamon

1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cloves

1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground ginger

1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt

Canola oil cooking spray

Lentil Puree: Place cooked lentils in bowl of a food processor. For every 250 ml (1 cup) of cooked lentils, add 50 ml (1/4 cup) water. Blend until smooth. Lentil puree has a similar consistency to canned pumpkin. Add additional water 15 ml (1 tbsp) at a time if more moisture is needed. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin and lentil puree, oil, eggs, sugar and orange zest.

In a separate bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spray a 23-cm (9-inch) loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from loaf pan to let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 12 slices.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutritional information per 1 slice: 190 calories; 5 g protein; 32 g carbohydrate; 6 g fat; 4 g fibre; 210 mg sodium; 30 mg cholesterol; 14 g sugars.

Source: Canadian Lentils.

PASTA AND EDAMAME SALAD

This pasta salad can be made for dinner and do double duty as tomorrow's lunch.

Beans and cheese together have protein and whole-grain pasta adds fibre, says Sunderland. If desired, you could use quinoa or brown rice pasta.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

750 ml (3 cups) frozen edamame or green peas, thawed

750 ml (3 cups) cooked pasta (such as orecchiette or mini-shell)

37 ml (2 1/2 tbsp) olive oil

15 ml (1 tbsp) white balsamic or white wine vinegar

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

2 stalks celery, diced finely

200 g (7 oz) cherry tomatoes, quartered

90 g (3 oz) regular havarti cheese or medium cheddar cheese, diced finely

75 ml (1/3 cup) fresh basil, sliced finely on the diagonal

Chili powder, to taste (optional)

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together gently.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional information per 1 serving: 208 calories; 10 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 10 g fat; 3 g fibre; 82 mg sodium; 3 g sugars.

Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada.

HONEY COCOA BALLS

These high-energy treats are great to wrap and take to school or work for a mid-afternoon snack. You can add chopped dried fruit and nuts for a different version.

150 ml (2/3 cup) dry red lentils

250 ml (1 cup) honey

325 ml (1 1/3 cup) smooth natural peanut butter

75 ml (1/3 cup) cocoa

0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) salt

75 ml (1/3 cup) sesame seeds

125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened coconut

125 ml (1/2 cup) cocoa, for garnish

125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened coconut, for garnish

In a small saucepan, cover lentils with water by 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches), bring to a boil and simmer until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse very briefly, then drain and let cool in colander.

Lay out a double thickness of sturdy paper towel on counter. Using hands, and working one handful at a time, squeeze as much water as possible out of lentils and then spread lentils on paper towel. Cover with another two paper towels and then press or gently wring to remove even more liquid. Lentils should be almost powdery in texture when you're done. Transfer to bowl of a food processor.

Pour honey over lentils and process until as smooth as possible. Add peanut butter and process until mixture stiffens, about a minute. Transfer to a medium bowl and add cocoa, salt, sesame seeds and coconut, and stir until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 2 hours (or place in freezer for about 30 minutes).

Roll mixture into balls about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter (use about 30 ml/2 tbsp for each), and roll in additional cocoa or coconut to coat. Store in a sealed container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 36 balls.

Nutritional information per serving (1 ball): 130 calories; 7 g total fat (2 g saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 2 g fibre; 8 g sugars; 4 g protein; 45 mg sodium; 82 mg potassium; 15 mcg folate.

Source: Canadian Lentils.

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