One of the best pieces of advice I have read about promoting healthy eating is to make your own food.
We live in a world of shrinking attention spans, immediate gratification and moving quickly from one activity to the next, margin-less and rushed. Preparing our own food requires slowdown. Even a quick meal takes 30 minutes of our time.
So when corporate America offered to relieve us of that duty starting in the 1950's, giving us processed, instant food, we jumped in with both feet, congratulating ourselves on finding an extra half hour in the day. I am certain that we miscalculated the impact of this shift in the food landscape.
When we make our own food, we do more than just control the ingredients. We connect with the source product, brushing the dirt off of a potato instead of seeing it already sliced thin, fried, crisp, greasy and salty in the form of a chip. Buying processed food is like hiring a sous chef you've never met, and who may not prioritize your health as much as you do.
Of course, we all crave drive-thru sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying a chip now and again, or having some pre-prepped convenience foods in the house. But if your weekday lunch has become a trail of fast-food or preservative-filled meals, allow me to encourage you to reconsider brown-bagging it, even one extra day a week. You'll save money, but I bet you'll also eat a lot healthier. You may have more energy. And so you don't lose a ton of time to the project, I'm sharing one of my brownbag favorites, Tuna Super Slaw, which can be whipped up in about 10 minutes.
Raw cabbage is incredibly healthy, and it's hearty enough to hold up texture-wise, even if you make it a day or two in advance. Feel free to sub in a sturdy green, if you prefer, like chopped kale. Tuna is a fantastic protein source, and keeping a few cans of it on the shelf as a sort of healthy convenience food. The dressing is lemony and light, with just a tiny touch of mayo, or use olive oil if you prefer. Main dish slaws may be just the lunch boost your weekday routine was missing.
TUNA SUPER SLAW
Start to finish: 10 minutes
3 cups chopped red cabbage (about 1/4 large cabbage)
1/4 medium avocado, cut into small (1/2- inch) cubes
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chia seed (or sunflower, pumpkin or other seed)
1 5-ounce can of light tuna in water, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon smoked ground turmeric (or use ½ teaspoon regular ground turmeric)
1/2-1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or use half chili powder and half smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons dried dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped)
Place the slaw ingredients, except the tuna, into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. Add the tuna and stir well. Serve immediately, or keep covered in refrigerator for up to two days.
Nutrition information per serving: 269 calories; 125 calories from fat; 14 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 40 mg cholesterol; 384 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 10 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 21 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy."