Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Healthy Lunch Series: Vegetable Rotini with Flaked Tuna in a Light Lemon-Yogurt Dressing


I'm very excited to introduce the first recipe in a series of healthy lunches at Inspired Edibles!

We all struggle with occasional lack of inspiration and not-so-occasional lack of time, so the goal of this initiative is to generate ideas for simple, wholesome meals that you can pack for the office or enjoy at home. A delicious excuse to skip the food court and head outside for some cherished vitamin D.   

The recipes that I will be featuring in this little segment can be adapted to suit any particular dietary need and/or preference which means that they should ideally be used as a starting point and not necessarily and end point. Be sure to have a look under "Notes" for substitution ideas where applicable. 

From a nutrition perspective, one the most helpful suggestions I can make is to encourage the incorporation of protein at all meals and snacks -- including lunch where it often goes missing.  

Protein is not only vital for all structural components in the body (muscle, bone, connective tissue) it also forms the basis of our neurotransmitters (the brain's communication channels), which means that it is also critical for mood, memory and cognition. 

A green salad with tossed vegetables may be a great start but on its own, it will leave you feeling hungry again in about 20 minutes (the time it takes to digest and convert into a sugar).  Adding protein to the mix will create satiety, allow you to feel fuller longer and diminish the pesky desire to graze endlessly on carbohydrates. Protein also requires more work and energy to digest, increasing our metabolic workout and keeping our blood sugar levels and mood more stable over a longer period of time.

Ready to rock your lunch box?



Healthy Lunch Series

Vegetable Rotini with Flaked Tuna in a Light Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

For the Tuna Pasta:
  • 300 grams (or about 4 dried cups) tri-color vegetable rotini
  • 250 grams (two tins or about 1 cup) drained light skipjack tuna
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped 
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes (or 16 or so cherry tomatoes), chopped
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almond
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped

For the Lemon-Yogurt Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • Sea salt & cracked black pepper

Serves 4

Notes:
  1. Make-ahead option: It will only take you about 15 minutes to prepare this meal once you have the ingredients in place.  You can do so the night before if you prefer and simply store in an airtight container in the fridge (to be transported to work the next day if applicable). The tuna pasta can be enjoyed cold or warmed up as desired.
  2. I chose vegetable pasta because it's a great way to work in some fibre and a host of vits/mins -- notably: iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate. 
  3. You can substitute any vegetable of choice here.
  4. If you are a vegetarian, swap out the tuna for tofu, tempeh or seitan.  I recommend these protein sources over lentils/beans (which are typically 50% carb/50% protein) because the pasta is already providing carbohydrate content.
  5. If you are pregnant and have concerns about the mercury/toxin levels in tuna or fish/crustaceans generally,  you may wish to substitute a different protein in place of the tuna. 
  6. What's with the chopsticks? I love using chopsticks whenever possible.  It focuses attention, requires us to slow down and assists in improving digestion.
Directions:
  1. Boil pasta in a large pot of salt water until al dente (for about 6 minutes). Drain and allow pasta to cool as you prepare the lemon-yogurt dressing.
  2. Add tuna, broccoli, bell pepper, tomatoes, almonds and fresh lemon-thyme to the cooled pasta.
  3. Assemble lemon yogurt sauce by simply combining ingredients in a dish and whisking together.
  4. Pour lemon-yogurt dressing over pasta and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. 
© Inspired Edibles

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23 comments:

  1. Awesome! Now, this might surprise you, but I've never tried canned tuna and wonder if I'll like it. Is it too fishy?



    this lunch is close to perfection for me, exactly the kind of meal I like - my lunches tend to be very high in protein for the most part. I like the yogurt sauce too

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  2. What gorgeous colors in the photos! I love how you've arranged them. And I like the new little nutrition panel. Nice touch! This looks like a good lunch. I can always use lunch ideas. It's the one meal I really struggle with as I can never think of anything to make (that sounds good and is easy). So glad you're doing this. :)

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  3. Hi Sally! Yes, I could go on and on about the virtues of protein ;-) -- tuna is a high quality source however my bigger concern with it are the mercury levels that vary widely according to species. I tend to gravitate towards the smaller varieties that are lower on the food chain and continue to monitor information on levels as much as possible.

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  4. Thanks so much Kristy - I had fun trying a different layout/style in this photo series. I have a 'usual' spot in the kitchen where I take photos but the light isn't right there until later afternoon. This new location allows me to take naturally lit photos earlier in the day, which suits my schedule better :)

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  5. This is gonna be a great series!! I love tuna, and so does my boyfriend...I just know I'll be making this for him. I've been trying to eat more protein throughout the day and it definitely makes a difference in my energy levels. I work out a lot and I'm always on my feet at work and I need that protein to keep me going! This dish looks so pretty, too, with the tri-coloured pasta!

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  6. Sissi_Withaglass.comMay 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I feel this year I will seriously lack vitamin D... The sun is a rare treat this spring (the coldest May in 50 years in my city... not to mention March and April) and some people joke there might be no summer this year here...
    Anyway, launching such a lunch series is a great idea. I love cold pasta salads (also for lunch at the office!) and canned tuna is one of my staples (I think I have been eating it for 20 years at least once a week!). I am not a nutritionist but I have noticed a long time ago that a bowl of miso soup with tofu keeps my hunger away for much longer than a huge sandwich. I have also been thinking for quite a long time of a kind of series on my blog... You have motivated me with this one a lot! Thank you for the wonderful easy and quick lunch idea and blogging improvement inspiration!

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  7. YES, I am READY. I just bought 2 tins of tuna and this recipe comes just in time, Kelly.

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  8. Emilie@TheCleverCarrotMay 29, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    What a lovely & colorful recipe! I want to dive right in!! It looks healthy yet satisfying, and something that I would definitely enjoy for lunch or even a light dinner (that dressing sounds divine...) Perfect warm weather food!
    I really appreciate the thoroughness of this post too- especially the 'notes' section. You've got us all covered! I look forward to the rest of the series! :)

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  9. Sandra @ Kitchen ApparelMay 29, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I'm not big on the tuna fish thing...but they have salmon in cans (or packages too) which is actually really good. My mother used to make us a salad very similar to this one for dinner. I love how you added that fresh lemon thyme :) Perfect addition!!!

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  10. I can't wait to try the recipe! I am a sucker for pasta salad anyway, this particular recipe sounds & looks fantastic. Thanks for the great pics!

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  11. Love all the ingredients in this pasta salad, Kelly! I wish I had the energy to make this ahead of time and pack my lunch...I barely have enough to make dinner. Wanna send me some? :)

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  12. What a great start to a series that I definitely need! I'm always looking for healthy lunch ideas so I'm looking forward to all of your wonderful healthy recipes! I can see us eating this on the front porch this summer. :)

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  15. I agree KoKo, I feel a difference in my energy levels too with the protein; I'm glad you like the lunch series -- thank you for your support!

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  16. I love cold pasta too! I could eat it non-stop (that's why I rarely make it ;O).


    Sorry to hear about the lack of sunshine in Switzerland - let's hope things perk up; I feel so much better when the sun is shining, it really does have an impact on mood.


    Now you've got me excited for your series Sissi!!

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  17. Thanks Eva - I like the taste of the simple lemon-yogurt dressing and it's a fun way to add a bit more protein.

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  18. Perfect! :)

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  19. I agree Emilie, this meal could work equally well for dinner. I'm glad you're enjoying the idea of this series -- thanks for your support!

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  20. It's amazing how fragrant lemon thyme is and the flavor really comes through in dressings. And you know what else I've discovered? it's really hard to kill! (my basil and cilantro already look dead :(

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  21. Hi Roxy! Thanks so much for hanging out. I would say I'm a sucker for pasta too -- it's kind of like eating candy ;O) so I rarely make it but on occasion, all good!

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  22. Ah, I hear y'a sister... not easy mustering energy at the end of the work day. Sunday is a good day to plan :)

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  23. Thanks MJ! I'm excited about it too. It's really fun and I think I wanted to challenge my own repetitive lunches too! It's a win/win :)

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Thank you for your feedback - it's wonderful to hear from you!