In my former life, I viewed eating as a purely functional act. I was not concerned with the quality of food that entered my mouth, as long as it contained the proper macronutrients at the proper time. For almost ten years, my lunch consisted of a premixed protein shake because it was high in protein, low in calories, and could be sucked down in 15 minutes while I tutored struggling students in the school cafeteria. For ten years, I was content with that lunch.
Then something changed. I realized that not only did I not look forward to lunch, but that I had even begun to dread it. The shakes met my nourishment in the most basic sense, but that was all. At this point, I had already begun to visit my kitchen for more than a chat with the microwave, so I decided to restructure my lunches to incorporate what I was learning in the kitchen.
I had to start with the practical: my hours as a teacher are long and my lunch times are short. I needed to be able to find foods that could be cooked and prepped on Sunday and reheated quickly at school. I started by collecting recipes and cookbooks (about the only kind of book that didn’t fill the shelves in my old life). I found I enjoyed seeking out ideas and combinations, always seeking to maximize my veggie intake and ensure that I would get substantial protein and fiber with each meal. I learned that raw veggies have to be limited; there simply is not enough time to eat them all. Likewise, finger foods are a no-go in the germ laden land of a middle school. Even with those limitations, the options seemed endless.
An amazing metamorphosis occurs in my fridge every weekend. Mounds of greens and veggies are chopped and cooked into submission and divided into color-coded containers ready for the week ahead. The house fills with the aromas of a variety of spices, as the sounds of the food processor echo through the house. The island is the scene of assembly line style food preparation.
The consequences of the change in my lunch menu were astounding. My health improved; I no longer caught every cold that came through the school. My attitude improved, as I had a lunch I looked forward to (this is especially a motivator on Monday mornings). My afternoon workouts improved, now that I had enough fuel in my system to support the training. I became a de facto educator about plant-based diets as teachers and students began to inquire about my lunch.
But, most of all, I found nourishment. For my body. And for my soul.
I send the message to myself every weekend that I am worth the effort. That I matter. That feeding my needs is just as important as feeding the needs of those around me.
I kept the menu for this week simple; it is a short week and I don’t want to dedicate much of my time off to cook. I decided to make Hottie Black-Eyed Peas & Greens from Appetite for Reduction, one of my go-to cookbooks for healthy, easy, vegetarian meals. I always try to incorporate fruits and veggies of different colors in every meal, so I’m adding sweet potatoes mashed with almond milk and vanilla rice protein along with some blackberries, since they were on sale;)
Here’s the food ready to cook.
And here, after 45 minutes of preparation (barring the work the ol’ trusty slow cooker did overnight on the beans), is the final product.
I’m waiting to pack the blackberries until Wednesday morning, so that is why they are absent. Now, I can enjoy the rest of my time off knowing that I have healthy, nourishing food to get me through the week.