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5 Quick Paleo Lunches


Most of us don't have the luxury of eating lunch at home because we're busy with work or school. But with a little bit of advance planning, it's possible to pack a Paleo lunch that's satisfying and nutritious, with protein, veggies and healthy fats to keep you going strong.

My favorite lunchtime tip: Cook a double portion of dinner and bring the leftovers with you to work or school the next day for your midday meal.

Coconut Shrimp Soup

Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha)
(For full nutritional information, here is a link to the recipe we created in MyPlate.)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Thai Coconut Soup is one of my favorite Asian dishes. This is a common Thai soup that's really easy to make, but it has so many layers of complex flavor. The only problem is that some of the ingredients can be tough to find or you may not have them on hand.

I created this soup to mimic Tom Kha, with its rich coconut broth, and I tossed in shrimp for protein and veggies to make it a complete meal. Prep this the night before and give it a little reheat for a warm, satisfying lunch.

* 14 ounces (414 milliliters) can full-fat coconut milk
* 2 cups (473 milliliters) chicken broth
* 1 pound (454 grams) shrimp or chicken breast
* 1-inch (2.5 centimeter) piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds
* 2 ounces (57 grams) mushrooms, sliced
* 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) lime juice
* 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) fish sauce
* 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) Sriracha
* Handful chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Prepare the shrimp by peeling and deveining. If using chicken, clean the chicken of any connective tissue and cut into small chunks.

2. In a pot over medium heat, combine coconut milk, chicken stock and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

3. Add the shrimp or chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce and Sriracha. Simmer until the shrimp (less than five minutes) or the chicken (five to 10 minutes) is cooked through.

4. Spoon out the ginger rounds and discard. Top with freshly chopped cilantro for garnish.

[Read More: 5 High-Protein Paleo Breakfasts]

Citrus-Basil Chicken Salad
(For full nutritional information, here is a link to the recipe we created in MyPlate.)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2

There's nothing like a fresh salad topped with lean protein to satisfy an appetite when you're really busy. The tangy citrus and fresh basil are perfect complements to the orange-poached chicken.

When it comes to chicken breasts, it's hard to keep them moist, but poaching is an easy way to ensure that they stay juicy and is really simple to do. Prep the chicken the night before and then assemble the salad. Bring a small container with the dressing and top it right before you eat.

For the salad:
* 2 skinless chicken breasts
* 8 ounces (240 grams) mixed salad greens, microgreens or spinach
* 1 red grapefruit
* 3 oranges
* 1 handful fresh basil, sliced
* 1/4 cup (7 grams) walnuts

For the dressing:
* Zest of 2 oranges
* Zest of 1 grapefruit
* 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) olive oil
* Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Place chicken breasts in a small pot with the rind from one orange and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very low simmer (barely bubbling) and cover. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining the juice of two oranges, orange zest, grapefruit zest, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

3. Arrange the salad with the mixed greens, basil, walnuts and supremes of grapefruit and orange. To make supremes -- which are essentially wedges of citrus -- cut the top and bottom off the fruit. Use a knife to remove the skin and white pith. Then, slice on each side of the citrus segment so that it comes away cleanly.

4. Slice the chicken and top the salad with it and a few spoonfuls of the dressing.

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Greek Meatza
What's meatza? It's a pizza with a meat crust. Pretty genius. Meatza is great for lunch because you can eat it cold. Once you have the basic template down, the sky is the limit with the flavor combos you can create.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Serves: 2

For the crust:
* 1 pound (454 grams) ground lamb
* 2 tablespoons mixed dried herbs
* 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Suggested toppings (about 1/2 cup of each topping should be plenty)
* Green bell pepper, sliced
* English cucumber, chopped
* Cherry tomatoes, halved
* Red onion, very thinly sliced
* Olives, any kind, sliced
* Arugula

For the dressing:
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tablespoon red- or white-wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
* Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
2. In a large bowl, mix the crust ingredients: ground lamb, dried herbs, dill, garlic, salt and pepper.

3. Divide the meat in half. Press half the meat into an 8-inch round pie pan. Repeat with the other half. (No pie pan? Use any baking dish you'd like. You can even use a 13″ x 9″ rectangular pan to make one big meatza.)

4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and drain off any liquid in the pan.
5. Now it's time to do the toppings: Add green bell pepper first, then pop back in the oven for another five minutes to soften it up. Take it out and add the rest of the toppings -- arugula, cucumber, tomato, red onion and olives -- and cut into four pieces. Drizzle with the dressing before serving.

Simple Ceviche
(For full nutritional information, here is a link to the recipe we created in MyPlate.)

Prep Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 or more hours
Serves: 3 to 4

Ceviche uses citrus juices (acids) to "cook" the seafood and render it incredibly yummy with a blend of flavors that will stomp up and down on your tongue and demand your attention. It's packed with protein and is best eaten cold, so it makes a perfect midday meal. Serve with plantain chips or sliced jicama for added crunch and a basic side salad to round out the meal.

* 1 pound (454 grams) shrimp
* 1 pound (454 grams) scallops
* 1 large red grapefruit
* 4 to 6 limes
* 1/2 red onion, diced
* 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
* 1 medium avocado, pitted and diced
* 1 jalapeño pepper, pith and seeds removed for mild heat, chopped finely
* 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
* 1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
* Sea salt to taste

1. Wash the fruit. Using a microplane or fine grater, remove the zest (but not the bitter white pith underneath) and place in a large glass bowl. Juice the grapefruit and limes. You want about one cup of juice total. (Slightly less or more is OK.)

2. Clean and chop the seafood into small, bite-size pieces. Add it and the red onion, tomato, jalapeño pepper and garlic to the large bowl, then cover and refrigerate. Wait.

Seriously, you need to wait at least four hours -- preferably six or more -- for the citrus to do its magic. Stir the ceviche every couple of hours and serve when the shrimp and scallops are no longer translucent.

Cinco de Mayo Steak Salad
(For full nutritional information, here is a link to the recipe we created in MyPlate.)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Here's another delicious salad option, this one topped with hearty pan-fried steak. The jicama adds crunch, and the avocado brings healthy fat to the dish. Top the salad with the dressing right before eating so the spinach doesn't get soggy. You'll walk away from lunch feeling satisfied. If you don't have steak, grilled chicken is a great substitute.

For the salad:
* 8 ounces (227 grams) steak (I recommend New York strip)
* Generous pinch sea salt and pepper
* 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) ghee
* 8 ounces (240 grams) spinach leaves
* 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
* 1 avocado, diced
* 1/2 large jicama, cubed
* 2 handfuls cilantro, chopped

For the dressing:
* Juice of 3 to 4 limes
* 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil
* Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Sprinkle the steak with a generous pinch or two of sea salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add ghee and melt. Fry the steak for four minutes, then flip and fry another three minutes for medium or four for medium-well. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing it thinly.

2. Prepare the veggies by tossing them in a large bowl.

3. To make the dressing, juice the limes into a small bowl, then whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top the salad with the steak, then drizzle the dressing right before serving.


Readers -- Do you follow a Paleo diet? If so, why? What are your favorite Paleo recipes? Do you bring lunch to work? Do you find it difficult to eat Paleo when you're not at home? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Stephanie Gaudreau is the chief nerd and food taster at, where she flexes her holistic-nutritionist and recipe-developing muscles. When she's not writing about nutrition or photographing food, she can be found in the gym training for Olympic weightlifting with her husband Z. Stephanie is the author of The Paleo Athlete and the upcoming The Performance Paleo Cookbook (January 2015).

You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.  

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