Healthy Lunch: Light Chicken Salad Wrap

As working mom, I find the hardest meal of the day for me to plan is lunch. I need something that is portable, healthy, and tasty, lest I abandon my lunch for a fast food joint near my office. I also need something that can be made and packed ahead of time because the less I have to think during the work week, the better (new life motto!).

Lately, I’ve been making a light chicken salad recipe that I adapted from a Fit4Mom turkey salad recipe. I’m always happy when I find a lunch option that isn’t frozen, is relatively easy to make, filling, and is something I actually look forward to eating. It’s the little things, really, and this light chicken salad recipe fits the bill.

Try this light chicken salad recipe for an easy, low-fat, low-carb make-ahead lunch.

Light Chicken Salad Wrap

adapted from a turkey salad recipe in the Fit4Mom Body Back Journal

Serves: 4
1 lb. chicken breast
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil or low-fat mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
the juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
1/2 cup red grapes, halved
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 low-carb or low-fat whole wheat tortillas (I like La Tortilla Factory)
Lettuce leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange chicken breasts in dish.
  2. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, flip to the other side, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 more minutes, or until juices run clear. You can use a meat thermometer to make sure they are fully cooked (165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast.
  4. While the chicken breasts cool, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, shallot, and tarragon in a large bowl.
  5. Once the chicken has cooled, chop into approximately 1-inch chunks. Add the chicken to the mayonnaise mixture.
  6. Fold in the grapes and celery.
  7. Serve with a whole wheat tortilla and a couple lettuce leaves.

If you’re going to take these to work, I use a food scale to measure the weight of the recipe (zero out your scale after you put an empty dish on it, then add the chicken salad), and then divide into four equal portions. I store these in individual containers that I can grab for work. If you want to make this light chicken salad recipe easier, you could use already cooked chicken (you’ll need about 2 cups). And, if you want a lower-carb option, skip the tortilla and add the chicken salad to a mix of salad greens.

Enjoy! 

Easy Autumn Salad Recipe with Kale & Brussels Sprouts

Alternative Title: Awesome autumn salad recipe made entirely from ingredients you buy at Trader Joe’s and chop nothing. Perhaps a little long winded?

Before we dive into this easy-to-make, legit-healthy-for-you, and still-yummy-to-eat salad, let me tell you how I found it. This autumn salad was served at one of the gazillion baby showers I went to in 2012, and I didn’t even try it. But one of my closest friends did, and she would not stop talking about it. I was also pregnant at the time, and I seriously had no idea what amazing salad she kept going on about, much less which shower it was served at. In my head, I was all, “OK. I get it. You ate a salad. How good could it possibly be?”

Take this easy autumn salad recipe to your next potluck -- seriously, everyone will be asking you for the recipe. And, if you're near a Trader Joe's make this recipe even easier by buying all of your ingredients there -- no chopping required! Super healthy salad and tastes amazing. A family favorite!

Because you know, it’s a salad.

But it’s true. This autumn salad recipe is amazing. And it isn’t even one of those “salads” that’s piled with dried fruit, cheese, croutons, tortilla chips, bacon bits, and a creamy dressing, nor is it a salad of the pasta or mayonnaise variety. The main ingredients in the autumn salad are kale and Brussels sprouts. If I had seen it on a menu, I would have thought, “Nope,” and moved on with my life.

But it didn’t happen that way.

Let’s be real, kale is basically the healthiest thing a person can eat, so I’ve always been pretty sure I hated it. Then, post-giving birth, my friend made the autumn salad for a playdate, and I learned that I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

What makes the autumn salad even better? You can make it entirely from ingredients you buy at Trader Joe’s and skip all that time-consuming chopping nonsense.

With the exception of one ingredient: safflower oil. But once you have the safflower oil, it’s in your pantry (maybe it’s already in your pantry?), and ta da! You can buy all of the other ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

But seriously, this autumn salad recipe is so easy, it is literally the only thing I make now when asked to contribute to a potluck situation.

Autumn Salad with Kale and Brussels Sprouts

2 cups Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced or about half of a bag of Trader Joe’s Shaved Brussels Sprouts
3-4 cups kale, chopped or about 3/4 of a bag of Trader Joe’s pre-chopped Kale
1/3 cup sunflower seeds

Autumn Salad Dressing
1 TBSP Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon mustard or any other whole grain mustard
Juice of one lemon
½ tsp coarse salt
1 TBSP + 1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 TBSP safflower oil

Directions:
Toast the sunflower seeds. You can do this in the oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. OR you can do this on the stovetop, which I think is easier. Just toss the seeds in a saute pan over low heat and flip them around every so often for a few minutes (2-4 minutes). You have to watch them so they won’t burn. I regularly walk away and burn sunflower seeds. Learn from my mistakes people.

Toss Brussels sprouts, kale, and sunflowers in a big bowl. I actually like to do this while the sunflower seeds still are warm. Kale is a hardy green and the heat from the sunflower seeds causes it to wilt just slightly.

Combine mustard, lemon juice, salt, and maple syrup in a small bowl, whisk in oil until emulsified.

Pour dressing over kale mixture and toss to coat.

Final Note: The autumn salad will keep in the refrigerator with the dressing already on it for up to three days. I’m not kidding. I’ve had no problem with soggy or browning greens in this salad and will often make it ahead for a healthy side dish to go along with dinner.

Fit4Mom Body Back: Weeks 3 + 4

I’m tracking my progress through Fit4Mom’s eight-week, mom’s-only fitness program, Body Back. Never heard of it? It’s from the same company that offers Stroller Strides.

Read Fit4Mom Body Back: Week 1.

Read Fit4Mom Body Back: Week 2.

Learn more about Body Back.

Week 3 + 4 Recap

The last two weeks have had their challenges. During the week of September 29, our family was on vacation in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This past week just got away from me—I’ve taken on a few side projects, had an all-day workshop to attend over the weekend, and October just always seems to be a ridiculously busy month. These two weeks were excuse-filled, but honestly, sometimes I think that’s OK. More on that below.

Workouts Weeks 3 + 4

Monday, September 29: Planned rest day

Tuesday, September 30: Skipped workout

This is the first of many excuses you’ll find in this recap of my workouts, but FWIW, we were traveling to Wisconsin on Tuesday, and time just got away from me. Traveling with a two-year-old is hard, yo.

Wednesday, October 1: Couch to 5K workout

Thursday, October 2: Body Pump group fitness class

The resort where we stayed had a full-on gym, and I took advantage of the perk of free group fitness classes. If you’re not familiar with Body Pump, it’s basically a weight lifting class that hits every major muscle group in 50 minutes.

Friday, October 3: Couch to 5K

Saturday, October 4: Body Back Bootcamp

On Saturday, we headed inside for a circuit workout.

Sunday, October 5: Couch to 5K

Monday, October 6: Planned rest day

Tuesday, October 7: Body Back

Tuesday night’s workout was a tough one. It was another circuit workout, but with a twist. The instructor set up four stations, each with five to six exercises. Two stations were primarily strength exercises; two were cardio. Here’s how it worked: At your first station, you did each exercise listed eight times, then seven times, then six times, then five… you get the picture. Once you finished the station, you moved on to the next one and started the process over.

Wednesday, October 8: Skipped workout

Thursday, October 9: Couch to 5K

Friday, October 10: Skipped workout

Saturday, October 11: Skipped workout

On Saturday, I went to an all-day workshop for creative entrepreneurs–more on that in another post–so I skipped my Body Back class.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

So here’s the thing about excuses: I know I’m not supposed to make them. Here is the other thing about excuses: Sometimes they are legit. Here’s the other other thing about excuses: Sometimes they aren’t legit, but you just need a break, which is legit. I try really hard not to beat myself up over “bad days” or “bad weeks.” In fact, I find that classifying something like a day, week, or even a meal as “bad,” is exactly zero help.

The truth is, I have a lot of priorities, and I do the best I can to juggle them all. But when things start to fall apart, sometimes the best thing I can do is step away for a week, get my life back in order, and start fresh. At this point in my fitness journey, a few missed workouts does not mean that I’ve given up–I’ve been in the habit for long enough now that I know the difference between needing a breather and just being lazy. This past week, I needed a breather to catch up on some other aspects of my life.

Nutrition Week 3+ 4

Week 3: Honestly, it was tough to stay on track while on vacation. I did the best I could, eating breakfasts and lunches in our room, which had a kitchenette. However, I was not vigilant and it shows in my progress report.

Lunch and Snacks at My Desk

Packed lunch: Chicken salad with a low-carb tortilla and lettuce; hummus with chopped cucumber; two mandarins; string cheese.

Week 4: I got back on track and did pretty well this past week. A big help was that our instructor asked us to post our meal plans on Facebook, and I pretty much stuck to mine. I made healthy lunches and snacks all week, including the chicken salad recipe I’ve adapted from the Body Back journal. I’m going to post the recipe here later this week. I also made Cincinnati Turkey Chili, which is one of my staple recipes, and I ate that for dinner several times.

Progress Report

Week 3: +1.2
Week 4: -1.4
Total: -3.3

Follow Lou @ Mommy Sanest’s board Body Back Approved Recipes + Resources on Pinterest.

Fitness for Moms: Body Back Week 1

After unexpected health challenges, breastfeeding ups and downs, and struggles with my work schedule, the fog of new motherhood began to lift right as Emme hit the one-year mark in August 2013. I was mentally and physically ready to refocus on my well-being again, and for me, that meant getting back into a regular workout routine.

I did some yoga, tried various classes at the gym, and started running again, completing a handful of 5Ks and a 10K over the past year. In February, through my local mom’s group, I signed up to try Body Back — a fitness program for moms from Fit4mom, the same company that offers Stroller Strides.

From Fit4Mom:

[Body Back] is a results-based workout program designed for moms of any age. The workouts offer high intensity, interval formats that give a total body workout with an added combination of motivational support. Whether you just had a baby or had a baby 20 years ago, it will help any mom get her body back. Each session includes before and after assessments, 2 classes per week, Mama Wants Her Body Back DVDs, a nutrition plan, 1 red resistance band, and food journals. This class is for moms only, no children. It is recommended that you be at least 3 months postpartum before beginning this program.

I signed up for an eight-week session of Body Back after the initial trial class. Then I signed up a second time. After bouncing around trying various workouts, it felt like a good fit and a real routine. I enjoyed the classes, which were different every week and never boring; the instructors, who got to know all of us and were supportive; and the other moms, who wanted to encourage each other. And, even though I struggled to stay on track with the nutrition plan, I had solid results. I gained  a lot of strength, lost a couple pounds, and felt good.

I fell off the bandwagon big time this summer. I decided against signing up for another session, opting instead to just “drop in” to classes when I had time. I wasn’t in the best head space, and after months of being in good workout groove, I was coming up with excuses to bail every week.

Around Labor Day, I started to feel a bit more motivated, so in an attempt to get back on track, I signed up for Body Back again. And in an attempt to stay on track, I’m going to post weekly-ish about my progress here.

Session 1
The session began on Tuesday, September 16 in Memorial Park in La Grange Park. The first workout eases you in to the program—we weighed in, took measurements, and did fitness assessments. I love that while Body Back has a weight/fat-loss component, there’s a focus on gaining strength and endurance. We’ll do the same assessment in eight weeks to see how far we’ve come.

The instructor then passed out our materials and explained the nutrition program, which consists of clean eating along with portion control. The booklet includes recipes, a weekly workout plan, and space to track your meals. We also get workout DVDs, which have options for quick 20-minute workouts, so you can stick to the workout plan even if you can’t get out of the house and to the gym for an hour. Since this is my third session of Body Back, I was given the “Advanced” DVD. I already have three others, including one that is ab focused and one that is lower body focused.

Fit4Mom Body Back Materials & Assessments | Mommy Sanest

Not pictured: My resistance band. I was too lazy to get it out of the car.

The bicep curls, push-ups, full sit-ups, and squat numbers are all based on how many I did in one minute; the run (high knees in place), plank, and side-bridge (side plank) were all held as long as I could. Seriously, the run is my worst ever. Sad face.

And that was it! It’s always that easy, right?

Not exactly…

Session 2
Saturday’s Weigh-in: -.2

On Saturday, we did a cardio-strength-ab circuit workout. Cardio included things like burpees, sumo squats, and power squats. The strength interval typically included an exercise that targeted more than one muscle group, so for example, we did bicep curls with a curtsey squat. Ab exercises ranged from basic crunches to fancy planks with leg lifts and knees to the chest. We did each exercise for one minute before moving on the next; repeated the circuit; then moved on to the next set of three exercises.

Our instructor provides modifications, and you can always work at your own level. That said, this workout was challenging and, for the record, typical. I remember when I took my first Body Back class, I was surprised that the class was so tough. But, it’s designed to push you and help you get your fitness to the next level.

Last Week’s Workouts
Monday, September 15: REST
Tuesday, September 16: Body Back Assessment
Wednesday, September 17: REST
Thursday, September 18: Couch-to-5K, run/walk, 35 minutes total
Friday, September 19: Couch-to-5K, run/walk, 35 minutes total
Saturday, September 20: Body Back
Sunday, September 21: Couch-to-5k, run/walk, 28 minutes total

This isn’t my best showing ever, but to be fair, I had a pretty bad head cold. My goal for week 2 is to continue with Couch-to-5k, but also add in the Body Back DVD workouts.

Last Week’s Nutrition
Last week was a mixed bag, nutrition-wise. I did go grocery shopping and spend the weekend making sure I would be ready to hit the ground running with healthy breakfasts and lunches this week though.

Body Back Week 1 | www.mommysanest.comFrom left to right, clockwise:

  1. As a treat “for Emme,” I made SkinnyTaste Low-fat Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins.
  2. My typical breakfast: whole wheat English muffin, peanut butter, and banana.
  3. I made this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe from Clean Eating magazine and took the leftovers to work for lunch twice last week.
  4. Healthy snack: string cheese and grapes.