There are plenty of reasons why packing a lunch every day is challenging. From not having enough time in the morning to not knowing what to make, the excuses are endless.
However, the health benefits — and benefits for your wallet — are tremendous when you have control over your meals and portion sizes. Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, offers an easy slow cooker recipe for healthy and protein-rich chicken you can "set and forget" on a Sunday and then enjoy all week long.
Easy Shredded Slow Cooker Chicken
Yields 5 to 6 servings
5 to 6 skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts and place in the slow cooker with the chicken broth. Cook on low for about 4 hours, or until the chicken is easy to break apart with a fork. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks, reserving the broth in the slow cooker. Replace the shredded chicken in slow cooker and stir with reserved broth to absorb more flavor and moisture. Remove from the slow cooker. Use the chicken right away for any of your favorite recipes, or store it in a sealed container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days (or freeze for up to 2 months).
Quick and easy meal ideas
Now that you have a huge bowl of shredded chicken, you have endless opportunities for making a variety of lunches. The options below are flexible; just add your favorite vegetables for more texture and flavor. Use similar ingredients to maximize your grocery list and leave little room for food waste.
For a burrito or bowl
Combine 1 cup shredded chicken; 1 cup brown rice (microwaveable); 1/2 cup organic black beans (canned); chopped red onion and tomato; 1/4 of an avocado; a dollop of Greek yogurt; and a squeeze of lime juice into a bowl, and enjoy. Or add these combined ingredients into a whole-wheat tortilla to make a burrito.
Tip: Chop enough red onion and tomato for all of these recipes at once for easy access later in the week.
For individual pizza
Use one whole-wheat pita as your crust and serving size. Top with some store-bought tomato sauce (low-sodium, organic options), sprinkle some Jack cheese (low-fat), shredded chicken, spinach, chopped tomato and onion. Place in oven at 350° F for 10 minutes, or as long as it takes to melt cheese and wilt spinach to your liking.
Tip: Grab a healthy handful of mixed greens or lettuce and easily dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper and add it on top of your pizza to add a fresh and bright crunch on top.
For a pita sandwich
Cut pita in half and stuff it with shredded chicken; lettuce; chopped red onion and tomato; and sliced cucumber. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt that has been whipped with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Tip: Sprinkle feta cheese on top for extra flavor. Remember: Feta cheese has a natural saltiness so you can use less salt in your sauce.