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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!
Caprese Salad Jar

Lunch in a Jar!

I am pleased to introduce guest blogger and Illinois State University dietetic intern, Noel Konken!

Tired of your average cold sandwich with a smashed banana that barely survived your early-morning commute? Swap out your packed lunch for a capped lunch! Get creative with your lunch this summer with a vibrantly fresh Mason jar salad that will have your co-workers talking. Not only are these salads convenient, but they are an easy way to have a veggie-packed meal loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to keep you feeling energized throughout the day.

The current Dietary Guidelines for American's recommends adults consume 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, but veggies are not always a popular component in packed lunches. There are numerous health benefits associated with increased vegetable intake because vegetables are naturally low in fat while being nutrient-dense and a great source of dietary fiber. Choosing a dark leafy green as your salad base will add an additional nutrient boost because these vegetables are often high in folate, iron, and calcium. Folate is a key component in the production of our red blood cells necessary to transport oxygen throughout the body. Try kale, baby spinach, or romaine lettuce for these added superfood benefits.

Follow these simple steps to make the perfect Mason jar salad:

  1. Start with choosing your favorite salad dressing and place at the bottom of the jar
  2. Begin packing the heaviest, most non-absorbent ingredients, such as beans or carrots, eventually working your way up to the lettuce on top
  3. After tightly sealing the lid, these salads can stay refrigerated for up to 5 days
  4. If adding perishable or crunchy ingredients, such as avocado, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or croutons, wait to add these until the day you plan to eat the salad

Caprese Summer Salad (Printable PDF)

10 Tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette dressing

1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups whole wheat cooked pasta

10 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

10 cups fresh spinach

Divide all ingredients evenly in mason jars beginning with the dressing, tomatoes, cheese, and pasta ending with the spinach. Tightly close the lid and store in refrigerator until you are ready to eat. Shake the jar to coat the dressing and pour salad into a bowl to enjoy.

Yield: 5 Quart size Mason jars

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 330 calories, 15 grams fat, 490 milligrams sodium, 6.5 grams fiber, 36 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams protein

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