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5 Easy Ways To Make Sad Desk Lunches Happy

By Lynn Andriani

If you don't have time for a total lunch makeover, here are some brilliant ways to upgrade the classics you're already eating.

  • The Go-Anywhere Seasoning That Livens Up Anything You Can Think Of
    We've got the quickest way to make a sad desk-lunch happy: a sprinkling of smoked sea-salt flakes (such as <a href="http://ww
    Elena Elisseeva/Hemera/Thinkstock
    We've got the quickest way to make a sad desk-lunch happy: a sprinkling of smoked sea-salt flakes (such as Maldon). Take a pinch between your fingers and thumb, crush it then garnish for a smoky, salty flavor burst that adds a toothsome crunch, too. Keep a box in your drawer and you will never eat a boring sandwich, salad, soup or reheated chicken breast again.
  • The Healthy Sandwich Replacement
    We already know avocados add a creamy element to sandwiches, but one slice on a sandwich can get lost amid the bread and othe
    Alena Dvorakova/iStock/Thinkstock
    We already know avocados add a creamy element to sandwiches, but one slice on a sandwich can get lost amid the bread and other ingredients. Instead, try using a halved avocado (pit removed) as a serving vessel for practically any kind of non-leafy salad. In the place where the pit used to be, you can spoon in anything from grain-based dishes, made with quinoa or brown rice, to vegetable mixes consisting of corn, beans or, really, any chopped veggies. You can leave the skin on and scoop out the avocado as you're eating, using your spoon, and each bite will have a bit of that rich and tasty fruit.
  • The Savory Sauce That Goes Way Beyond Sushi
    There's a reason chefs stir soy sauce into more non-Asian dishes than you'd expect (we've seen it in everything from steak ma
    Martin Isaac/iStock/Thiknstock
    There's a reason chefs stir soy sauce into more non-Asian dishes than you'd expect (we've seen it in everything from steak marinades to pulled pork). A few drops of fermented soybeans deepen flavors and give a boost of savoriness in addition to saltiness. Add a small shake to salads (Asian or not) or noodle dishes, use it as a dip for steamed vegetables or stir it into curried chicken salad. It's even great in chili. One more unexpected use: Mix some soy sauce with cream cheese and toasted sesame seeds for a surprisingly delicious spread for crackers or bread.
  • The Lunchbox Fruit in a Brand New Role
    Take five minutes to grate an apple using a cheese grater and you'll wind up with little slivers of fruit that you can then m
    Ron Chapple Studios/Herma/Thinkstock
    Take five minutes to grate an apple using a cheese grater and you'll wind up with little slivers of fruit that you can then mix into chicken salad or any type of slaw for a sweet crunch. Or, sprinkle the slivers on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or into plain or vanilla yogurt for a tart edge.
  • The Tropical Addition to Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
    If you aren't already adding sweetened, shredded coconut to muffins, banana bread or pancakes, definitely put it on your to-d
    Jupiterimages/Photos/Thinkstock
    If you aren't already adding sweetened, shredded coconut to muffins, banana bread or pancakes, definitely put it on your to-do list to add a little taste of the tropics to ho-hum breakfasts and snacks. The best part of buying a bag of the stuff? All the creative uses you'll find for it. Toss a few spoonfuls into a stir-fry, or even a bowl of rice, for an exotic flavor and a light crunch. Or spread a thin layer on an almond-butter sandwich for what might become your new favorite flavor combination. And if you're up for an Indian-inspired spin on the classic green-bean salad, fold in a handful of shredded coconut; you'll be stunned at how well they go together.

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • The Guilt-Free Burger
    Quinoa salad can be a wonderful meal -- and there's a way for salad-wary eaters to enjoy this ancient grain, too. Art Smith,
    Stephen Hamilton
    Quinoa salad can be a wonderful meal -- and there's a way for salad-wary eaters to enjoy this ancient grain, too. Art Smith, who is working with the diabetes education program Taking Diabetes to Heart, likes to form quinoa into patties, along with eggs, Parmesan, herbs, scallions, hot sauce, mashed white beans and whole grain bread crumbs. Then he fries them in a little bit of olive oil and serves the cakes -- which have a crunchy outside and soft interior -- with a quick roasted-red-pepper sauce. You can easily reheat them in the microwave.
    Calories: 329 Fat: 12 g Saturated fat: 2 g Protein: 13 g Carbohydrates: 35 g Fiber: 6 g Sodium: 456 mg Cholesterol: 94 mg
    Get the recipe: Quinoa Bean Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • A Stunning Transformation For Canned White Beans
    Turning a pot of dried beans into a flavorful dish isn't difficult, but finding two or three hours to do so can be. On the ot
    Stephen Hamilton
    Turning a pot of dried beans into a flavorful dish isn't difficult, but finding two or three hours to do so can be. On the other hand, quick-cooking canned beans can taste bland. Smith makes a dish that encapsulates the best of both worlds by gently simmering two cans of white beans with roasted garlic, onion, celery, herbs, tomato and chicken or vegetable stock. It cooks in half an hour, and together with hearty greens such as chard, kale or escarole, it's a filling and delicious vegetarian meal you can enjoy hot or cold.
    Calories: 288 Fat: 10 g Saturated fat: 2 g Protein: 15 g Carbohydrates: 35 g Fiber: 10 g Sodium: 362 mg Cholesterol: 5 mg
    Get the recipe: Stewed White Beans and Greens with Tomato and Roasted Garlic
  • The Unexpected Hummus
    Smith's brighter version of the Middle Eastern spread is made with edamame instead of chickpeas. A generous amount of lemon j
    Thinkstock
    Smith's brighter version of the Middle Eastern spread is made with edamame instead of chickpeas. A generous amount of lemon juice, plus cumin and coriander, give it zesty flavor, and the dip is a light alternative to mayo on a sandwich, great with sliced cucumber or delicious with veggies on a whole wheat pita.
    Calories: 289 Fat: 25 g Saturated fat: 3 g Protein: 9 g Carbohydrates: 12 g Fiber: 4 g Sodium: 10 mg Sugar: 3 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Calcium: 79 mg
    Get the recipe: Edamame Hummus with Cucumber Slices
  • A Lighter Weekend Lunch
    Enjoying a big, breakfast-y, middle-of-the-day meal doesn't also have to mean taking in an enormous amount of calories. Smith
    Stephen Hamilton
    Enjoying a big, breakfast-y, middle-of-the-day meal doesn't also have to mean taking in an enormous amount of calories. Smith's lightened-up take on traditional Mexican huevos rancheros uses egg whites instead of whole eggs and toasted tortillas instead of fried (and also includes avocado, tomato and green onion).
    Calories: 261 Fat: 10 g Saturated fat: 1 g Protein: 8 g Carbohydrates: 36 g Fiber: 6 g Sodium: 478 mg Cholesterol: 0 mg
    Get the recipe: Huevos Rancheros
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