Local Matters Wants to Shake Up Your Workday Lunch

Tristan Eden

Instead of throwing a regular holiday party earlier this year, Columbus data firm DDTI invited Wellness Matters-the newest branch of healthy food nonprofit Local Matters-to organize a cook-off challenge among employees. "The goal was to incorporate wellness into the culture of the company," says Jeannine Julian, administrative manager at DDTI. That goal seems to be catching on. Lauren Edwards, senior program manager at Local Matters, points to studies that show wellness program participants are more productive and take fewer sick days. "For every dollar a company spends on a wellness program, they're saving three to six dollars on health insurance," she says.

With 16 food topics from which to choose and options for cooking demonstrations, lunch-and-learns, hands-on cooking classes and team activities, the program was designed to be flexible, customizable and easy for a range of workplaces. We asked Local Matters executive chef Laura Robertson-Boyd to design a healthy, nutrient-rich yet simple lunch anyone can bring to the office. She suggested this black bean and quinoa salad and offered tips on how to eat great on work days.

Think about all the foods you've eaten throughout the day, and figure out which colors are missing. "If you've eaten all the colors, you've gotten all the nutrients," Edwards says.

Try to eat fruits and vegetables as raw as possible. The more processed something is, the fewer nutrients it has. This doesn't mean you have to eat everything raw, but keep in mind certain cooking methods suck out more nutrients than others.

"The farther an item has traveled-or the longer it has been off of its plant-the less nutrients it has," Edwards says. Local produce will also typically be in season-meaning it'll be less expensive.

Stop thinking of leftovers as leftovers. Instead, think of them as "planned-overs." Rather than just having extra food, plan a way to reuse it ahead of time.

Because this salad is rich in whole grain (quinoa), protein (black beans) and vegetables, pack some fruit and something high in calcium-like cheese or low-fat yogurt-to balance the meal.

This salad will keep a little less than a week in the refrigerator. Hold off on adding the dressing until right before you're ready to eat it so everything's as fresh as possible.