Total Nutrition Technology
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Making lunch is a lot more fun when it looks pretty to eat! I really think that is one of the main reasons I prefer eating out. Otherwise, the food usually tastes better and I have way more control over my food when I make it myself. So what's the big draw to restaurants? Well, for one it's having someone wait on me, but I think the biggest reason is really the presentation. What if I could essentially solve both of those concerns and still enjoy my own homemade food? Well, I think I'd be a lot more likely to stick to my plan, that's for sure! 

TNT Health Educator, Meghan Neary, really lit a light bulb for me when she sent me pictures of her gorgeous salad in a jar (her salad contained mixed greens, red and yellow bell peppers, feta, tomato, slivered almonds, and black olives). What other kinds of delicious combinations could we layer in a jar?! And what are the insider secrets of jar lunches? And how can we keep these tasty pieces of art away from hungry co-workers? (Just kidding - make more and share!) Here's what my research reveals:

Pack it Up, Pack it In

Let me begin... by saying it's super important that you pack the layers tightly so the air doesn't wilt your leaves. Oxygen oxidizes, so all cut fruits and vegetables will be less than fresh when they're exposed. Cut down on the natural process, by limiting the amount of oxygen that can reach any cut (or torn) surfaces.

Order Matters

The key to keeping these layers delectable is the order. A dry or soggy salad does not sound exciting at all, nor does a salad that begins to wilt, or layers that are anything short of fresh. So follow these tips to keep things in order:

  • Start with the dressing and/or your wet ingredients (like cut tomatoes or cucumbers).
  • Add strong flavors next (like onion).
  • Create your base out of ingredients that are least likely to soak up the dressing (like carrots, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, or sugar snap peas).
  • Add additional ingredients in the middle.
  • Top with salad greens.
  • Cheese and/or nuts and seeds go last.

Think Themes
The easiest way to get ideas is to think about your menu from a cultural perspective. Are you thinking you want a classic American tossed salad? What about a more Mexican vibe? Asian? Mediterranean? The places (and spices) are nearly endless and following common cultural food combos can help you narrow down the selection process and ensure your choosing will be well worth the wait.


Bowl! Bring your own Bowl... Don't attempt to eat the salad from the jar. Your only result will either be a) a big mess or b) an unmixed salad. Simply untwist your lid, dump the contents, and enjoy. Bonus: since the salad dressing is on the bottom, it will now be on the top! 

When in Doubt, Use Parchment Paper and a Rubberband

Julia Mirabella wrote an entire cookbook on these gorgeous lunch jars and she discovered that some combos simply don't work with the salad dressing already inside. But bringing a big container of salad dressing might not be the only answer. You could bring a small side container with a tablespoon or two, or you could stick with your one jar meal and try this handy technique:

Photo Credit: Julia Mirabella
Just make sure you screw the lid on tightly and don't store it upside down.

So order your mason jars and get started with some of these ideas! Check out our Pinterest Page for even more! And of course, don't forget to keep them cool on the way to work. 


Try some of these combos to make your mason jar salad stand up and stand out.

The Southwestern Black Bean Salad: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black beans, green onion, bell peppers, corn, cucumber, salsa.

Creamy Roasted Garlic Salad: 1-2 tablespoons Praise Deli Style Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing
Cucumber, Carrot, Capsicum, Corn kernels, Celery, Pasta, Cherry tomatoes, Chicken, Egg, Cheese, Lettuce.

Zucchini Pasta Salad: 1 1/2 cups spiraled zucchini, 1/2 cup shelled edamame, 1/2 cup sliced celery, 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, Optional: 1/4 cup feta cheese, 2 tablespoons kalalmata olives, Avocado-Spinach Dressing.

Shrimp & Feta Cobb Salad: A few teaspoons of your dressing of choice, 2 Tablespoons chopped avocado, 8 grape tomatoes, 1 Tablespoon red onion, 2 Tablespoons chopped cucumber, A few handfuls of romaine lettuce and baby spinach, 2 Tablespoons of chopped feta, 6-8 cooked shrimp, 1 boiled egg, 2 slices of cooked bacon.

Asian Noodle Salad: 4 ounces soba noodles, 1 red bell pepper, 1 cup shelled edamame, 2 large carrots, 4 green onions, 1/2 cup crunchy rice noodles, Spicy Peanut Dressing

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