Try stuffing lettuce with your favorite lunch item as an alternative to the sandwich roll. - AP

Ideas for a wheat-free lunch

Maybe the low-carb folks had the right idea after all.

With increasing wheat and grain prices threatening to turn our daily bread into something like a luxury item, it might be time to revisit some of those flour-free lunch ideas we wagered our waistlines on a few years ago.

The trick to keeping a bread-free lunch satisfying is to make sure your menu still packs some heft. Here are some simple ideas for brown-bagging it without hitting up the bread box.

  • Lettuce wraps — A giant leaf of lettuce will never be as satisfying as a crusty baguette or a soft flatbread, but it is a healthy and inexpensive way to eliminate the bread from your lunch. Use any large-leaf lettuce, such as Boston or romaine, as you would flatbread to wrap around sandwich fillings, such as deli meat and cheese, chicken or tuna salad or thinly sliced leftover steak or other meat. The bonus here is that you can eat more fillings (even two wraps) because of the calorie savings from bread.
  • Rice salads — Though a grain, brown rice remains a relative bargain. Make it at night, then refrigerate. In the morning, toss it with chopped vegetables, cheese, canned beans and vinaigrette dressing for a substantive salad sans croutons. For a sweet touch, mix in some diced apples (toss them with lemon juice to prevent browning) or pears, orange segments or dried fruit, such as cranberries, golden raisins or chopped apricots.
    • Baked potatoes — If your office has a microwave, sweet or white potatoes are a no-brainer. Microwave "baked" potatoes can be topped with cheese, chopped steamed vegetables (dinner leftovers are particularly good for this), canned beans, chopped chicken, chili or even canned vegetable soup. And instead of crackers, thin slices of raw potato crisped in the oven make a crunchy vehicle for all manner of toppings, says Sandy Dowling, chef and owner of The Willows Cooking School in Central Point, which offers classes in wheat-free cooking.
    • Eggs — Make a vegetable-packed fritatta the night before and cut it into slices. These travel and reheat easily and can be filling (especially when bulked with vegetables and topped with a bit of cheese). Hard-boiled eggs also travel well and are filling. Eat them with a side of chopped vegetables and a bit of hummus or other spread for dipping.
    • Soup — A soup or stew jammed with vegetables, beans and meat will leave you plenty satisfied, and you'll never miss the noodles you otherwise might have added. This is another good chance to use leftovers. A quart of vegetable or chicken broth and a pile of leftovers (everything from meat scraps to mashed potatoes) magically become a money-saving lunch with a bit of simmering.
    • Polenta — Cut ready-made portions of this Italian cornmeal mush lengthwise into slices, bake or grill with a bit of olive oil and use in place of bread for sandwiches, Dowling says. "You can actually put a slice of meat between it, and it's really delicious."
    • Dessert — Don't forget your sweet treat. Sure you could do yogurt with some fruit or even a pudding, but wouldn't a slice of flourless chocolate cake be much more satisfying? Most recipes for flourless cakes call for ground almonds or other nuts, eggs, sugar and chocolate. They come together quickly and bake up rich, dark and chocolatey. There is no sacrifice here. "Ground nuts ... are actually much healthier for you than wheat anyway," Dowling says.

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