Same but Different – A Salad, 3 Ways – Your Key to Lunch Variety and Simplicity

You may be sitting at work right now thinking – “what should I make for lunch next week? Ugh, I hate making lunch, it’s so boring and tasteless”. Or maybe you make awesome lunches, but it’s still the same thing over and over again. What if I told you that you could have variety, different tastes, and different textures – all from the same food prep effort? That’s right.

With Spring here to stay and Summer on its way, you may even notice your food cravings are changing so it’s time for a bit of a revamp anyways. Time for fresh food to reign again! Have you noticed you’re now craving cold fresh fruits and raw veggies again? Not so much feeling the soup and stew?

It’s funny how our environment can depict cravings – and believe it or not, there are reasons why our cravings change with seasons and temperatures, such as food availability. Our bodies are so smart!

I like to call this “Same, but different”. Its really easy to make – I promise. An extra bonus, they’re all gluten-free! I discuss this stuff with my clients all the time to try and make nutrition a bit easier and realize that you can play around with foods and make them different, but yet they can be the same too.

This is incredibly beneficial for those who crave tons of variety, but variety can make them crazy or feel unorganized, and for those short on time. You want variety, but the variety doesn’t need to be fast food – I can’t emphasize that enough. If you love and adore food, you probably already make the most awesomest of lunches. So keep it up! But for those who feel like making their lunch is PB&J or romaine leaves and chicken and end up feeling deprived, this blog is for you!

Let’s dive right in to see what I mean.

To do this, we need to pick a salad base that all three salads will have. Then from there, we pick three different mains that will make the salad different, but the prep for them all can be the same. For this particular example I’m choosing red pepper, celery, and purple onion for the veggies and sticking to the simplest of simple dressings made of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, sea salt and a tinge pepper. The mains that I chose are quick, easy and pantry friendly because my main goal is to get you started. You can really choose anything you want in terms of the veggies, dressing and mains and I highly encourage even more variety and fun on your end as you explore, but today is about simplicity and a step in the right direction.

Same But Different – A Salad, Three Ways

easy chickpea gluten free salad
Lunch - salad 3 ways tuna pumpkin seed2

quick and easy gluten free salad

Created by Sarah Maughan

Base, per 1 serving – (so chop more for as many salads as you are making)Lunch - summer chickpea salad veggies2
½ red pepper, diced finely
2 tbsp diced red/purple onion
1 stalk celery, diced finely
¼ avocado sliced (I recommend adding this the day off)

*For a whole week I tend to use 2 red peppers, 1 whole onion, 1 whole bag of celery

Dressing, per 1 serving (make up however many servings you need in advance)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp 100% maple syrup
pinch of sea salt and pepper

Salad main examples

Salad # 1: 1 cup organic canned chickpeas + 1 tbsp hempseeds

Salad #2: 1 cup cooked quinoa* + 2 tbsp goats cheese (optional dried cranberries)

Salad #3: 1 can tuna (preferably Wild Planet or Raincoast Wild tuna) + 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (optional finely chopped apple)


  1. In advance – chop up the veggies in advance for the number of servings needed (maybe lunch monday – wednesday so that would be 3) and store in a container in the fridge. Mix the salad dressing up for as many servings as you need and store in a container in the fridge. Your 10 minutes of food prep is done!
  2. On the day of – add your salad main to your lunch container, for example open the can of organic canned chickpeas, rinse and add to your bowl, sprinkle hempseeds , then sprinkle some of the base (the pre-cut veggies and avocado) and pour over the dressing. Repeat for the other days using some different main ideas and voila! Slightly different tastes, some different textures, a bit of variety, but equal effort.

For salad #2 you will require pre-cooked quinoa so this does take a bit more effort. I always recommend that people have individual servings of pre-cooked grains in their freezer for easy access so keep that little tip in mind 🙂

What other “mains” can you think of? Or better yet – what different “bases” can you think of? Have some fun with it!

About Sarah Maughan

Sarah Maughan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, ON and has been consulting since 2009. Her website aims to educate you, make you laugh, help you live and inspire you to eat whole food! To stay up to date sign up for free blog and recipe updates! In the meantime, empower your body with food!
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