It can be all too easy to eat out for lunch every day. More often than not, when I find a “better option” I am left thinking that if I’d made it myself, I’d have used a little less of this, or a little more of that. Even worse, sometimes I’m left asking myself, “I wonder how much of X was in that?” And the truth is … it can be hard to really know. So, I counsel my clients to just say ‘no’ to the mystery lunch hour! When we prepare our own food, it’s easier to cater to our palates while also paying attention to personal eating goals for fruits, veggies, whole grains, and portion control.
The most important thing to remember is to build a balanced meal that will keep you satisfied and energized (but not weighed down) until dinner. That means getting a good balance of healthy fats from …
4 Ways to Pack a Better Lunch
- Wrap It Up
Start with a small or medium whole grain tortilla (can be whole wheat or stone-ground whole grain corn). Fill with lettuce, grated carrots, tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and low-sodium lean turkey breast. After washing your produce, make sure to pat it dry before adding to the wrap to keep it from getting soggy. Bring non-fat plain Greek yogurt to work, and spoon it into the wrap just before eating to add creaminess to the wrap while also adding lean protein and calcium. Toss an apple and a small snack-bag of walnuts into the lunch bag for dessert.
Pack yourself a salad with your favorite greens, be it romaine, mesclun, mache, or iceberg. Add cucumbers, broccoli, brightly colored bell peppers, and red onions. For a lean vegetable protein, include chickpeas, edamame, black beans, or red beans. Bring whole grain crackers to enjoy on the side, or add a scoop of cooked brown rice or quinoa right into the salad for added whole grain goodness!
Cook once, eat twice. Plan a balanced dinner, and set some aside for the next day’s lunch. Maybe it’s whole wheat or brown rice couscous topped with a stir fry of broccoli, snow peas, bean sprouts, mushrooms, onions, and lean chicken breast or firm tofu. Or maybe it’s a lentil soup, with a chunk of fresh whole wheat bread and a fresh yogurt-cucumber side dish.
- Breakfast for Lunch
A meal’s a meal, right? And everyone loves breakfast foods! Sometimes I might reach for the whole grain cereal I keep in my office, and enjoy it with fortified almond milk, blueberries, and strawberries. Other times I’ll use a non-fat Greek yogurt or even all-natural apple sauce instead of milk. If the mood strikes, there’s no reason not to enjoy breakfast for lunch!
Maggie Moon, MS, RD
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