Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.
Build a Balanced Lunch
Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.
When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.
Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.
If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.
But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.
For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.
Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.
Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.
Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.
Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.
Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.
Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.
Lunches at Home
Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.
Spicy Poached Eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 5 large eggs
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
- 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup lowfat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon dried dill
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.
Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.
Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.
Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.
Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.
Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.
Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.
Lunches For Work
Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.
Tuscan Tuna Wrap
- 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
- Dash of salt and pepper
- 2 whole-wheat wraps
- 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Pesto Turkey Sandwich
If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.
- 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
- 2 slices pumpernickel bread
- 2 ounces sliced turkey
- 2 romaine lettuce leaves
- 4 slices tomato
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.
Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad
Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.
- 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1/2 cup minced red onion
- 1 mango, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
- Lime wedges for garnish
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.
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