Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let's Do Lunch!

Next to breakfast, lunch is the most frequently skipped meal. Some people work through lunch, others never think about it (I can’t imagine it, but many people have told me this, so it must be true!), and a few misguided folks think skipping meals will help them lose weight. It’s important to eat regularly to maintain a healthy metabolism, give the body the fuel it needs, and avoid overeating later on.

If you work outside your home, bringing lunch to work is a great way to make healthy choices, always have what you enjoy, and stick to a budget. So just what can you bring that is healthy, easy, and enjoyable? There are no rules, so don’t be afraid to be creative – or repetitious, if that appeals to you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Check your refrigerator and freezer for left-overs. Add some frozen veggies to left-over Chinese food and microwave it at the office. Soups, chili, and stew are easy to reheat and satisfying.

• Modify the classic sandwich by starting with whole wheat wraps, flat breads, or 100 calorie thin buns or bagel thins. Look for nitrite- free deli meats or make tuna, salmon, egg, or chicken salad with low- or fat-free mayo. Add celery, halved grapes, mustard, relish, onion, and any other seasoning that appeals to you and top the sandwich with your favorite vegetables. Spread on hummus or mashed avocado as an alternative to mayo or mustard.

• Assemble a variety of foods that cover the basic food groups to change it up a bit. Proteins include yogurt, hard and cottage cheese, nuts, hard boiled eggs, Edamame (soy beans), peanut butter, and legumes. Carbohydrate choices could be whole wheat crackers, breads, or rolls; low fat muffins; baked potato; or popcorn. Hand-held fruits and cut up vegetables add volume and nutrition. I like to cut carrots and celery into bite-sized pieces and add red grapes for a good-tasting, healthy alternative to chips.

• Make a salad to accompany any of the above or as the main event. Save time by buying already washed salad greens and other bagged vegetables and add grapes, dried fruit, shredded or feta cheese, corn or beans, nuts, or anything else that appeals to you. I frequently include Boca or Morningstar Farm soy burgers or Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs as a protein source on my salads. Look for low fat dressings or flavored vinegars as a topping.

• If you crave something sweet to complete your meal, look for the single-serving snacks, such as low fat pudding cups, 100-calorie packs, or boxed raisins. Be sure to read the labels so you know just what you’re eating.

Take the time for a healthy lunch and you’ll give yourself a productive, enjoyable afternoon.

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