Sometimes, coming up with a healthy lunch every single day can be too much of an effort to add to a stressful and busy week. When bagged lunch is too taxing, many people turn to take-out. So many take out foods, although seemingly healthy on the surface, can actually be loaded with salt and hidden fats that you didn’t know you were eating.
Get more out of your lunch by being prepared. Set yourself up for success by taking a few of these suggestions and making them part of your daily routine.
The sandwich is the staple of lunch food. If you are looking for a classic PB&J think twice. The traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich is packed with simple carbohydrates, like sugar from the jelly. Try swapping out the jelly for fruit such as sliced banana. That way you’re still getting the protein from the peanut butter but more complex carbohydrates and other nutrients from the fruit.
Speaking of complex carbohydrates, you won’t find any in white bread. Make a smarter choice and find a whole wheat or whole grain bread that you like. That way you add more nutrients and dietary fiber to your favorite sandwich.
Want more ways to add protein? Forget the cheese. Even though cheese can be delicious, it has a rather high saturated fat and cholesterol content. Instead, try a bean spread, veggie omelet (yes in between two slices of bread!) or canned fish mashed with avocado. Avocado provides monounsaturated fat as well as vitamins. No need to lose the backpack lunch bag flavor, avocado is delicious and can add a rich, creamy texture.
Condiments are tricky. Products like ketchup and mayonnaise contain high fructose corn syrup and preservatives to help them last longer. Instead opt for mustard. Mustard is a wonderful, natural condiment that comes from mustard seeds. With minimal calories and a ton of flavor, mustard is sure to spice up your sandwich.
Snack packs are essential to your day. Letting too much time pass between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner will leave you ravenous when your next meal rolls around. Keep your stomach satisfied with small, smart snacks. Pack plastic baggies with vegetables like carrots, cherry tomatoes or celery. Bring hummus or salsa to dip them in.
Or you can get a protein pick-me-up by packing a small container of nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are a good way to get the crunch you need without potato chips. A variety of the two will keep your taste buds from getting bored. As an added plus, protein will keep you fuller for longer so you won’t feel light headed when it’s lunch time.
Try adding a small salad to the side of your lunch. No need to get too fancy, heavy toppings can pack on empty calories from croutons, salad dressings and dried fruit pieces. Instead top your salad with rinsed canned beans to get more nutrients and protein.
Keep your salad light and refreshing by opting for low fat dressings or even lemon juice. Lemon juice adds just enough flavor and brings out the iron in green veggies
The Drink Dilemma
Stay away from sugary beverages that spike your blood sugar. If you need coffee in the morning, keep it simple with low fat milk. Keep hydrated throughout the day with water. You can bring life to your water with cucumbers, lemon or even raspberries!
Take your lunch box up a notch so you never get bored. Bring back the joy of eating lunch with a few of these healthy suggestions and you’ll find yourself making healthier decisions the rest of the day. Enjoy!