It’s no secret – diet is important. What you eat counts. You can not exercise your way out of a bad diet! With that in mind, let’s give your nutrition a hard look today.
I hear from many of my students that lunch is the problem. Breakfast can be fairly easy with a smoothie, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, eggs, and so on. Dinner is usually a little more planned and we spend more time creating a balanced meal – chicken breasts, vegetables, salads, seafood and so on. What do we do about lunch? If you are working outside of the home, it can mean packing or picking up on the go. If you are staying home with kids, it can be challenging to focus on your lunch in addition to the kids. I hear your pains! Today I am going to offer some simple lunch solutions regardless of where you eat and whether you eat out or in! Let’s do lunch right!
Eating in/packed lunches:
1. Leftovers – Let’s start with the simplest option. If you are eating at home or packing a lunch, leftovers are great. If you are cooking the night before, why not make a bit more for lunch the next day. I like to grill an extra chicken breast or two and double up on the roasted vegetables. This will saves me from having to cook again and still provides hight quality and tasty food that only takes a minute to heat up. Leftovers are great for packing, too. Use an ice pack in your lunch bag to keep your items safe even if you don’t have a refrigerator handy.
2. Prep Salad items – Start your week by prepping items for salads. Cut up peppers, carrots, celery, fruit, lettuce, etc so it is ready to go and you just need to assemble your salad. I like to add nuts and baby shrimp to mine (these defrost in cold water in a minute or less). Sometimes I’ll add avocado or chicken to my salad as well. Having everything ready go means no washing, chopping and cleaning up every lunch time. Make sure to find a protein and healthy fat (avocado, nuts) to add to make your salad filling and well rounded. You can even assemble salads in advance to take on the go.
3. Wrap it – Corn, flour or gluten-free wraps with hummus and vegetables make a great quick meal! You could also use avocado or guacamole in place of hummus. Use your cut up veggies or put leftovers in a wrap. This is great at home options or a grab and go for on the road and packed lunches. Get creative!
4. Smoothies – Make sure to add good ingredients like nuts, almond butter, protein powder, greens, fruit, almond or coconut milk. With the protein and nutrient-rich ingredients, your smoothie will be filling, tasty and also portable for the on-the-go gal!
5. Portable lunch without refrigeration – this is key for folks on the go whether it’s to the park or to the office. Items such as cliff bars (some bars are better than others so make sure to read the ingredients – avoid ones with ingredients you don’t recognize/chemicals), apples, bananas, berries, grapes, tomatoes, carrots, celery, nuts (almond, walnut, pistachio) all will pack up well and will be fine without refrigeration for a while.
1. Smoothies – Places like Whole Foods, Juice Shops and even Starbucks offer smoothies with the option to add protein and fruit. Be careful – MacDonald’s and some other fast food restaurants offered smoothies this summer that were mostly sugar, high fructose and syrup … very little nutrition. Read the ingredients!
2. Subway – be selective about your ingredients and I prefer to go for a wrap as their sandwiches pack lots of bread (empty calories). Choose chicken and veggies and wrap it to go!
3. Panera – You can see the calorie count right on their menu. There is always a salad or soup option that will fill you up and not fill you out! I’m not as familiar with their sandwiches – but you can check on the menu for some good options there, too
4. Wendys – I bet you are surprised to see this on here! Wendy’s has some salads that are ok. Please stay away from the burgers and fried items. If you are in a pinch – a grilled chicken salad from Wendy’s is a much better choice than chicken fingers. You could also opt for a grilled chicken sandwich – ask for lettuce instead of bread! Or try the chili which is low fat and high protein.
5. Chipotle – Go for a bowl with lettuce as the base, meat, veggies and salsa as the topping. Avoid high calorie items such as cheese, sour cream, and tortillas. I also avoid the rice because rice can be quite filling with minimal nutritional value.
Sometimes we fall in to the mode of thinking lunch needs to look like a sandwich or pizza. It does not. It needs to be nutritious – comprised of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also needs to be something you will eat! Think beyond the expected and you may find some fun new options to try for lunch that save time and calories.