Pack a Healthy Lunch

Brown-bagging it is not just for school-aged kids. Many women are bringing their lunch with them to work. Not only does it save you money (and in this economy, who couldn’t use to save some $$) and time, but you control the quality and quantity of the ingredients so you know exactly what you’re putting in your body. And while you’re packing your own lunch, make sure to make extras for the kids lunches.

Lunch-box Basics

All lunches need to contain a few key components. By mixing and matching ingredients, you will come up with so many options that you won’t have to eat the same thing twice (unless that lunch totally ROCKS and then have it again!).

Whole Grains: Choose one of the following:

  • whole wheat bread/pita bread, English muffun/mini bagel/tortilla
  • brown rice/quinoa/amaranth/whole wheat cous cous/whole grain pasta/bulgur
  • sweet potato/corn/butternut squash

Lean Protein:

  • chicken or turkey breast; peppered turkey, turkey pastrami
  • lean roast beef
  • water-packed chunk light tuna (has the least mercury)
  • beans (black, white, kidney, garbanzo)
  • hard-boiled egg
  • smoked salmon, canned salmon
  • shrimp, crab
  • light string cheese, low-fat feta cheese, part-skim mozarella cheese

Fruits & Veggies:

  • salad
  • vegetable soup (tortilla soup, gazpacho, minestrone, vegetable soup, butternut squash soup)
  • fresh fruit (whole or cut up)
  • veggies and dip (hummus, salsa, black bean dip, guacamole)

Healthy Fat:

  • avocado (1/8 of a whole), guacamole (2 tbs.)
  • nuts, seeds (2 tbs.)
  • extra virgin olive oil (1-2 tsp.)
  • pesto (1 tbs.)
  • olive tapenade (1-2 tbs.)
  • hummus (2 tbs.)

Putting it all together

Big salad: Mix all of your favorite veggies together with some chicken or shrimp or beans, add some avocado or nuts, mix in 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, and toss with a light salad dressing.

Pasta salad: mix 1/2 cup whole grain pasta with 2 cups veggies and cubed mozzarella cheese and a light vinaigrette.

Tabbouleh: Mix 1/2 cup bulgur with plenty of chopped cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, parsley and mint. Season with a little olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice. Add some garbanzo beans for protein and you’ll be full of energy for the afternoon.

Sandwiches: Use whole grain bread or rolls and layer with chicken or turkey breast, some dark green lettuce, fresh tomato, and a smear of guacamole. Or try a roasted vegetable sandwich with layers of roasted eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and red onion, a smear of pesto and a slice of mozzarella cheese on a toasted whole grain roll.

Wrap sandwiches:  Fill a medium size whole-wheat tortilla with a spread (mustard, dijon mustard, pesto, hummus, guacamole, salsa), lots of veggies, and some lean protein; wrap and enjoy.

Soup and Sandwich: Pair 1 cup of your favorite vegetable-based soup with a whole or 1/2 sandwich.

Pack snacks: the best snacks always pair some kind of Produce (fruit or veggie) with a Protein. This way you get tons of lasting energy. It’s so important to eat a snack between your meals to keep your energy level high and your metabolism humming. Plus it keeps you from that late afternoon crash. Remember the snack mantra: Produce + Protein.

Hydrate: Make sure to keep a tall water bottle on your desk, in your purse, or in your car at all times. Seeing it will remind you to drink it. Hydration is so important for high energy levels and your metabolism. Remember, out of sight is out of mind. Water, green tea, and herbal teas are the best beverages for your body. Try to stay away from too much caffeine (especially in the afternoon), sugary drinks, and diet drinks.

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