We’re not talking crazy patterns or pictures of super heroes like you remember toting your lunch in as a kid. What’s on your box doesn’t matter much. It’s all about what’s in the box - or even your plate if lunch is at a restaurant.
Staying fit and healthy should focus more on what you eat versus how much you exercise. Make no mistake, we’re not telling you to not workout, because that’s super important, but to just keep in mind that even the most challenging gym sesh won’t make up for daily doses of oreos in your lunchbox. (And the added sugar and chemicals used to create those sweet cookie sandwiches serve no purpose anyway.)
So what should you have for lunch? Well….there are a lot of things to keep in mind, and there are nutritious solutions to any of them - so no excuses! Here’s what to consider: if there is a fridge where you’ll be, a microwave, or both. If you don’t brown bag it, are there suitable options where you’ll be? Maybe you’ve got a crazy boss who doesn’t like the smell of broccoli. Or your co-workers have complained about stinky egg salad. We’ve got you covered with just about any scenario regardless.
If You’re Going Out for Lunch
First a word on portion sizes at restaurants: they’re way too big. Even the ‘half size’ items that are sometimes available are still too large most of the time. Relax. Chew several times and enjoy what you eat.
Here’s one popular faux pas: assuming that salads are a healthy choice. They can be, but not always. Add the wrong things and you might as well have ordered a bacon cheeseburger with mayo. If you do go the salad route, aim for kale or spinach as your base. Proteins such as chicken, turkey, or shrimp are great add-ons so long as they’re not fried. And enjoy all the raw veggies you want. (Nobody became overweight by eating too many of those, after all!) Healthy fats like avocado or some cheese are fine if you don’t add too much of it, but it’s the dressings that can kill you. Your safest bet is balsamic vinegar and the good news is, it’s usually available at any restaurant.
Another common misconception is that sushi is healthy. Again, it depends. All sushi is not created equal. A shrimp tempura roll (aka fried) won’t help get or keep you trim. Neither will a spicy tuna or spicy yellowtail roll, thanks to all that mayo and crunchy flakes. Get back to basics with things like like shrimp and cucumber or salmon and avocado. Or even better - rolls wrapped in cucumber instead of rice. Sashimi is another excellent choice.
If you’re headed to your favorite chinese joint, nix the fried noodles and duck sauce. Pick something steamed, like chicken and mixed vegetables. If soup is a must have, egg drop is the way to go.
If there’s no getting out of fast food, at least be a big kid about it. That means ordering off the kids menu. If you can get apple slices instead of fries, go for it. Skip the the burger bun. And water trumps soda any day.
If You’ve Made Your Own Lunch
It’s always better to make your own meal because you know exactly what went into it. It’s also the best way to go if you’re trying to lose weight.
Got Heat? Use It.
While microwaves aren’t exactly the best method to heat something up, they’re definitely the fastest. So if you’ve got access to one during the workday, there are countless options at your fingertips.
Whip out the slow cooker over the weekend and make a huge batch of your favorite soup. A pureed squash-based soup is perfect for the colder weather. Just toss in your favorite greens and some chicken and you’re good to go. A great way to cut down the fat is to swap out cream for unsweetened almond milk.
Last night’s leftovers can also do the trick. Meatballs transfer well (just make sure to buy chopped meat that’s at least 90% lean) and are great with spaghetti squash or zoodles instead of linguini. Grilled chicken breasts go with just about anything. You can even “cook” on the spot. Sweet potatoes can be plenty sweet in the microwave. Just make light cut marks all the way around, wrap it in a paper towel, and heat it up.
Keeping It Cold
There are plenty of brown bagged lunch options to enjoy sans heat. Layer up a mason jar with your favorite greens, veggies, and quinoa and dress it with some balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil. Avoid soggy lettuce by adding your dressing on the spot.
Overnight oats are another great option and only require a few ingredients. Just mix some oats, chia seeds, cut up fruit (your choice) in with some plain greek yogurt and let it sit overnight. After a few hours, the chia seeds will expand and create a filling, healthy lunch.
And finally, don’t forget to keep snacks with you at all times so there’s no binging on junk food. Turn to superfood-packed protein shakes, nuts, or fruit to keep your energy level up and calorie count down.
Eating healthy can be easier, and more affordable, than you may think. Sometimes it just involves a little planning.