I take my lunch to work on most days for two reasons:
1. It’s cheaper
2. It’s healthier
Whether it’s leftovers from dinner or a sandwich or salad — sometimes I’m bored with whatever I’ve brought for lunch. So in an effort to spice up my options and be less stressed I reached out to nutritionist Patricia Bannan, author of “Eat Right When Time is Tight” for some inspiration.
Patricia Bannan, MS, RD
No time to cook? Whether you’re brown bagging it, busy at home or dining out, try one of these healthy lunch ideas from my new book “Eat Right When Time is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes.” Nutritious and delicious, they all have 400 calories or less and provide protein and fiber for sustained energy.
BROWN BAG IT
Here are seven lunch options to brown bag and carry with you:
• Tuna hummus dip. Mix together 1/2 cup of canned, drained water-packed albacore tuna with 2 tablespoons of hummus and a splash of lemon juice; eat with slices of celery or cucumber or a few baked pita chips.
• Italian bean salad. Toss 1 can of drained white beans with 1 teaspoon each of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil and add fresh herbs (e.g, parsley, basil and/or oregano) to taste.
• Frozen burrito. Heat an Amy’s organic frozen burrito and top with lots of fresh salsa and 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese.
• Mini Italian sub. Place 1 ounce (2 slices) of prosciutto or lean ham, 1 ounce part-skim mozzarella, 1 teaspoon 100 percent apricot spread, and a large handful of fresh baby greens like baby arugula on a whole-grain roll. Enjoy with seasonal fresh fruit or 1/4 cup of dried vegetables.
• Frozen entrée. Choose a healthy frozen entrée, organic if possible, and serve with a side of seasonal fresh fruit or 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt.
• Turkey sandwich. Place 3 slices (3 ounces) of turkey meat and 1 slice of reduced-fat cheese (organic if possible) on 2 slices of whole-grain bread and 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard; enjoy with 1 piece of seasonal fresh fruit or 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt.
• Soup’s on. Serve 2 cups of a low-sodium soup with beans and vegetables with 5 whole-grain crackers and 1 seasonal fresh fruit.
LUNCH AT HOME
Try one of these quick lunches at home next time hunger hits and you run out of time. Here are seven handy options:
• Margarita melt. Toast 1 whole-grain English muffin and top each side with marinara sauce and 2-3 tablespoons of shredded, part-skim mozzarella and heat in microwave until cheese melts. Top with fresh basil and serve with a side of seasonal fresh fruit.
• Bean dip burrito. Combine 1/4 cup black bean dip with 2 tablespoons of store-prepared guacamole. Wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla with sliced grape tomatoes and chopped Romaine lettuce.
• Sweet potato delight. Microwave a medium sweet potato and top with plain low-fat Greek yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup or teaspoon of orange marmalade; enjoy with 2 slices of lean ham, rolled.
• Caribbean avocado dip. Mash 1/2 of a soft avocado with a cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, the juice of half a lime and hot pepper sauce to taste; eat with 3 ounces of shrimp (about 14 medium shrimp) or a handful of baked plantain chips.
• Energy pita. Spread 1/2 whole-grain pita with Neufchatel (light cream) cheese and top with 2 tablespoons each of chopped nuts and dried fruit.
• Asian chicken wrap: Wrap 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken breast and 1 fistful of fresh mung bean sprouts (or shredded cucumber or carrot) in 1 large lettuce or cabbage leaf, drizzle with 2 teaspoons of peanut satay sauce.
• Yogurt parfait. Add 1 ounce of granola and 1/2 cup of seasonal fresh fruit of choice to a cup of nonfat plain yogurt.
Here are seven excellent lunch choices if you’re eating at a casual dining restaurant:
• Salmon salad. Order a sautéed, 5-ounce piece of salmon and have it served on 2 cups of salad greens with a splash (2 teaspoons) of olive oil and squirt with lemon.
• Burger & greens. Order a 5-ounce hamburger or turkey burger with 1 slice of melted cheese, served on a bed of greens with a splash (1 to 2 tablespoons) of balsamic vinaigrette.
• Shrimp fajitas. Order 1 cup of grilled shrimp and mixed grilled veggies, wrapped in a flour tortilla (whole-wheat if possible).
• Grilled chicken & veggies. Order a 5-ounce grilled chicken breast with a 1/2 plate of grilled or steamed seasonal veggies; if you want some carbs, add 1/2 cup of steamed brown rice or a small baked potato.
• Sushi love. Enjoy 1 sushi roll (wrapped in brown rice if possible; avoid menu items that say “spicy” or “crunchy” or are served with sauce), 1/2 cup of steamed edamame, and 1 cup of miso soup.
• Fish & veggies. Order a 5-ounce piece of sautéed fish with ½ plate of steamed or grilled seasonal veggies, with a 1/2 cup of steamed brown rice or small baked potato.
• Chinese delight. Order 1/2 cup of stir-fried or steamed protein (like beef, shrimp, or chicken) with 1 cup of stir-fried or steamed mixed vegetables and 1/2 cup of steamed rice (brown, if possible) and a splash of low-sodium soy sauce.
Patricia Bannan, MS, RD has appeared as a guest expert on more than 30 news shows nationwide and served as a health reporter for CNN. She often writes for and is interviewed by national print outlets, including The New York Times and People magazine. For more information, visit www.patriciabannan.com.