Breakfast may fuel your morning and set your healthy habits for the day, but lunch will keep you going through afternoon meetings, hitting the gym and picking the kids up from soccer practice.
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Fast food may present an easy option, but it’s a recipe for diet disasters. Try the five lunch options below instead. They may take more planning than eating out, but they’re easier on your waistline and your wallet, too.
1. Salmon salad: Protein in a tasty package
Is that leftover salmon from dinner last night calling your name? Enjoy a protein powerhouse by dicing it and mixing it with celery, onions and Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. For a vegetarian option, substitute tofu for salmon. Spice things up with black pepper, curry, sliced grapes, walnuts or your favorite vegetables. Then eat your tasty salad on a bed of greens or 100 percent whole grain bread. The bread choice is crucial because refined grains (think “white bread”) can cause you to gain fat around your organs, boosting your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even dementia.
2. Bean salad: Color me healthy
Beans are a great source of protein and fiber. These natural wonders are also packed full of folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Make a salad with multiple types of beans — pick your favorites — and then add even more color and flavor with fresh tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers. The resulting dish is bursting with antioxidant-rich foods, which help reduce your risk of cancer.
3. Quinoa bowl: Trendy for a reason
Quinoa isn’t just trendy; it’s hearty and healthy, too. Quinoa is a whole grain packed with fiber and protein, and it’s not just a side dish anymore. Try mixing this wonder grain with your favorite vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and even avocado. You’ll get a complete protein that packs a nutritious punch.
4. Turkey wrap with avocado
This lunch is equal parts healthy and portable, with a good mix of protein and “good” fat. Nestle baked turkey, lettuce, tomato, onions and avocado in a 100 percent whole grain blanket (wraps or pita work well). Use baked turkey in place of deli meat to drastically reduce the sodium content. Why? The American Heart Association estimates that reducing sodium intake to 1500 mg per day would decrease hypertension by 26 percent — and save $26 billion in healthcare costs annually.
5. Grilled chicken sandwich: Hold the bread
For a sandwich alternative, go with a lettuce wrap. Use your favorite leafy greens (lettuce isn’t your only option) to wrap a grilled chicken breast, and add tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before you tuck the chicken in. Don’t skimp on the greens, either —consuming seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day reduces your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. When your parents told you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, they were right.
Contributor: Krisin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD and Andrew Ruebensaal.