Are tempting fast-food selections weighing down your lunch? In general, fast food isn’t something we usually feel good about after eating, but short lunch breaks can make the idea of a quick burger and fries quite appealing. With healthy lunch advice from Ocala Health clinical nutrition manager Jamie Levitt, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, and flavorsome recipes from healthy-recipe blogger Nancy Fox, you can forego the greasy burgers and start eating real lunches again.
Like breakfast, lunch should be taken seriously.
“It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced lunch—it’s what will give you the energy you need to stay alert the rest of the day,” Jamie Levitt says.
Eating too little or too much of the wrong foods can leave you feeling groggy and tired. Instead, Jamie says to make meals that include a carbohydrate, protein and a minimal fat source. By including a protein, a fat source and a carbohydrate in your lunch, it allows the body to slowly release sugar into the blood stream, keeping you fuller longer.
Don’t limit your lunch options to a number one or two on the drive-thru menu; the make-at-home lunch options are endless. If you go for the traditional sandwich, use lean meat, vegetables and whole-grain bread. For salads, try a variety of vegetables with healthy toppings like low-fat cheese, boneless and skinless chicken breast, low-fat beans and a light dressing.
Some hot food options include homemade soups or chilies, which are an easy way to incorporate protein and vegetables into your meal. Oh, and ditch the soda; drink low-fat milk or water instead.
Making lunches the night before alleviates the stress and hassle we associate with packed lunches. Some lunch options, like soups and chilies, can last several days in the refrigerator. To make things easier, try splitting portions into several different containers the day you prepare a meal so you can just grab and go.
Didn’t have time to pack a lunch or just plain forgot it? No problem. If you must eat out for lunch, Jamie says to pick a salad or sandwich shop that allows you to pick what goes on and in your food.
“Avoid the cheese, mayo, dressing and other unhealthy additives,” says Jamie. Plus, choose foods that are grilled rather than fried, and skip the fries altogether.
Of course with these delicious recipes from healthy-recipe blogger Nancy Fox from Skinny Kitchen, you’ll be sure to make the time to prepare a homemade lunch and you surely won’t forget it. Plus, these delicious dishes are all less than 300 calories and include a carbohydrate, protein and minimal fat source.
Low-carb Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Start to finish: 35 minutes Servings: 16 wraps
1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey
8 scallions, white and green part chopped
18-ounce can water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 ½ tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon ginger (from a jar) or fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 large head butter lettuce, wash, dried and leaves separated
Skinny Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4, each serving is about 2 cups
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces (boneless, skinless)
1 lemon, juiced
Olive oil cooking spray
6 cups broccoli, cut into florets
112-ounce bag broccoli slaw
1 cup snap peas or Chinese pea pods, sliced
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup scallions, sliced
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ginger (from a jar)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup rice vinegar
Coat a large nonstick pan or wok with cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the top. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until chicken is completely cooked, about 4 minutes. Remove from pan, and add to a plate. Set aside. Coat the same nonstick pan with more cooking spray. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in pan. Add all the veggies and water. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes until broccoli softens. Stir in ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add back chicken; add soy sauce, brown sugar and vinegar. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
Yummy Chicken Barley Soup
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (1 hour to cook)
148-ounce container reduced-sodium chicken broth
132-ounce container reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dried pearl barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 ½ cups carrots, sliced
1 ½ cups celery, sliced
1 ½ cups onions, chopped
112-ounce bag peeled and chopped butternut squash or 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried sage
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 pound cooked chicken or turkey (boneless, skinless), cubed
In a large pot, add all chicken broth and barley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, in a nonstick pan, add olive oil, garlic, carrots, celery and onions. Sauté until soft, for about 5 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables to the broth. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Add butternut squash, thyme, sage and fresh ground pepper. Continue to cook uncovered for 25 minutes. Add the cooked chicken, and stir with a rubber spatula so the squash doesn’t get mushy. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Skinny Thai Chicken and Peanut Noodles
Start to finish: 30 minutes (including pasta)
6 ounces whole-grain or whole-wheat dry spaghetti
¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
¼ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons peanut butter, chunky
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon ginger, from a jar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped,
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin, bite-size pieces
3 green onions, bias-sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts (optional)
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a large pan, combine soy sauce, broth, peanut butter, lime juice, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper. Cook and stir over low heat until peanut butter melts. Add chicken, red bell pepper and green onions. Mix well, and continue to cook until chicken is heated. Add cooked pasta, and toss to coat. If desired, garnish with chopped peanuts.
Low-fat Barbeque Turkey Chili, Potato Skillet
Start to finish: 50 minutes
4 cups potato, peeled and diced into small pieces
3 cups onions, chopped
Olive oil spray
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 ¼ pound package 99% fat-free ground turkey breast
118-ounce bottle of barbecue sauce
1 cup tomato sauce, from a jar or can
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Place potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl, and cook in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until slightly soften. They should not be completely cooked through. Set aside. Place onions in another microwave-safe bowl, and cook in microwave for 4 minutes, until soft. Coat a large nonstick pan or skillet with cooking spray. Heat olive oil. Add ground turkey. Cook over medium-high heat, about 5-6 minutes. Stir often, breaking up turkey into small pieces. Using a rubber spatula, add cooked onions and potatoes to turkey. Stir in barbecue sauce, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer. Stir a few times while simmering. Continue to simmer until potatoes are completely cooked and soft, about 25-30 minutes.