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by Lori Herren January 28, 2021 4 min read

It’s lunchtime (again)! Time to put down the laptop, back away from the Zoom call and find something to stop the growling sounds of your stomach. You know you should eat something healthy, but that fast food burger and fries is so easy to pick up in the drive thru, not to mention how good it sounds, especially as stressed out as you are to get back to work and make it to your deadline. We’ve all been there, we ARE there today in fact, and pretty much everyday. Lunch is the crucial meal that gets us through the most important part of our day and it needs to last us until dinner time. Choosing greasy, unhealthy food just isn’t going to cut it! Most of us WANT to make healthy lunch choices but where do we even start? And how can we make healthy lunches easy and accessible when we are drowning in work and don’t have the time to make a full meal, especially in the middle of the day? There are several healthy ideas that fall under healthy categories that will give us a blueprint to healthier lunch choices and enough variety that won’t have us eating the same thing everyday. Once we learn the right directions we will find some really good foods along the way, making lunch fun and nutritious, and giving us the fuel we need to make it through until dinner.

Lean Protein

We hear the word often these days when trying to cook and eat healthy: PROTEIN. Yes, lean protein is good for you and yes, it keeps you full longer. But what does it even mean? Protein is of course found in meats, poultry and seafood, but it also comes in some things that might surprise you:

  •  dairy products: Greek yogurt, 2% milk, cottage cheese, eggs
  •  Beans, peas, lentils and legumes
  • Wheat and grains
  •  Nuts and seeds: peanut butter, almond butter
  •  Soy
  •  Edamame
  • Quinoa
  • Soba noodles

 

Vegetables

It’s no secret how crucial vegetables are to our diet. Lunch is a great time to put some veggie power into your day, and there are way more possibilities to a rich, healthy lunch than just a salad (even though we love our salads!)

  • Vegetable Soup
  • Sandwich on whole grain bread piled high with fresh veggies
  • Quinoa salad with roasted veggies
  • Lentil soup
  • Pasta salad made with whole grain or veggie pasta
  • Cauliflower rice bowl with veggies
  • Chicken salad made with lowfat dressing, served on lettuce or whole grain bread
  • Hummus with raw vegetables

 

Whole Grains

When thinking about eating healthy or going on a diet, people automatically assume they will have to give up bread obviously, but they think giving up whole grains goes along with the process because they are trying to eliminate carbohydrates. In actuality, whole grains are very good for you because they are high in fiber which makes you feel full. Whole grains also help lower your risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other forms of illness. Some good examples of whole grains to add to your lunch menu are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Popcorn
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Bulgar - which is cracked wheat
  • Whole wheat pasta, bread, or crackers

 

Nutty For Nuts

We talked earlier about how nuts are a good source of protein for your quest to eat healthier lunches. They also contain fiber, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, vitamin E, selenium and manganese, all beneficial to your overall health. They make the best topping for your salads and soups and are a great addition to your pasta, pesto, chicken salad and to most sandwiches. The most popular ones are:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts - Most commonly grouped in the “nut” category, a peanut is actually a legume, but still packed full of protein power!

 

Fruit

You may only consider fruit as a sweet type snack or dessert, but don’t count fruit out when it comes to a healthy lunch list. I know, changing a palate is hard, but don’t stick to salty and savory as meal flavors only. Fruit is perfect when paired with a fresh salad or pasta. Sometimes a little sweet with something salty can satisfy those sweet cravings and keep you away from your secret candy drawer. Some very healthy fruits that can pair well with your lunch choices are:

  • Strawberries 
  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Blackberries
  • Banana

 

Learn To Love Your Lunch

Choosing healthy over unhealthy is not easy and it doesn't happen successfully overnight. It's small steps consistently in the right direction. I have found, in my own health journey, that the more healthy foods I try, the more I like and the more my palate starts liking it! The more healthy foods you eat, the more you will want, and those daily craving for the unhealthy will become less and less over time. You can still enjoy the occasional splurge, but you will surprisingly find yourself ready to get back to your healthy choices. And your new found interest in healthy lunch ideas can spill over into dinner and breakfast, making your new eating habits turn into a healthy, better lifestyle. Take a walk in the evenings and add a few light hand weights and you've done an entire 180 degree turn into a real lifestyle that will add years to your life, subtract pounds from the scale, and make you into a healthier, happier you! The first step is always the most important! Start planning tomorrow's healthy lunch and start your path to more energy and a fresh start!

 

 

 

 

 

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Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/53044-protein.html

https://uscvhh.org/share/healthy-people-usually-eat-these-7-things-for-lunch.html

https://www.eatthis.com/healthy-lunch-ideas/

https://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/healthy-lunch-foods-you-should-eat.html/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/whole-grains/art-20047826#:~:text=Grains%20are%20naturally%20high%20in,cancers%20and%20other%20health%20problems.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-nuts#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

https://weelicious.com/12-essential-lunch-box-fruits/

 

 

 

Lori Herren
Lori Herren

Lori D. Herren is a graduate of the University of West Georgia where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications for Broadcast Journalism and Public Relations, with minors in Marketing and Music. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and pursuing her love of music.


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