A healthy lunch helps fuel the rest of your day. Whether you're on the go or don't have many options, it's easy to make unhealthy decisions. It's best to skip the fast food and opt for creating healthy meals at home. Packing a lunch will allow you to eat healthier and can even help you save money. When creating a healthy lunch, focus on fresh produce, whole grains and lean proteins. A combination of these foods will help you stay full and satisfied until your next meal.
A chicken stir-fry is a healthy and easy lunch option. White meat chicken is a lean, high-quality protein and is lower in fat than dark meat. Cook with fresh vegetables such as peppers, onions, green beans and mushrooms. Instead of "frying" the ingredients in oil, use a cooking spray to keep the calorie and fat to a minimum. Avoid commercially made sauces, which tend to contain high amounts of sugar and sodium. Instead, use fresh herbs and spices, such as ginger, parsley, garlic powder or curry powder to add flavor. Serve over brown rice, which is a whole grain and is higher in dietary fiber and antioxidants than white rice. This high-fiber, high-protein stir-fry will keep you satisfied until your next meal.
Tuna is a healthy, protein-rich choice for a satisfying lunch. It's a very low-fat fish and a good source of lean protein. Tuna that is packed in oil provides an additional 7 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, so choose tuna that is packed in water. Instead of using high-fat mayonnaise, mix the tuna with a healthier option, such as Dijon or stone-ground mustard. Add chopped vegetables such as celery or carrots for extra nutrients and spread on whole-grain bread.
Vegetable and Protein Salad
A large salad full of fresh vegetables and lean proteins is a great option for a healthy lunch. Fill your salad bowl with fresh greens, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, celery, beets, tomatoes and onions. Adding lean protein to a salad will help keep you full and satisfied until your next meal. Choose grilled chicken, turkey, tuna or salmon. You can also add vegetarian sources of protein such as tofu, lentils, beans or peas. Choose healthier salad dressings like vinaigrettes, which are mixtures of oil and vinegar, as opposed to creamy high-fat dressings such as ranch, French, Italian or bleu cheese.
Black Bean Burrito
A burrito is typically a high-calorie and high-fat dish. However, if made with the right ingredients, it can be a healthy choice for lunch. To increase dietary fiber, choose a whole-grain tortilla instead of a white-flour tortilla. Look for tortillas with more than 5 grams of fiber. Fill it with healthy items such as black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, low-fat sour cream, salsa and low-fat cheese. For additional flavor and health benefits, add avocado to a burrito. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fatty acid, which is a heart-healthy fat.
Lindsey Lankowsky is a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University. Lankowsky has worked in the Veterans Health Administration since 2009 and has written various nutrition articles for the VA.