Because is that tiny Tupperware container of straight Spinach really cutting it? I couldn’t help but notice an abnormal amount of “salads” in the office fridge last month. If that cup of lettuce with nothing added to it is really cutting it for you and you are truly satisfied then props to you but I am going to bet my money that you have been spending your afternoons unsatisfied and hangry. Getting back on track for the new year doesn’t have to involve packing miserable salads every day for lunch. In fact, there are a lot of healthy and easy to pack lunches that won’t leave you day dreaming about having a second lunch at 12:05pm. I’ve decided to share 5 of my favorite healthy lunch ideas below:
1. Low carb sandwiches
I am a huge advocate for sandwiches or wraps! Unfortunately the majority of restaurants use higher carb breads or wraps so the calories can add up (even whole wheat). For example, whole grain wheat bread from Au Bon Pain is 280 calories, whereas 2 slices of Sara Lee multigrain bread is 90 calories (45 calories each!). There are several brands out there that make low carb breads such as Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, and Joseph’s (pitas and wraps). While these brands are healthy, if you want to keep it 100% clean Ezekiel sprouted grain bread is also a great option! The simple decision to switch to low carb bread can make a difference of hundreds of calories in your lunch while keeping you just as satisfied.
2. Burrito Bowls
Let’s just be clear that I am all for a Chipotle or Boloco lunch and there are plenty of healthy options when ordering out (perhaps a new blog post topic) but if you want to save yourself some money and a few extra cals a homemade burrito bowl or taco salad is my personal favorite lunch! I typically will use a generous base of lettuce cause #volume and then add either brown rice or riced cauliflower, black beans, salsa, tomato, low fat cheese and either ground lean beef or turkey (cooked with taco seasoning) topped with Bolthouse ranch yogurt dressing.
3. Salads with more than spinach
I might have taken a page out of Sweetgreen’s book here. My point is that a salad doesn’t have to be just lettuce grilled chicken and veggies! Pictured here is lettuce with turkey bacon, sweet potato, fruit, and grilled chicken. Sounds like an odd combination but top this with some vinaigrette dressing and you got yourself a nice harvest salad! A few other game changing salad toppings include sliced apples, slivered almonds, avocado, or tortilla strips (portion within reason)! Speaking of portions, another thing to keep in mind is choosing your dressing wisely. A lot of dressings are high in fat so be aware of your portion size and either make your own dressing, or choose a brand lower in fats.
I actually wrote a blog post over the summer full of healthy burger recipes . Choosing lean beef and cooking your own burger at home, even if it’s on a “normal” roll, will still save you a lot of calories from fat. Pictured here is my breakfast burger made with a lean beef burger (96%) topped with an over easy egg, turkey bacon and laughing cow swiss cheese sandwiched between two slices of Ezekiel Sesame toast. This entire burger is only 13g Fat, 30g Carbs, and 38g Protein. Compare this to a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger: 62g Fat, 40g Carbs, 50g Protein, essentially 3x the amount of calories and 3x more likely you’re going to need an afternoon nap. I am also a big fan on burger salads or using lettuce wedges or portobella mushroom caps for your sandwich base.
5. Crock pot meals
It’s crock pot season, at least here in New England. There’s no easier way to prep food than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting it do its thing. I am a huge turkey chili fan but other easy meals to make in the crock pot include chicken noodle soup, stuffed peppers, or even a lean meatloaf! The crock pot can even come in handy just to prep your protein for the week. I recently made lean turkey meatballs with whole wheat bread crumbs, reduced fat parmesan cheese, onion and garlic tossed them in the pot with low salt tomato sauce and let them cook on low for a few hours. I’ve also made pulled chicken in which I literally just threw a few chicken breast in the crock pot with water and seasoning and let it cook overnight on low (7-8 hours), drained, then pulled apart with 2 forks, put back in pot (I sometime add buffalo or low sugar bbq at this time) and let cook on low for another 30 mins. I also swear pulled chicken stays fresh longer than grilled or baked chicken.
So there you have it! Added a few more than 5 meals here but the point I am trying to make is that you can recreate healthy alternatives to a lot of typical lunch foods and don’t need to stick to plain spinach or plain grilled chicken and veggies every day. Yes you may have to take a few extra minutes to prepare your meal the night before but those few extra minutes are worth it. If you have a go-to healthy and satisfying lunch idea I would love for you to share in the comments below!