Healthy lunch ideas for the corporate worker

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

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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

fullsizerender-20 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

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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.

 

4. Burgers

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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

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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!

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Bikini Competition Prep, What I Have Learned So Far.

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So as a lot of you may know at this point, I have decided to compete in a bodybuilding show.  No, I am not trying to transform myself into Hulk Hogan.  I am competing in the bikini division.  Give “bikini competitor” a Google if you don’t know what that means.  I have always been focused on being healthy and took the next step to change my lifestyle about a year ago.  As I started to really change my diet and pick up those heavy weights, I noticed a big difference in how I looked and felt.  I decided I really wanted a challenge and to see just how far I could push myself.  I made the decision last summer that I wanted to compete.  And after several months of building muscle, here I am, half way through my contest prep diet.  So, here are a few things I have learned throughout this whole process:

1. It is a lot easier said than done to have a balanced social life while on contest prep.

It just is.  I can’t drink and it is really difficult to go out to dinner if the restaurant does not provide nutritional information.  Even if the restaurant does provide nutritional information, there is a good chance that the information is not 100% accurate.  I am sorry but if I am spending thousands of dollars (yes thousands) to bring my best package to the stage there is a good chance that I am going to do everything that I can to make sure my diet is on point.  Yes, there is the possibility of me taking my tupperware container to the restaurant but I have to admit I feel slightly rude doing that.  And let’s backtrack to the part when I said I can’t drink.  This is probably the most difficult part of prep for me.  And I say that in full confidence that I am not an alcoholic.  I am however, a 25 year old woman who enjoys a night out with her friends in the city every once and a while, or a wine night here and there.  But can’t I still have fun going out to the bar and not drinking? Yes, sometimes, but when you workout at 5am everyday it’s hard to put on your “turnt up” face on a Saturday night as you wait for last call.  I will say, if I ever decide to compete again, this is an area that I certainly need to work on.

2.  Not everyone will understand what you’re doing, or why you are doing it, and that is perfectly okay.

I try to avoid explaining why I am not drinking or why I am avoiding the cookies in the office as much as I can but I am truly bad at lying.  So I have had to explain to a lot of people that I am on a contest prep blah blah blah and there are two common reactions I have received. First, “wow that’s awesome good luck”.  Second , “so, you can’t just have one cookie? one drink?”.  I used to get super frustrated with response number two.  I quickly realized that they aren’t trying to bring me down and that they probably just realize that I do in fact want that glass of wine and they just really wish I could have one with them.  I am still learning all the ins and out of prepping for a bikini competition, so why should I expect that others understand what I am even doing?  I have received a ton of positive feedback throughout this entire journey from family and friends and I know they want nothing but the best for me.  I’ve concluded that my lower carb intake bitch is just taking over from time to time and it will eventually pass. 🙂

3.  It is important to engage with other competitors or people within the industry.

A lot of competitors will work with a local coach, be a part of a local team and have teammates by their side throughout their entire prep journey.  I on the other hand am working with an online coach who is located out of the state.  Now, I wouldn’t change my coach for anything but I realized quickly that this meant I would really have to go the extra mile to do a little extra research in finding out what the right show was for me and getting additional in person posing help.  More importantly, I feel like having people that you can connect with about the process is really important.  This really goes back to my first and second points listed above.  Not everyone is going to fully understand what you are going through, and that is okay.  In fact, even your fellow competitors will most likely have a totally different prep journey than you.  However, despite the slight differences in your diet and exercise leading up to the show, you’re all reaching for similar goals and will most likely all be spending more Saturday nights in chugging BCAAs and protein shakes.  At least if you choose to spend most of your weekends in you’re going to want someone to bond with over your mutual grandma-ness.  It is also important to point out that this prep feels like a second full time job (a very expensive second job), so I can’t help but talk about it more than I would like.  I am sure people are sick of hearing me talk about food and the gym which is why having others in the same boat to vent to that can directly relate makes things a little easier.  This is actually part of the reason that I started to blog, so that I had a platform where I could share all of my thoughts throughout my fitness journey and whoever wanted to read it can and those who don’t care don’t have to read it!  My last point here is that you may actually learn something from speaking to someone else.  There are A LOT of opinions out there when it comes to bodybuilding, dieting, what to eat, what not to eat, and you may not agree with everyone but you can gain some valuable knowledge by talking to people that have either competed in the past or are involved with the industry somehow.

Now, if you’re still reading this then I am thoroughly impressed.  I’ll be sure to follow up after my show in 5 weeks to give a full reflection of the experience.  My opinions that I stated above may even completely change by the end of this week 🙂  That’s just what this prep has done to my brain!