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Lunch? What’s for lunch?
Wilson BS, DTR
Bringing lunch from home is truly a bargain in a bag – easy on both your weight and your wallet. Making
your own midday meal gives you better control over portion size, calorie and fat
content, and at the same time provides nutritional benefits that can even lower
the risk of many chronic diseases and save lots of money too.
most popular purchased lunches to eat at the office are sandwiches, wraps and
salads. But they can be full of hidden fats and calories and poor nutrition
bargains. The only way to get a true bargain is to make your own.
Surveys indicate most
workers eat lunch at their desks or while doing errands. According to one study,
less than half of office workers surveyed say they bring a packed lunch from
home at least once a week, and only 20 percent do it every day. Of
those surveyed, 34 percent bought take-out or delivered food, and another 4
percent used the office vending machine at least once a week. How about you,
what do you do?
Although take-out sandwiches and other popular lunch items can be made with
healthful ingredients, and reasonable proportions do exist, but are often hard
to find, or in locations that are not conveniently close to the office. Many
take-out or delivered lunches are oversized portions of foods high in fat and
calories. To solve this dilemma, learn the art of bringing your own!
Preplanning is important.
Failing to plan is planning
to fail. An ounce of preplanning is worth a pound of fat! Remember, it doesn’t
have to be “all or nothing”—you can still use your cafeteria for a main course,
but bring along cut up veggies or fruit to supplement.
Sandwiches prepared the night before or in the morning before leaving for
work should be safe to eat, if properly handled. Proper handling means good
sanitation, adequate cooking, and refrigeration.
the food was properly handled at home with the sandwiches being chilled or
frozen, it should be safe to eat at lunch time, even if not refrigerated at
small thermos with a wide mouth might be a good investment. It can be used
to carry such things as chili, sliced fresh fruit, and coleslaw—foods that
might add variety.
Save small plastic tubs (about 6 – 8 ounce size) or Ziplock® bags. The
containers are good for carrying salad, fruit, yogurt, and cut up veggies.
to use leftover meats and meat substitutes as sandwich fillers; e.g.,
chicken salad made from leftover chicken, roast beef, tempeh, or marinated
veggies are a treasure house of nutrients! They are also high in fiber,
which helps prevent cancer and colon disorders.
Lowfat cheese and crackers with perhaps an apple or some grapes provide a
simple and delicious lunch meal.
Desserts should be kept simple. Try raw or dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, or
maybe some other nuts.
Many light and quick lunch ideas are discussed throughout this Website.
Keeping foods safe:
In really hot weather,
put something cold in the lunch bag--a cold drink, frozen sandwich, a small
plastic refrigerator dish filled with water and frozen, or one of the new
commercial freezing gels, suggests the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the
publication Safe Food To Go. Some plastic lunch boxes have lids that can be
frozen to keep foods cool for several hours. Canned drinks and some of the
juices in paper cartons can also be frozen. I keep a canvas bag with a double
brown bag as an insulator and found that that works out very well. Visit
Bob's Strength -Training Food Bag!
Freezing luncheon foods:
Freezing only the bread helps out. Normally, it keeps other foods
cold enough without refrigeration.
Sandwiches could be wrapped in foil or plastic sandwich bags and frozen the
night before. When freezing sandwiches, omit lettuce or other greens. Wrap
lettuce or greens separately. Add to sandwich at time of eating.
Sandwich freezing cautions:
Salad veggies become
watery and limp.
Hard boiled eggs get
Cream cheese gets
crumbly, but still tastes OK.
mustard, catsup, etc, freeze well.
begin, be prepared. Have a wide variety of fruits
and vegetables in your home at all times. Check out
Bob's Healthy Kitchen, What's In It?.
Chop hard cooked egg
(or cook egg substitute) and mix with yogurt or salad dressing. For
variety, add one or a combination of the following:
Herbs: basil, dill,
Italian seasoning, pepper, curry powder, or cilantro
Sauces: plain yogurt,
mix with horseradish, chopped parsley, green onions, or use yogurt and
Plain yogurt = 8/T;
mayonnaise = 100/T; lowfat mayonnaise = 50/T; sour cream = 26/T; mustard
= 15/T; tomato catsup = 15/T
Low-fat Cheese or
Sliced or grated with
salad dressing (or yogurt/curry dressing). For variety add:
green pepper rings
Mashed with chopped
onion, green pepper, and a small amount of chili sauce and raisins; can
also just use canned refried black or other beans.
Can add: sliced
tomatoes, spinach or chopped chard, sprouts, thin sliced cheddar cheese,
or red/orange sweet pepper strips
Water-pack tuna with:
diced onion and celery, spicy mustard, pepper, catsup, dill pickle
relish, or apple slices and raisins!
Regular or smoked
salmon with low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing, celery and sprouts
Sardines with thin
sliced red onions and sprouts.
Turkey sausage or
Beef or pork, sliced
With meats (or meat
substitutes like tempeh, veggie burgers, or marinated tofu) add: spicy
mustard, sweet pickle relish or curry dressing and sprouts, peppers,
sliced tomatoes and onions, raw greens, and shredded carrots. You could
add cranberry relish (see dinner recipes).
(pre-toasted) add: bottled spaghetti sauce and top with mozzarella
cheese and Italian seasonings. Perhaps top with: red onion slices,
tomato slices, sliced mushrooms, red pepper slices, garlic and pepper
seasonings. Broil until crisp.
Explore delicious and
dense breads, pocket breads, or even corn tortillas. To cut back on
calories or carbs, eat half a sandwich or make an open face one.
which are much more nutrient-dense than refined white flour, are full of
fiber and filling. They are rich in many health-protective substances,
like antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamin E, folic acid, zinc, selenium
and magnesium. When selecting a loaf of bread, the ingredient label
should list as the first item either “100 percent whole grain” or the
word “whole” followed by the grain used.
Try purchasing different kinds of whole-grain breads, if a particular
one doesn’t appeal to you. Multi-grain breads with oats on the outside
tend to be slighter sweeter. For a wonderfully soft and chewy taste,
bake your own with whole-wheat flour, or look for freshly baked loaves.
Whole-grain tortillas and pita bread are also great alternatives that
you may prefer.
Fruits and/or Vegetables
Some thing crisp or
Cucumbers (I love
Jiccima slices or
Lettuce or cabbage
veggies (see dinner recipes)
Foods to choose less often:
which might be chosen less often are those which contain excessive amounts of saturated
fat, sugar, or potentially harmful food additives, regular corn or potato chips,
sticky cakes, cookies, and rich pastries. These foods have little or no
nutritional value and are high in calories and cost. Explore
Confused About Carbohydrates?
Remember what you eat (and think)…becomes you!
Lunches for On-The-Go
Cottage cheese &
raisin sandwich on multiseed/multigrain bread
Green pepper wedges
Turkey salad sandwich
on multigrain bread
Small green salad
(low calorie dressing)
Raspberry Fig Bars
Bean sandwich on
whole wheat bread
Salmon salad sandwich
with romaine lettuce
Carrot strips &
tomato, lettuce on whole wheat English muffin
Baked yam or sweet
Green pepper strips
Whole-grain roll or
Cheddar cheese (spicy
mustard) & bean sprout/sliced onion sandwich
Cauliflower & cherry
Fresh orange & raw
2 T. pumpkin,
sunflower seeds, or pine nuts
Tuna salad on whole
Green pepper wedges
Broccoli florets &
Fresh apple or grapes
Ricotta cheese and
pineapple (spices: nutmeg and cinnamon) or whole wheat raisin bread
Jiccima & red pepper
Swiss cheese sandwich
with spicy mustard, sprouts and avocado in whole wheat pita bread
Cucumbers & grape
Tangerine or plums
sandwich with sliced tomatoes & chard on spelt bread
Pickling cucumbers &
Kiwi fruit & raw
Veggie sandwich on
whole wheat with sliced cucumber, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato,
sprouts, and lowfat cheddar cheese
Cold chicken breast
Whole wheat French
roll/hot Chinese mustard
Sliced tomatoes and
Watermelon and kiwi
Chopped chicken liver
sandwich on rye bread
Carrot sticks &
Lowfat cheese wedges
Lowfat taco chips
Banana & dried date
and hearty soups to take along, or colorful and crunchy salads, or leftover stir
fries, or satisfying steamed vegetables. Enjoy all of these delicious lunches!
Quick Menu Ideas for Home and On the Go
, and Making Quick Dinners:
Dinner? What's Quick and Easy?
Surprises—food for the spirit!
special occasions (really any time!), include a favorite treat in the packed
lunch. Add a message like “You are magnificent,” or a short poem or verse like
“You’re cute, you’re cute, I love you…to boot!” Include a funny drawing (even on
a banana) or a portrait on an open face sandwich. For the face use peanut butter
or ricotta cheese, carrot curls or parsley for hair, green pepper, apple, nuts,
and raisins for the eyes and nose.
Food for the
fun thing to do is to write a message on a green banana and mail it to a
friend. Just wrap it in a tissue paper, put it in a small box and mail it. When
it arrives at its destination, it will have ripened to its normal yellow color
and greet its recipient with cheery tidings. You’ve heard of F.T.D. florists?
Well, this is B.T.D. banana—Banana Trans Delivery! A sample message could be,
“My love has ripened for you.” Or “You drive me bananas.” Or "I find you so
I keep a
in my lunch bag so that I can take time to "nourish my spirit." I may bring
along some sticky notes (or bananas) with affirming messages from
and find that these can help really make my day. They are fuel for my soul and
lift me up when I feel drooped. When I'm feeling the need to be embraced by
kindness, I review
Loving-Kindness: Learn to Befriend Ourselves and
Others. If I'm feeling really confused I look
Out of Hell, Into Freedom Thoughts.
For a printable version
On-The-Go Packed Lunches.pdf
Morsels For Your Creative Soul,
& The Bodacious Book of Succulence by SARK(1994), Celestial
Arts, Berkeley, California. For a catalog, call: (800) 841-BOOK.
These books (and
SARK'S Web site) are SO MUCH FUN
and are delightfully
www.cspinet.org —Nutrition Action
Health Letter. Filled with product evaluations and current nutrition
Institute of Cancer research--Newsletter, call 1-800-843-8114, extension
34; 9 am-5 pm, EST,
Electronic Newsletter: focusing on food, nutrition and food safety from
the University of Nebraska,
Can subscribe and review past
issues. The COOK IT QUICK and Volumetrics Weight Control sections are
superb. This newsletter is exceptional.
Electronic Newsletter: By Connie Evers,
Visit Connie's Heart Healthy Blog:
is an excellent resource for feeding your family in a healthful way. Filled
with lots of terrific suggestions for healthful eating and ideas for living
an active life. IT IS WONDERFUL! Connie also has many excellent LINKS
from her web site for families, kids, teachers, professionals, something for
Strong Women Stay Young Electronic Newsletter: promotes vibrant aging
for women; by Miriam Nelson,