Friday, November 11, 2011

The "What can I eat that's healthy?" Series (Part 2: Lunch)

Happy day, y'all! ( should read that with a slight twang.) I love Fridays. Particularly this one as I'm headed to Chicago for the weekend. It's been some time since I've been into the city, and since this might be one of the last times we can go with such ease, we're going. And we'll get to see some of my friends from college, which is always a good thing. Oh, and...there's the obligatory trip to Trader Joe's that I'm very much looking forward to. Can't go to the city without doing that. \Word on the street is that all of their seasonal items are on the shelves. Can't wait for some Pumpkin Pancake mix. But I digress.

We have other things to talk about today and they don't include breakfast items. This is, after all, Part 2 of my "What can I eat that's healthy?" series. We talked about breakfast yesterday, so it's only natural we follow that up with lunch.

I get a lot of questions about lunch when people talk to me about healthy eating. Lunch is often eaten on the go, out and about or at work where kitchens aren't always available for fresh cooking. But that doesn't mean it has to be unhealthy. Or boring. It so easily becomes both in this world of fast food we live in. And let's be many turkey sandwiches can you pack before you feel like one yourself?

Time for more options.

I'm fortunate in that I get to eat most of my lunches at home, but that wasn't (and isn't) always the case. In fact, I pack a lunch almost every Tuesday and Thursday so that I can cram some cardio in between my morning and afternoon clients. Yesterday, it was black bean soup. On other days, you might find me eating some of the following (whether they be packed to go or eaten at home).

Simply Healthy Black Bean Soup
There are literally four ingredients in my favorite recipe. They aren't expensive, and produce four hefty servings. Best part? It takes maybe ten minutes to make. Five once you get used to it. If you don't like black beans, there are a number of healthy soup recipes in this world. The best contain protein and minimize the use of heavy creams which just add fat. Make a big pot, freeze in serving sizes, grab and go when you have to pack (or leave some in the 'fridge if you anticipate eating at home).

Mr. McDougall's Tortilla Soup with Baked Chips
I've never been one to enjoy canned soups, but I was recently given the opportunity to sample this one...which actually comes in a cup...and it's super tasty. It's of the "just add hot water" variety, but it isn't filled with anything you won't recognize. Completely natural, this soup. And low in sodium, too. There are a few other flavors in the Mr. McDougall's soup lineup, but I've only got experience with this one so I can't speak for the rest. You should, however, be able to find them in the healthy section of your grocery store.

Salad Bars
My local grocery store has the greatest salad bar, I swear. They make it so easy to create a healthy salad out of Mother Nature's candy. I guarantee there's somewhere in your town that provides the same opportunity. Seek it out and go crazy whenever you can't pack a lunch, or when there isn't anything at home to eat. Better yet, stock up on salad essentials every Sunday and prep in advance so that all you have to do is toss and go when the time comes.

Smoothies and Peanut Butter
You can make smoothies in advance, too. Didja know that? Freeze them for later consumption. They'll act like ice packs in your lunch box, and they'll be much better for you (and less expensive) than the smoothies you buy at your local smoothie bar. Pair it with some peanut butter on a slice of bread for just a bit more sustenance and fill. It's the sweetest of lunches, really.

The oatmeal of lunches. Two slices of bread are but an empty canvas for one healthy pile of food. Get some all-natural cold cuts if you wish, or go the veggie route. Add hummus, boiled eggs, fresh avocado, ground, there's nothing better than a great sandwich. All you have to do is branch out from the traditional turkey and cheddar combo. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you. (PS: Don't forget about Subway. Entirely possible to make a healthy sandwich at that place...just sayin'.)

Kashi Frozen Meals
I don't eat a lot of frozen meals, but when I do, it's usually Kashi brand. They have a Black Bean Mango bowl that's pretty divine. I've tried a few others, but this one tends to trump them in my grocery cart every nine times out of ten.

Cook big dinners. Big, healthy dinners that could be your lunch, too. When you clean up dinner, put said leftovers into individual dishes for grab-and-go lunch packing. Not only does this provide something delicious and homemade, it cuts your grocery bill a bit, too.

1) Don't just brown-bag it. Fancy bag it. You'll be much more motivated to carry your lunch with you.
2) Prep in advance. Chop veggies, slice rolls for sandwiches, boil the eggs...makes it easier to grab.
3) Yes, you can eat out...if you choose with your brain, not with your stomach.

That last rules applies to dinners out, too. We'll talk about dinner tomorrow.

Question: What are your favorite healthy lunch foods?

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