Remember the days when your mother packed you a nice, healthy lunch everyday to take to school? In today’s world, it is not uncommon for us to be rushed to get out the door in the morning leaving little to no time to eat breakfast, let alone pack a healthy lunch. This handout is going to give you ideas and strategies for creating quick, easy, and healthy lunches all week long.
Before we get to the meal ideas themselves, let’s back up and talk about planning. Planning is essential for creating healthy meals. If you do not have healthy foods in your environment, it makes it really hard to make healthy meals.
- Think ahead and plan what you will be doing for lunch each day
- Make a list of healthy foods that you would like to eat for the week
- From that list, create a grocery list that includes these foods in the appropriate quantities
- Each day, think about what you will be having the next day
- Pack these foods the night before so that they are ready to go in the morning
* TIP: If you are a person that doesn’t mind leftovers, plan to make extra at certain dinner meals so that you can take them to work with you the next day.
Remember when making your lunch to try and focus on balance and choose from the following food groups:The USDA’s My Plate does a great job illustrating how your healthy plate should look at every meal.
- Lean meats
- Low-fat dairy products
- Whole grains
If you do eat out during the week, keep the following tips in mind:
- Research the restaurant before you go
- Pick restaurants that have a variety of veggies and fruits on the menu
- Ask how the food is prepared and also to have the sauces on the side
- Portion sizes in restaurants are generally double or triple the actual amount we should eat. Ask for a take home box right when you get your meal so that you can put some of the meal away to save as leftovers.
- If lunch is catered in to the workplace, still pack healthy sides like fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products to supplement the meal.
- If you have a say in the type of foods that are catered in, request healthier options.
- Baked potato bars, salad bars, build your own taco bars, sandwiches or wraps with fruit, leaner protein options like chicken breasts or pork loin with steamed veggies, etc.
- Sandwich on whole wheat bread with lean deli meats such as turkey, ham, or roast beef; add 2% cheese, your favorite veggies, and low-fat condiments such as spicy mustard or light mayo. Couple the sandwich with baked chips, low-fat yogurt, and any kind of fruit.
- Wraps or pita pockets are something you can make with deli meats or even left over meats from dinner the night before. Try grilled chicken or steak Greek-style by adding lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, low-fat feta cheese, and Greek vinaigrette. You could also use the same meats and make them Mexican-style by adding lettuce, tomato, black olives, low-fat cheddar cheese, salsa, and low-fat sour cream. (Feel free to add any other veggies in that you like and to keep your wraps or pitas from getting soggy, add the sauces to them right before you eat.) Baked tortilla chips and salsa or fresh veggies with hummus/refried bean dip (see recipe below) pair nicely with either one of these ideas.
- Salad with all sorts of your favorite veggies and lean protein such as chicken, salmon, steak, deli meats, shrimp, leftover taco meat, black beans, chickpeas, etc. Add low fat cheeses and salad dressing to top it off. Nuts are also high in protein and taste great in a salad, but can be very high in calories so make sure to use in moderation.
- Pre-packaged frozen meals. Check the Nutrition Facts Label to make sure the food is low in calories and moderate in sodium (< 600 mg). To this meal add a salad or fruit and 1% cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt.
- Some preferred brands include Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, and Healthy Choice
Turkey and Vegetable Tostada
What You Need
6 flour tortillas (6 inch)
1 pkg. (1-1/4 oz.) Taco seasoning mix, divided
1 lb. ground turkey breast or 93% lean ground beef
4 tomatoes, chopped, divided
1 cup chopped zucchini
½ cup water
1 cup 2% shredded Colby & Monterey Jack cheeses
1-1/2 cups shredded lettuce
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oven to 400°F.
Place tortillas in single layer on baking sheet; spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. taco seasoning. Bake 6 min. or until crisp and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, cook turkey/beef in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 4 min. or until done, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup of tomatoes, zucchini, water and remaining taco seasoning; simmer 5 min., stirring occasionally.
Spoon turkey mixture onto tortillas; top with cheese, lettuce, remaining tomatoes and cilantro.
What You Need
½ cup torn romaine lettuce
1 thin red onion slice, separated into rings
1Tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Light Creamy Caesar dressing
1 ciabatta sandwich roll, partially split
2 oz. Oven Roasted Chicken Breast, leftover steak or salmon, or deli meats like turkey, chicken, or roast beef
2 tomato slices
Toss lettuce with onions, cheese and dressing.
Fill roll with lettuce mixture, chicken and tomatoes.
2 cans fat free refried beans
½ cup fat free sour cream
½ cup salsa
½ packet taco seasoning
1 can green chilis
Mix all of the ingredients together and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.