What’s for lunch? Tips for packing some extra health into your day

Photo credit: Dietriffic.com

Photo credit: Dietriffic.com

Breakfast may hold the title of “most important meal of the day,” but that doesn’t mean lunch is off the hook.

Eating a healthy mid-day meal not only provides lasting energy and prevents evening binge eating, but it also offers a much-needed brain break to finish the day strong.

Aim for a lunch that is 400 to 500 calories and made up of 30 percent protein (four to five ounces of fish, lean meat or tofu), 50 percent complex carbs (whole grains, veggies and fruit) and 20 percent healthy fats (olive oil and nuts).

Hitting happy hour? Then it’s especially important to consume a light-yet-filling meal, which will keep you satiated for a few hours and defend against any potential over-imbibing.

Here are a few tips for making the most of that second meal of the day:

  • Stock up on healthy options when you shop for groceries: Get simple staples that can be mixed and matched, such as whole-wheat bread and peanut butter, beans and tuna, plus lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Subscribe to healthy recipe websites or turn to social media sites, such as Pinterest, for inspiration: Sometimes all it takes is a new recipe to spark some creativity in the kitchen, which will keep you from relying on junk food to get through the day
  • Make the most of leftovers: When dinner’s done, set aside a portion or two so you can enjoy it all over again the next day
  • Take a pantry challenge: Visit MyFridgeFood, and make a game of clicking on various combinations of ingredients you have on hand to discover new recipes
  • Don’t skip dessert: Add a sweet ending to keep from feeling deprived; pick fresh fruits that are in season, or look for other guilt-free treats such as low-fat pudding cups or dark chocolate
  • Opt for made-to-order sandwiches over fast food when you’re on-the-go: And swap out mayo for mustard to help cut back on fat and cholesterol
  • Choose pre-made meals that are all-natural and preservative-free, if the freezer is your only option: Tandoor Chef, for example, offers a line of traditional Indian entrees that are low in sodium and trans-fats and contain no artificial sugars – plus there are even several vegan and gluten-free options available to spice up your week
  • Finally, don’t forget food safety: If refrigeration is not available, use insulated lunch boxes or bags with frozen ice or gel packs to keep contents at a safe temperature
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