Power Lunches: The Healthiest Ways to Brown-Bag

Whether you work in an office or work out of your home, you have three choices for lunch.

1. Eat out. This limits your food options to what’s available nearby, and can double or triple your meal choices.

2. Skip lunch. This is more common than you’d think, and sets you up for poor productivity and less-than-healthy panic snacking.

3. The brown bag. It’s less glamorous, but gives you complete control and leaves money in the bank.

Though it takes more effort, option three is the right choice for your physical and economic health … if you do it the right way. To make that happen, take a page from the pros and develop these five habits to beat the brown-bag blues.

1. Put Variety in Your Sandwiches

What says packed lunch more than a sandwich? It’s tidy, easy and a natural fit. Eat one with a side of fruit or veggie sticks and you have a well-balanced meal complete with whole grain bread. But don’t limit yourself to meat on bread. Mix it up with pita bread or wraps. Replace the cold cuts with egg salad and tuna fish. Try hummus instead of mayo. The variety isn’t just healthier, it keeps lunches fresh and exciting.

2. Overcook for Dinner

Lunch gets the short end of the busy schedule stick. Breakfast is easy, and dinner gets some time and attention, but lunch often remains an afterthought. The answer is easy: simply cook enough dinner to pack a serving for the following day. The nutrition and diet attention you gave the evening meal is just as valid for lunchtime. Besides, you can make your cold-pizza-eating colleagues jealous when you reheat that dinner treat.

3. Pack Three Snacks

More than one diet recommends dividing your daytime meals into three snack-sized chow sessions rather than a single lunch. You can set up your lunch to work with this by bringing along enough for all three, or packing three distinct and different mini-meals. If you do this, try packing each in a separate container to avoid the temptation to eat it all at once. This method is about spreading food intake over several hours.

4. Bottle the Water

Drinks are a lunchtime blind spot for many, especially with the easy access to sodas and other sugary drinks at most work-friendly food counters. If you pack your lunch without a drink, you’ll be apt to run down to the vending machines or corner store — and tempted to get the same sugar-rich beverage you would at a restaurant. Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle and use it during, before and after lunchtime.

5. Salads Are Your Friend

We’re not talking some iceberg chunks and shredded carrot like the side dish where you’d buy lunch if you didn’t know better. Instead, take pieces of what you had for dinner and mix them together, then add some shredded veggies and cheese for added flavor. A dinner of beans and whole grain rice gets mixed in with feta, raisins and bell pepper for a Mediterranean treat. Resist the temptation to drown it in dressing. After a week or so, you won’t miss it.

Comment contest! Post below your most successful healthy brown bag lunch ever! Comment on the comments to vote for the winner. Whoever gets the most comments may brag to all their friends until further comments end your reign. 





Condiments Can Make or Break Your Diet

What would a burger be without ketchup? A sandwich without mayo? Or a baked potato without sour cream? It’s hard to imagine eating many foods without their condiment counterparts. But using high-calorie condiments may actually be sabotaging your healthy eating efforts.condiments - musturd and ketchup

Condiments and Your Waistline

Condiments kick dishes up a notch by adding flavor. But if you’re not careful, you may end up getting more than you bargained for. Many popular condiments are loaded with calories, fat, sodium and added sugar.

What’s more, even if you use “light” versions of your favorite spreads and dressings, you may not be doing yourself any favors. That’s because experts say when we see “less sodium,” “low-fat” or other nutritional claims on labels, we assume the food is healthy, and end up using more of it. One tablespoon of reduced fat mayonnaise comes in at approximately 5g of fat and 50 calories. Compared to one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise, with 11g of fat and 100 calories, it is healthier. The problem is that most of us don’t limit ourselves to one tablespoon.

Healthy Alternatives

To keep condiments from sabotaging your diet efforts, the key is to make healthy choices and be mindful of portion sizes. Try these substitutions:

·         Instead of using mayonnaise or sour cream for dips and spreads, opt for plain, low-fat Greek yogurt. The consistency is the same, but the Greek yogurt packs a protein punch, meaning your meal or snack will be more satisfying.

·         Dip your crudités and chips in hummus rather than ranch dressing. It’s lower in fat and higher in protein and fiber.

·         Make your own salad dressings instead of buying them. This way, you can control exactly what goes into them. Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a dollop of mustard and a spritz of water together for a healthy, homemade vinaigrette. If you must have the store brand, keep in mind that vinaigrettes are typically healthier than cream-based dressings and sauces.

·         Don’t double up. Do you like to dip your buffalo wings in bleu cheese dressing? Chances are the chicken wings are heavily coated with buffalo sauce. Either skip the dip or only garnish the wings with buffalo sauce. Choosing one or the other will help you cut calories.

Get Condiment Savvy

These condiments are almost always fat-free and generally low in calories. Just watch the sodium and sugar content:

·         Ketchup: This picnic staple is made using puréed, cooked tomatoes, spices and seasonings. Look for low-sodium and low-sugar versions.

·         Barbeque sauce: BBQ sauce is made from combining ketchup, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Steer clear of “brown sugar” or “honey” varieties to keep sugar in check.

·         Mustard: Yellow mustard just contains mustard seeds, vinegar and seasonings. On the other hand, honey mustard is usually packed with sugar and fat.

·         Salsa: Salsa is made using fresh veggies, fruit, herbs and/ or spices. It’s one of the lowest calorie condiments out there, coming it at just 5 calories per tablespoon. Use it as a dip, on a baked potato or as a marinade for fish or chicken.

·         Soy sauce: Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans, roasted grains, water and a lot of salt. Choose low-sodium soy sauce and use it sparingly.

What’s your favorite condiment? I put hot sauce on everything!