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.