Thursday Thoughts: Lunch

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

I am hoping that everyone is off to a great start in 2011.  I wanted to make some comments today on lunch since I have seen quite a few postings around around brown bagging lunch and other lunch related comments.  I know, it's not too controversial, but I want to offer up some of my tips on this topic too.

1) I'll start with brown bagging it.  Or more like the metaphorical brown bagging since we all know it is much better for the environment if we take lunch in a reusable bag.  There are many great reasons to pack your own lunch.  First off, you control exactly what you eat.  There is no guess work.  You make all the calls and you can meat your own goals without conforming to store offerings or menu options.  Secondly, it saves money.  I know the dollar menu may seem cheap, or other choices like that, but over time, a dollar here and a dollar here can add up quickly to more money that you realize.  In the long run, it can be cheaper to pack lunch as long as you budget and plan a little.  Last, not only does it save money, but it saves time.  Waiting in line or driving to somewhere near by to grab a lunch means less time to eat.  You will benefit from taking your time to eat your lunch and not rushing to cram all your food in.  You'll be less likely to over eat when you have time to be mindful and listen to cues your body sends on satiety.

2) Lunch is almost as important, or maybe even just as important as breakfast.  Chances are you still have productive work to do after lunch, so you want to be fueled for this just like in the morning.  Choose wisely.  You do not need to avoid hot meals, but if you find that it makes you uncomfortable to digest while trying to get work down, go for more cold food options, like sandwiches.  Go for balance and represent from each of the food groups.  Look for foods high in fiber.  Make sure to get some protein in also.  Both the protein and the fiber will help to ward off mid afternoon grazing.  Don't get me wrong, a mid afternoon snack is part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it is the mindless grazing that leads to unwanted calories adding up.  Oh, and avoid eating lunch at your desk while working.  I am sure we have all done this before, but it is a much better habit to take a break and focus on your lunch.  Not only will this avoid over eating, but it actually gives you a well deserved break from your work day.  Eating should be it's own activity and should be enjoyed.  It is tough to do that when you feel pressured to get more work done.  I am fairly certain that laws require employees to take time off for breaks.  Use this to your advantage.

3) Lunch is a great time to get in fruits and veggies.  I find that breakfast through mid afternoon is more common for fruit eating and lunch and dinner are more popular for the veggies (only because of typical American choices for those "meals"), so lunch makes the perfect time to double up and get both fruits and veggies.  Fruit makes the perfect "dessert, while veggies can be incorporated so many ways that the possibilities there are endless and you don't have to settle on just salad.  If you lack access to a good place to wash your produce at your work, do this at home when you pack your lunch.  It also helps to have cut up fruit on hand for an easy grab and go option when packing lunch.

4) Plan.  Maybe you forgot to pack your lunch or just didn't feel like it.  You should have a back up plan.  Know what options you have around your office.  It is not hard to find a healthy option at a restaurant, cafe, sandwich shop, or even the convenience store.  Don't go for the vending machine just because it is easiest.  Knowing your options in advance can help you stay on track for healthy lunches.  Another option, if you work somewhere that has an employee fridge or kitchen, would be to stock your own foods so that you have choices.    

5) Leftovers...need I say more?  Leftovers are a great reason to cook dinner at home.  Many recipes make more portions than needed (especially if you are like me and are only cooking for 2 people).  Cooking dinners at home means leftovers for lunches during the week.  Making healthy dinners in excess guarantees healthy lunches too.  It's a win-win!  

In case you are interested in some of my suggestions for lunch options, I thought I would share some.  I'm leaving off portion sizes because they will be different for everyone based on your own needs.  These can all be made in advance and reheated as needed.
-A nice salad topped with beans, tuna or white meat chicken for protein
-Veggie and quinoa salad (served hot or cold)
-Hummus and salad in a whole wheat pita
-Veggie chili or low fat ground turkey chili
-Baked or mashed sweet potato topped with black beans
-Baked tofu or grilled white meat chicken with steamed veggies and brown rice
-Cottage cheese with fruit
-Black bean burger with salsa on a whole wheat bun
-Any kind of lean deli meat on whole grain bread with veggies, and reduced fat cheese if available

All of my suggestions are just some healthy ideas to help get your started on packing great lunches to fuel your afternoon.  Avoid the chips and candy, regular sodas and other foods that can give you a quick "sugar" buzz before making you feel hungry and lacking energy before the work day is done.  Yes, there is no such thing as a bad food and those chips and candies can fit in moderation into a healthy diet, but when it comes to daily lunches, leave those things for special occasions.  With the above protein filled main items, add fruits and even low fat/fat free dairy to your lunches.  Don't forget about heart healthy fats too, like an ounce of nuts or adding avocado to a sandwich.  As I said before, the possibilities are endless.  

Enjoy your lunch today!

Don't forget about my twitter name change.  You can now follow me at @RDontheMove.

QUESTIONS:  What are your thoughts on lunch?  What did you have for lunch today?


Unknown said...

I have a salad and home made chicken barley soup. and it's cold, so i am looking for ward to the soup :)

Special K said...

I had butternut squash black bean chili, and then some yogurt with cereal in it.
I love your thoughts and really know that you bring so much joy to those around you!
Thank you for reminding us that lunch is probably under-rated by us all.

Nicole, RD said...

Leftovers for lunch all the way! I agree, lunch is soooo important! I eat my biggest meals at breakfast and lunch because I usually workout in the evening. It's just what works for me!

Kristen (swanky dietitian) said...

I love having leftovers for lunch! I do it quite often as I am usually cooking for just me.
Great post! I think sometimes we forget about how important lunch is.

Lori Lynn said...

I've been seeing a couple of people that have talked about black bean burgers. What section of a grocery store would they be? Are they in most grocery stores or are they in just health food stores? They sound rather good.

Gina; The Candid RD said...

I am guilty of eating at my desk. I don't take a break for lunch so I just work right through it. In reality I don't really even eat a "lunch" I just snack all day long. I am just not into eating a big sit down lunch, it makes me tired (although that's probably in my head...)! I eat a big breakfast and a big somewhat big dinner, but just snack during the day (always including a whole grain, a dairy, and three fruits and veggies). It works for me. It's always between the hours of 11am and 3 pm, so that's lunch....right?!

Emily said...

I like your lunch ideas! I think I'll use them to recommend to a client who is looking for healthy lunches to take to work. :) I think lunches are a great way to practice portion control. You can't eat what you haven't packed!

chow and chatter said...

heres some salmon for you, I have lunch daily but need fresh ideas

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I always "brown bag" lunch when I'm not home, and I'm often lucky enough to come home for lunch in between teaching classes.

My favorite lunch are leftovers! It's so easy and quick. I often add a quick salad.

Yesterday I had veggie curry (the last of the curry leftovers) on top of a bed of spinach.

Happy Weekend!

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