Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meal Plans - Lunch

What to have for lunch? Aim for about 300 calories, depending on what the rest of the day looks like. Strive for 25-35% protein, no simple carbs, and healthy fats only.
Vegetable beef barley soupKeep a big pot of homemade soup in the fridge or some cans in the cupboard for easy lunches.  Image via Wikipedia
Here are some ideas:

  • Soups:  homemade is best of course, but canned soups are an easy option to have on hand. Soups are often your best bet if you are eating out. Cream soups or those heavy with potatoes or pasta are not as healthful as broth-based soups. My favorite is gumbo, made with lots of lean chicken breast and shrimp and less rice and sausage. Feast on a big bowl of soup, or have a small bowl (half a can, if you're using canned soup) and half a sandwich or a small salad.
  • Sandwiches: made with low-carb whole wheat bread (I use Healthy Life) and lean deli meats. The 97% fat-free varieties have only 30-50 calories for five slices. Learn to live without cheese and mayo. Learn to love mustard, along with lettuce, tomato, onions, banana peppers, red pepper slices, and all the other delicious vegetables you could add.
  • Meat plus veggie: a smaller version of dinner. My favorite quick & easy solution is 1/4 of a grocery store rotisserie chicken (leg quarter or breast, no skin) plus a side of ratatouille, slaw (homemade with light dressing) or salad (see below). Shrimp (boiled, not fried, with a small amount of cocktail sauce for dipping) is also a great protein choice for lunch
  • Sushi: Sushi rolls have a higher percentage of calories from carbs than we're shooting for, BUT BERLIN - NOVEMBER 23:  Sushi from yellowfin, o...Nigiri plus a simple tuna or salmon roll can be an ideal healthy lunch! Image by Getty Images via @daylifeit can be a low-cal indulgence on occasion.  (if you like nigiri — straight up simple raw pieces of fish  — you're in protein heaven!) Not all sushi rolls are created equal! Simple tuna or salmon rolls have only 120-180 calories in the entire 8 piece roll, and only 1-2 grams of (healthy) fat! But a Spicy Tuna Roll is made with spicy mayo and might contain 300-450 calories and an extra 10 grams of saturated fat. California rolls have cream cheese and are also about 300 calories. Stay away from any roll with the word 'crispy' (fried) or any of the fancy ones drizzled with heavy sauces and you can enjoy a healthy sushi lunch guilt-free!
  • Salad: but be extra careful. More caloric atrocities are committed in the name of sCrab Louie saladWhoever made this salad might as well just have a couple of Big Macs. Image via Wikipediaalad than any other dish, I think. If it's a side salad to be eaten with soup, sandwich or meat, stick with only raw veggie ingredients. If it's a main-dish salad to be eaten alone, add some grilled chicken breast, lean deli ham or turkey, or grilled salmon or tuna. Additions that will quickly make your salad more fattening than a big mac include: croutons, sesame seeds, bacon bits, boiled eggs, cheese, fried meats, tortilla strips, nuts. Instead, use lettuce, spinach, tomato, onion, bell peppers, peas, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and other raw fruits and vegetables to keep your salads lively and interesting. I don't need to mention that we're only using light dressings here, do I?
  • Slaw: I love to make homemade slaws as an alternative to salads and a change of pace. I use preshredded cabbage mix and add some dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc) and some chopped nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds) and toss with just enough light poppyseed or sesame ginger dressing to moisten.  I add a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed as well, to increase the protein & fiber content. My slaw comes out to 140 calories per generous serving.
Run your favorite lunch options or recipes  through your calorie counter ( and are free and popular!) and try to tweak them until they fit the model of being around 300 calories, with 25-35% of those from protein and about 25-35% from healthy fats. (the remainder will be from carbs, try to make them complex carbs if you can rather than refined white starchy or sugary carbs)

The 300 calorie target is an estimate. What really matters is your calorie counts over a day or a week or a month or a year. If you're planning a big dinner, you should eat a light lunch and vice versa.
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