Let's Do Lunch

Does your lunch just happen? Is it often a last-minute decision of where to eat and whether or not you want fries with your burger? If so, maybe it's time to show lunch a little more respect.

Experts agree--lunch is an important meal. Be sure to include foods with a mix of nutrients that will give you energy and keep you satisfied late into the afternoon, so you're not tempted by that high-calorie, high-fat snack later in the day.

Consider the difference

A deluxe-type burger with regular french fries, a sugar-based soft drink, and an individual-sized apple pie amounts to nearly 1,200 calories and more than 60 grams of fat (the daily maximum of fat for most adults). But a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, a side of low-fat yogurt, an apple, and a diet soft drink has less than 550 calories and about 13 grams of fat. Be sure to watch out for spreads like mayonnaise. Just a tablespoon would nearly double the fat content of this lighter lunch. If you must have mayo, try a low-fat or fat-free variety.

Pack it yourself...but be smart!

The old deli standbys can be expensive and full of fat, sodium, and preservatives. If you are hooked on packaged lunch meat, look for the low-fat variety.

Virtually any kind of leftover meat makes good sandwich filler, or you can dice it and add it to a salad. Use an insulated lunch container to keep food cold and prevent spoilage.

Workplace microwave ovens let you bring that leftover lasagna, chili, or chicken stir-fry from the night before.

Hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tuna, yogurt, peanut butter and hummus are good substitutes for processed lunch meats. Keep in mind that peanut butter and hummus are high in fat, so use them sparingly. Swap your standard sandwich bread for a whole-grain pita pocket, a small bagel (or half of a large one), or whole-grain crackers and you'll never be bored.

Think mini carrot sticks; sliced red, orange, yellow, or green bell peppers; or raw broccoli, cauliflower, or celery for a refreshing crunch. Add apples, bananas, or grapes, or bring a container of sliced fruit and berries for an impromptu fruit salad. Then eat your lunch slowly and give your body time to release the enzymes that tell your brain when you've had enough.