National Healthy Lunch Day
September 18, 2017 | by Tracey Graber RD, CDE

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 is National Healthy Lunch Day. What better time to talk about strategies for making your lunch as healthy as it can be? Eating a healthy lunch will help to maintain a stable energy level, boost your ability to concentrate, and curb cravings for sweets and junk food. Here are some tips to help you build a delicious and healthy lunch.

Making your lunch

The basic components of a healthy lunch include:

  • Lean protein (chicken/turkey breast, tuna, beans, tofu/tempeh)
  • Vegetables/fruit
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, 100% whole grain bread)
  • Healthy fat (olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado)

Here are some ideas for healthy lunches you can make at home. Add a side of veggies or fruit for good measure.

Sandwiches/wraps: Sandwiches can be quite healthy and fit the bill in terms of easily including all components of a healthy lunch. Be sure to use 100% whole grain bread/wraps, lean proteins, and lots of veggies. Go easy on the mayo or skip it and use mustard or avocado instead.

Homemade soup/chili: Making a pot of soup or chili over the weekend is a great choice to have throughout the week for a healthy lunch option. Here are a few easy recipes:

Simple salads: The great thing about salad is that veggies are super healthy and very low in calories. That means you can have a large portion without worrying about calorie intake. Be careful about salad dressing and toppings like croutons, bacon bits, cheese, nuts and dried fruit, which can add up quickly. Choose vinaigrette over creamy dressing and use it sparingly (1-2 tablespoons).

Here are some recipes:

Or try the following:

  • Shredded cabbage/lettuce, 1/2 cup black beans, grilled/roasted chicken, bell peppers, pico de gallo, ~1/3 cup brown rice
  • baby spinach, hard-boiled egg, 1/2 cup chick peas, 1 oz shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup whole wheat pasta, 1-2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing

Eating out

Packing a lunch is great, but it is also important to be realistic. We don’t always have time to make something ahead of time, and eating out will happen. That doesn’t mean your lunch has to be unhealthy. Here are some ideas for healthy lunches when eating out:

  • Starbucks has healthy salads, sandwiches on whole grain bread, egg white wraps and bistro protein boxes
  • Jimmy Johns: choose the leaner proteins (chicken, turkey), nine-grain wheat bread, try it open-faced or consider an unwich (lettuce wrap), opt for mustard instead of mayo, and go crazy with the veggies
  • Subway: choose from their Fresh Fit menu for their healthiest options

Happy eating!