Your workday lunch can be a simple way to manage your budget—and your waistline. Just think, two $4 lunches per week add up to over $400 per year, not to mention add extra calories. Taking the time to plan a nutritious lunch, complete with lean protein, fiber and even a little healthy fat, puts you in control of your food choices, portions and calories. In an effort to bring a little excitement back to mid-day meals, I asked Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert for Take off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), Dena McDowell, to share her tips for brown-bagging it in style:
- Plan Ahead: Decide what to pack for the week ahead of time, and make sure you have the proper ingredients on hand. Designate a day to grocery shop and fill your cart with whole-grains, like wraps or pitas, fresh veggies, fruits and lean proteins like tuna in a pouch, lunch meat or even black beans.
- Pre Prep: Cut down your prep time by batch-cooking and dividing items into single-serving containers on the weekend. This is also a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones as you prepare a delicious dinner together.
- Gear Up: Get a lunch bag, ice packs, re-usable water bottles, thermos and whatever else you need to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot until lunch. Freezing a yogurt is a tasty substitute for an ice pack and a great way to keep your lunch cold.
- Sneak in Snacks: Remember to pack wholesome snacks in your lunch bag to curb late-morning and late afternoon cravings. The vending machine stops calling your name when you’re armed with nutritious snacks like portioned-out nuts, string cheese and an extra piece of fresh fruit.
Packing a lunch may take time and effort, but remember that we make time for what we care about most…and our health should be at the top of this list.
Maggie Thorison is the Wellness Manager at TOPS Club, Inc., the original nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss support and wellness education organization. She writes the Wellness Wednesday blog for TOPS’ website.