Light lunches

Despite all of the portion control and calorie counting going on in the New Year, somehow lunch still seems to stump us all. Well fret no longer. We’ve got tips, recipes, and even shopping lists to help you keep you eating healthy all day, every day of 2010.

Who’s got a New Years resolution with the words “food,” “diet,” “calories,” “weight,” or “healthy” in it? If you’re reassessing your current jeans size (or even if you’re just trying to keep better track of the food that goes in to your mouth), let’s talk about a meal that stumps most of us…


Lunch on the go. Lunch meetings. Lunch with kids. Why is this meal one that just gets “squeezed in” to the rest of our busy day? Seriously, I was on the phone with someone today who said “Excuse me for eating my lunch while we’re talking, but if I don’t do it now, I’m not sure when else to eat.” Now, I’m also guilty of shoving stuff in to my mouth while on the phone, so I can’t get offended by this. But when did it become ok to let lunch just be the “if I get to it” meal?

The real problem with treating our meals so casually like this is that, without much thought, our end decision usually proves pretty thoughtless indeed. We hit the drive-thru for a burger, fries, and Diet Coke. We think caffeine should do the trick and grab a mocha latte and a muffin. Moms eat the kids’ crust leftover from the prepped sandwiches. Or we just plain skip the meal altogether and end up snacking all afternoon.

I’m not a diet guru, nor am I a calorie counter. I love to eat, and sometimes I like to eat junk. But, I mostly believe that we should strive to be as healthy as we can, while not sacrificing taste. We’ve all got a day to get through the day, and food is our fuel. Let’s put good stuff in to our bodies, and make time for this meal.

If you just have to drive-thru, this little chart may be a nice influence on the choices you make in line. For example, did you know that a SMALL sized fries is 223 calories while a chocolate milkshake is 627 calories? Holy smokes! And I won’t mention the crash that comes after that kind of sugar, but I’m guessing your boss and mine wouldn’t love watching our eyes gloss over at 2:15 after this meal.

So what should we choose if we end up in a drive-thru for lunch? A grilled chicken sandwich is a nice choice, and you can slim it down a bit (if you have to make room for fries) by taking the top bun off. Prefer south of the border? A Chicken soft-taco is the way to go, perhaps with a side of rice.

However, the biggest way to avoid these choices in the drive-thru line altogether is to pack your lunch. There are plenty of car-friendly choices, too. If must have a sandwich, consider using a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas, and wraps.

If you can make use of a microwave at the office, take in some leftovers from dinner the night before. I like to portion this out when I’m cleaning up dinner by putting it in to a reusable container and in to the fridge. Consider this option even when preparing dinner the night before by making enough for lunch, too!

Lunches out can be tricky, but make up your mind before you set foot in the door to make a good decision. One trick is to pretend 3/4 of the menu doesn’t even exist and only allow your choice to come from the list of salads. Stay away from creamy soups and opt for lighter broths. If you’re craving sandwich, consider splitting it or doing a 1/2 and 1/2 combo (with soup or salad).

For you moms who feed the kiddies lunch, but never take time for yourself (I know you’re out there) you must start making lunch for yourself a priority. If you don’t eat lunch, you’re likely to end up snacking all afternoon, or polishing off the bowl of icing in the fridge (one spoonful at a time, right?). If it’s only possible to eat when they eat, pick things that are simple and healthy.

But what to pack? What to prep? How to make it easy? Go to the store with this list and you’ll be able to make several days of healthy lunches:

  • Bread of choice (preferably whole wheat or pita pockets or wraps)
  • Bag of spinach
  • Bag of mixed greens
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bag baby carrots
  • 3 apples
  • 3 oranges
  • 3 bananas
  • 1 large can of tuna in water
  • 1 package grilled chicken (or make your own at home)
  • 1/2 thinly-sliced turkey
  • 1 container hummus
  • 1 large container fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 box Wheat Thins or cracker of choice
  • 1 can of low sodium, broth-based soup (any of these Amy’s soups are excellent choices)

With this list of foods, you can prepare:

  • 1 sandwich with spinach and grilled chicken with light balsamic dressing; baby carrots; yogurt
  • Turkey Spinach wrap with light Sesame Asian dressing; 1/2 can of broth-based soup; orange
  • Hummus with crackers, carrots, cucumber slices; 1/2 can of broth-based soup; apple
  • Tuna fish (prep with a spoonful of mayo first); tomato and cucumber salad with light balsamic dressing; apple
  • Mixed greens salad with grilled chicken and sliced apple; crackers; yogurt.
  • Tuna fish sandwich on whole grain bread with a slice of cheese; orange; hard-boiled egg
  • Hummus and turkey sandwich, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers; vanilla yogurt; carrots
  • Peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich; apple; hard-boiled egg

There you have it: over a week’s worth of healthy lunches you can prepare and pack in no time. And these simple recipes will help up the taste-quotient for you, as well.

Sesame Asian Dressing


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper


Whisk together all ingredients and serve.

Light Balsamic Dressing


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.

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Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard loves thinking about, preparing, consuming, and serving good food. Believing that life is to short to eat the same stuff over and over, she loves to test new eats on her friends and family. Kelly loves her coffee-addicted hubbie, her two little blonde-haired babes, all things sweet, black tshirts, and the color pink.

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