Most Americans want to eat healthier, but putting it into practice can be tough. When we’re short on time, even getting dishes from healthy restaurants may seem far-fetched. Unfortunately, it’s often more convenient and more affordable to opt for fast food or pre-packaged meals that are laden with fat, salt, and sugar. That’s especially true when we’re at school or at work. We might not have planned ahead to prepare our healthy lunch ideas ahead of time, leaving us with no other option than to visit a drive-thru window.
It may seem like a real chore to find easy healthy meals you can bring for lunch. But you don’t have to bend over backward to improve your diet. In fact, there are several ways you can put your health first without sacrificing time or taste. Here are just three steps you can follow to instantly make your prepared meals a lot healthier come lunchtime.
- Cut Back on Toppings and Condiments: In many cases, we consume extra calories out of habit. If you’re accustomed to adding fattening toppings on your salads or using unhealthy condiments on your sandwiches, it might not even be a conscious decision. You probably won’t miss those elements all that much — but excluding them can make a huge difference in how you feel. If you use a lot of mayonnaise or other condiments, try substituting avocado, Greek yogurt, or pesto spread instead. In salads, ditch the croutons and shredded cheese for cherry tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, or pumpkin seeds with some shredded carrots on top. In lieu of creamy dressings, make your own at home using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice. Even if you can’t seem to quit your toppings completely, cutting back on them can do a world of good. By getting a hint of the taste you love, rather than drowning your food in it, you’ll consume less fat and less sugar.
- Add More Fruits and Veggies: If you want to start implementing more healthy lunch ideas, start by subtracting the bread, the meat, and the refined sugar and add in more fresh fruits and vegetables. Although fruit does contain natural sugar, these items are still much better for you than pre-packaged sweets and snacks. In 2016, more than 80% of Americans failed to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and veggies every day, so go to the grocery store and find some produce you’re excited to try. Colorful bell peppers, crunchy radishes, delectable apple slices, and juicy pears can be a welcome addition to your daily lunch. Remember, you eat with your eyes first. By presenting your fruit in an appetizing way and focusing on vibrant freshness, you’ll be eager to eat everything you’ve brought.
- Swap Out Your Sides: When you’re trying to put together quick meals, it’s easy to grab a bunch of those 100-calorie snack packs for the sake of convenience. But those contain a lot of ingredients you probably don’t want to consume — and you won’t stay full for long when you eat them. Switch up your normal snack routine and opt for sides that are healthy and will ease your hunger for hours. Some of our favorite healthy lunch ideas include almond butter and apple slices, Greek yogurt with fresh berries, dried mango or apple chips, low-fat string cheese, hummus and carrots, or homemade veggie chips. Whatever options you don’t get to on your lunch break will be perfect for that 3 PM slump. Best of all, you won’t feel jittery or get a sugar crash afterward.
Reframing the way you can eat can be tough, especially if you’re short on time. We love these healthy lunch ideas, but we’re also here to help by streamlining your routine and providing ready-to-eat meals that prioritize your health and your busy schedule. To learn more, contact us today.