You can't argue with the quality and control benefits of a low calorie brown bag lunch. Let's compare my brown bag lunch to a Big Mac Meal...
Calories in parentheses.
Ham sandwich -- four ounces shaved ham, baby swiss cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato on two slices whole wheat bread (451); sweet peach (38); salad with dressing (100); oatmeal & raisin cookie (65); iced tea (0); coffee (0)
TOTAL CALORIES = 654
Big Mac (540); large fries (500); large soda (310)
TOTAL CALORIES = 1,350
The brown bag lunch has 696 less calories than a Big Mac Meal. Make that exchange three times per week and lose 31 pounds in a year. Brown bag beats fast food hands down in every category.
I recommend a lean protein and high fiber lunch (from whole grain bread, rolls, nuts, fruits and vegetables). You won't get hungry and will have plenty of energy to get through the afternoon.
A good low calorie sandwich made with lean meat like roast beef, turkey, chicken, ham, pork, or fish is great on a whole wheat roll with lettuce, tomato, mustard. A cornerstone of a satisfying low calorie lunch that offers energy and improved nutrition.
Add assorted lettuce, sliced cucumbers, radishes, onions, tomatoes and less meat. You’ll cut calories, fat and sodium without sacrificing taste.
Pick lean, thin sliced deli meat, use less meat (3 ounces) and still have plenty of flavor.
Use mayonnaise and other dressings sparingly. Big source of fat and calories, the low fat or fat free versions usually lack in taste, contain astronomical amounts of sodium and have way too many additives. Mayo made with olive oil is an excellent alternative. Or you can opt for mustard instead.
Hold the cheese (or use a small amount). Another big source of fat and calories. The low fat or fat free versions are not acceptable taste wise. "White" cheeses have fewer calories than yellow cheeses.
Prepare sandwiches, wraps and pitas ahead of time, or pack items separately and assemble before you eat it.
#1 Keep foods at the correct temperature. Use a thermos for hot or cold foods. Insulated lunch boxes work well. I love mine.
#2 Anytime you prepare a meal, ask yourself if it has future potential. You know, leftovers. If it does, consider doubling the recipe. The only rule is it has to be good, something you want to eat.
#3 Use leftover roast pork, chicken, turkey, fish for sandwiches, pita pockets, wraps or hearty salads or sandwich spread. Hot or cold. Use like a deli meat. Pull or chop, heat with a little barbecue sauce and serve on a bakery roll with sweet or dill pickles. Onion is optional. Or use a tortilla (flour or corn) and wrap or stuff in pita pockets. Or serve cold thin sliced pork, beef, chicken or fish with your favorite dressing and crisp lettuce and tomato.
#4 Make extra salad, pack and store in refrigerator so it’s ready to go in the morning. Squirt a little lemon juice on greens to keep them green and fresh. Pack salad dressing separately.
#5 Extra pasta and rice can be used for cold or hot salads, mixed with chopped vegetables and dressing. Add pieces of leftover chicken, fish for a hearty salad meal.
#6 One of my favorite time and money saving lunch tips is to make twice the roast chicken or turkey dinner than will be used. When leftovers have cooled, freeze in individual serving size for up to four weeks. Instructions can be found here.
#7 If you’re making spaghetti and meat sauce, loosely cut extra cooked spaghetti into two inch long pieces. Drizzle enough olive oil to lightly coat spaghetti, add leftover meat sauce and mix together until spaghetti is coated with sauce. Freeze in individual size portions (about a cup). Let thaw to room temperature, heat in microwave for one to two minutes. Don’t over cook. Add raw vegetables and fresh fruit, salad and a piece of french bread to the lunch box.
#8 Another good make ahead sandwich is Sloppy Joe. Make an extra large batch of your favorite Sloppy Joe recipe and freeze individual size portions. Or try Russell's Best Sloppy Joe Recipe.
#9 Look at your favorite meals for other interesting lunch options.
#10 I also like to plan for emergencies. Those times when, for whatever reason, you have no time for lunch. I always stash some of my Rocks & Stones Salad Snack in my purse or desk. A mixture of sunflower seeds, nuts and dark chocolate covered raisins. A couple handfuls with a piece of fruit and iced tea provides enough energy to keep my mind focused through the afternoon. It’s a lot better than a donut or cookies and has saved my hide many times!
#11 Another good “emergency food” for work is a mixture of whole grain crunchy cereals with selected nuts and/or dried fruit. Easy to make ahead of time and yours will taste much better the the commercially prepared trail mixes. Select “whole” grain cereals with low sugar content. Use a sprinkling of salted nuts. Experiment with different mixtures.
#12 Add some fruit in season, your favorite raw vegetables, ice cold iced tea to your lunch and enjoy the rest of the day with energy, a clear mind and no growling stomach.
Don't automatically rule out fast food when considering healthy lunch ideas. Low calorie fast food does exist. With a little background information and research, you can know exactly what you're ordering. Find real low calorie fast food solutions here.
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