DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you give me some tips for eating a healthy but satisfying lunch?
DEAR READER: Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but don’t give your lunch short shrift. Eating lunch helps maintain your blood sugar level so your energy won’t take a midday dive. A healthy lunch will also help you concentrate and function better in the afternoon, and it will help you avoid hunger that can lead to overeating at dinner.
Do you tend to forget about lunch until you’re starving, and then reach for the nearest bagel or burger? If so, you know the importance of planning ahead. When possible, bring your lunch from home. If you’ll be eating in a restaurant or cafeteria, make healthy selections.
A healthy, balanced lunch should include three food groups: lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. Roughly half of your plate should be vegetables or fruit. One-quarter should be lean protein. That can include fish, chicken, turkey, tofu or low-fat cottage cheese. And one-quarter of your plate should be whole grains; for example, one slice of whole-grain bread, or a half cup of brown rice, whole-wheat pasta or quinoa.
Frozen microwavable entrees tend to be a popular lunch choice. Look for those with no more than 350 calories, 4 grams or less of saturated fat, 15 grams or more of protein, and 600 milligrams or less of sodium per serving. Supplement the entree with a handful of baby carrots or fresh fruit to make it more filling and nutritionally complete.
If you tend to grab food on the fly – perhaps eating a croissant on the way to a meeting – mentally account for those calories. Say to yourself, “This is part of lunch.” Then fill in with an apple and a carton of nonfat plain yogurt as soon as you get the chance.
Finally, use your lunchtime as an opportunity to get away from your desk. Eat a quick, healthy meal, and then go for a brisk walk.