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Diet Food

Lunch Means So Much More Than Fast Food

Lunch is the forgotten stepchild of the meal day. We spend a fair amount of energy planning dinner, and we (sometimes begrudgingly) spend some energy making sure we eat breakfast. But more than one of us has looked at the clock at noon, realized we are hungry and then scarfed down whatever was available and easy.

Too often, that means fast food, vending machine food or – for some people – nothing at all. And this is truly unfortunate. Nutrition experts tell us again and again that eating three meals and two snacks a day is the surest path to good nutrition and a balanced diet. And even if you are eating lunch, a hamburger and fries doesn’t get you very far on the path to good nutrition.

So, how do you change this? Lunch is a tough one for people who work outside the home. Sure, you can pack leftovers from dinner, but what if there aren’t any or you didn’t like dinner in the first place? Making a sandwich and adding some fruit sounds easy, but that’s just one more thing to do in the morning and if you’re in a rush, it’s one of the first chores you’ll discard.

Here are some tips to bring lunch back into focus on busy weekdays:

*Do plan for leftovers, if possible. If you like what you’re making for dinner and think you wouldn’t mind having it for lunch tomorrow, set aside some before everyone else gets fed. Put it into the fridge and your family will never know a portion of the entree is missing. Best of all, you’ve already done the work. Add a piece of fruit and yogurt and there’s lunch tomorrow.

*If you must have fast food, stay away from fries, most hamburgers, anything breaded and fried and most salads. Yes, I said salads. Sure, you’ll get some nutritional content from the lettuce and all the other goodies on the salad, but the dressing might have as much as 30 grams of fat in it, most of it saturated fat. Stick with light dressings or even keep a bottle of dressing in the fridge at work. Otherwise, stay away from fast food salads (and they’re never that good anyway). Try a grilled chicken sandwich, sans fries.

*If you’re out and about running errands and get hungry, stop at 7-11, and grab a bottle of milk, some trail mix or a granola bar and a piece of fruit. It might not be gourmet, but it will get you through to a small snack later and then dinner.

*Keep lunch items at work. There are many things you can keep in your desk that are shelf stable and still healthy. How about tuna packets and crackers? How about some fruit in its own juice? Nuts, trail mix and granola bars are all good choices. Stay away from sodium-laden canned soups and noodle bowls. Not only can they provide you with more than the maximum sodium you need for one day, they also won’t provide the complex carb and protein boost you need to get you through the afternoon and keep you from stalking the vending machine later for an unhealthy snack.

Diet Food Doesn’t Have To Be Boring!

Not too long ago, my mother and I were talking about food and diets. “Your grandmother used to feed you pasta five nights a week,” my mother insisted.

“She did not!” I exclaimed, stung. After all, I remembered my grandmother as a wonderfully varied cook who could make anything taste wonderful. She served all sorts of meals, not just pasta! There was spaghetti, of course – she was Italian, after all. But she also made Ziti with vegetables. And Linguine. And tuna casserole with. ..elbow macaroni. By the time I’d finished naming off a typical week’s worth of menus, I had to concede my mother’s point – but I made mine as well. “But… it didn’t FEEL like we were eating pasta every night!”

There’s a point to this story, I promise, and here it comes:

One of the biggest reasons that people slip off their diets and eating plans is BOREDOM.

It’s very easy to look at the foods allowed on your diet and see it as restrictive and boring. Chicken four nights a week. Fish three times a week. Green leafy vegetables till they’re coming out of your ears. Who wouldn’t get bored?

The answer is – anyone with a good set of cookbooks and a healthy imagination. Perk up your cabinet with spices and fill your refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables, then look for novel ways to combine them.

Here are a handful of tips for non-boring, healthy, low-cal eating

1. Spice it up!

Spices are one of the quickest ways out of the diet doldrums. Rosemary and fennel with chicken, mint rubbed into pork, pepper and lemon mint on fresh fish – the ‘blander’ the food, the higher the effect of the spices.

2. Dress it up.

Fruit vinaigrette dressings make wonderful marinades for meats and dressings for warm or cold vegetables. Try broccoli drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette or cabbage spiced up with apple vinegar and pepper.

2. Herb-infused olive oils – tarragon, ginger, fennel and more.

3. My brother the chef gave me a set of three oils for Christmas one year and it completely changed the way I’ll cook forever!

4. Low sodium soy sauce is a great way to flavor up just about anything.

5. Fruit

The bitterness of dark leafy greens like spinach were practically designed to be eaten with mandarin oranges, raspberries or chunks of pineapple.

Still need some help? Here is a list of the absolute best cookbooks on the market to help you fight those diet boredom blues!

The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
This cookbook features polenta, couscous and more!

Laurie’s Low-Carb Cookbook
This everyday chef shares recipes that are so easy to do!

Low Carb Meals In Minutes
Use this book and get six weeks worth of complete menus that include shopping lists.

Dr. Atkins New Diet Cookbook
This one’s from the creator of the Atkins Diet

The South Beach Diet Cookbook
This book is packed with more than 200 recipes for delicious low-fat foods

Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites
If meat isn’t your thing, this cookbook shares recipes from one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in America

American Heart Association Low-Fat Low-Cholesterol Cookbook
Are you trying to lower your cholesterol or take care of your heart? This book has great tasting recipes that are good for you—and your heart!

American Heart Association Meals in Minutes
If you’re constantly eating fast foods because you simply don’t have the time to create great tasting healthy meals, check out this book!

Joslin Diabetes Center’s Vegetarian Diabetic Cookbook Meatless and vegan recipes that are low fat, high fiber, and delicious

The Guilt-Free Gourmet Famous cruise ship chef Sam Miles put together this wonderful cookbook from his six years traveling on ships as a cook.

So, now you’ve got some ideas and some resources—there should be no reason that you have to live with boring foods—even if you are on a diet!