4 STEPS TO BUILD A BALANCED, NUTRITIOUS LUNCH

There are so many ways to keep your lunch simple and balanced. Don’t overthink it, and toss in these key ingredients.


BY: LAUREN O’CONNOR, MS, RDN, RYT

Making a healthy lunch is more simple than it looks. Whether it’s a salad, sandwich, or just a mix of your favorite finger foods, it’s all about having a balance of four major components:

Protein, Fruit, Veggies, and Whole Grains.

Even if it’s having a piece of fruit or a fruit salad, a whole veggie such as cucumber slices or a vegetable side dish, building your lunch can be a snap with these few simple tips for saving time:

  • Build from leftovers from the night before.
  • Grab a whole piece of fruit and slice it up.
  • Use fresh, chopped or already prepped veggies and salad mixes.
  • Grab some helpers – like your kids! They’ll have a ball helping you mix it up.
  • Set aside a block of time to make it happen without distraction.

Need some ideas to stay balanced? Here are a few to get you going:

1. PROTEIN

Turkey slices. An easy go-to is nitrate-free deli thin turkey slices, which work well in a sandwich. Or enjoy them rolled up with thin slices of cheese as a bread-free option for someone who requires gluten-free or prefers to eat them with crackers.

Hard boil eggs. A single egg packs in plenty of protein and it takes less than 10 minutes to set in boiling water. Enjoy it alone with a bit of mustard or in a tasty egg salad.

Leftovers. Got leftover fish or chicken? Pack ’em up! Your baked salmon from the night before can be a tasty way to top a bed of greens, or enjoy it served as a side or prepared in a sandwich.

Meat swaps. Get in your protein by including a side of beans, such as black beans, red beans and chickpeas. Legumes (pulses) are a wonderful way to get in dietary fiber, B-vitamins and plant-based protein. Including whole grains can help you get in a complete protein.

2. FRUIT

Include fresh berries or a piece of whole fruit, such as an apple or sliced strawberries. Combine whatever fruits you have on hand to prepare a tasty fruit salad. Mixing it up can be fun and offer more variety.

3. VEGGIES

Cook your veggies al dente so they don’t get mushy and are perfect for serving the next day. Another option is to rely on chopping or buying pre-chopped fresh veggies such as cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots sticks. Be sure to include a tasty hummus, or make yogurt dip such with Greek yogurt, a blend of seasoning, fresh herbs, and finely chopped veggies. Raw veggies and dips are a simple option for the veggie portion in your healthy lunch box.

4. WHOLE GRAINS & LEGUMES

A sandwich is a great way to pack in nutrients that’s in a nice hand-held package to serve. Whole grain bread can be a great way to maximize your intake of heart-healthy B-vitamins and good dietary fiber.

If you don’t feel like holding your lunch in your hands, toss in quinoa, brown rice, or pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans and Cannellini beans. These include plenty of dietary fiber and some B vitamins, and are a great way to get in some plant-based protein.

Make lunch a balancing act, and you’ll be set for the rest of your day!

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: RUDY AND PETTER SKITTERIANS

Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN, RYT is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian, yoga teacher, and founder of Nutri Savvy Health. As a health writer, menu developer, and nutritional consultant for companies and national publications, Lauren promotes whole-food nutrition towards making choices that best serve their specific health needs. Learn more about Lauren at Nutri Savvy Health.

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