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Don't turn to fatty, calorie-laden fast food for lunch.
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According to the United States Department of Labor, employers are not required to offer lunch breaks, and many offer short breaks lasting less than 20 minutes. Even if you are not facing work limitations, keeping up with children or managing the day-to-day is enough to keep you on the run. Don't reach for junk food or go hungry; you have plenty of simple and healthful choices that won't ruin your diet.
A bagged lunch is convenient and is sure to fit your diet. Get creative to prevent boredom. Stuff whole-wheat pitas with fresh veggies, canned meats or chopped fruit, or use lettuce leaves to hold filling. Alternately, tear lettuce leaves for a salad or a bed for cooked beans. Sandwiches with whole-wheat bread and hummus, feta cheese and tomatoes or almond butter and sliced bananas are healthful choices. You can also bring low-sodium canned soups to heat on the go or bag whole fruits and vegetables to munch on. Always refrigerate your lunch at work or buy an insulated lunch box and ice pack. If mornings are rushed, make a batch of sandwiches on a free evening and freeze them; nut butters, canned tuna, cooked beef or chicken and hard cheeses are fillings that freeze well.
Grocery Store Options
When you're running errands, a quick stop at the grocery store can provide a healthful lunch. Head to the produce section for fruit or vegetables, then grab low-fat or fat-free dairy such as cottage cheese, yogurt or milk. Find cooked lean meats and whole-grain bread in the deli; opt for whole cuts, such as chicken breast, instead of processed lunch meat. Wash the produce in the bathroom sink and head outside for a quick picnic. If you only have minutes to spare, grab a fruit tray or a low-sodium, premade sandwich on whole-grain bread; many grocers offer self-checkout to get you on your way faster.
If your only option is dining out, you can find diet-friendly foods at restaurants. Salads without the dressing, cheese or croutons, non-creamy soups and roasted lean meats are healthful options. At fast food restaurants, the American Heart Association recommends asking for whole-grain buns or bread, opting for chicken sandwiches, skipping sides and eating your sandwich open-faced. Restaurant portions are often far too large, particularly on a diet. Split your portion with a friend or save half for later to prevent overeating.
Bringing leftovers for lunch saves time and money. If you anticipate an unusually busy day the next day, double the size of dinner and refrigerate half in a lunchbox. If every day is busy, batch cooking your meals provides several helpings of leftovers. A slow cooker makes large batches easy; pulled chicken, chili, soup, roasted meat with vegetables and casseroles are examples of easy slow-cooker meals. Baked casseroles are simple choices, too.
A smoothie provides all the nutrition of lunch in a drinkable form, so you don't need to stop to eat lunch. Blend yogurt, cottage cheese or soft tofu with fruits, vegetables, rolled oats, flaxseed, nuts, nut butters and other nutritious foods. Add a few ice cubes or frozen pieces of fruit for extra chill. Pour the smoothie into an insulated container and, if possible, refrigerate it until lunch.