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Calorie Count Blog

Avoiding the Lunch Time Fast Food Trap


By clairelaine on Apr 24, 2009 12:00 PM in Recipes

The lunch hour is approaching and your co-workers are ordering pizza or going out for a quick burger and fries. The aroma of onion rings and oregano waft your way. There you are, heating up your leftovers from last night's dinner. You're bored and hungry and tempted to give in. What to do?

This question is asked so frequently by Calorie Count members, that I thought it would be a good topic to discuss here. I've tried to gather recipes for things that you can make at home and have ready to take to work. So get ready to plan ahead for happy, satisfying, nutritious lunches that will make converts of your taco munching colleagues.

Planning ahead is very important. When you shop, make a careful list of all the things you'll need for workplace lunches. Invest in a good insulated lunch bag and some containers with tight, leakproof lids. I especially like the inexpensive ones with a screw on top. If your workplace allows it, take your own utensils from home. Wouldn't you rather eat with a real fork?

Include a fruit for each lunch and try to get a variety so you won't get bored. Buy several kinds of whole grain bread for the freezer so that you can take out just the amount for a sandwich. Have salad ingredients prewashed and dried, stored in the crisper so salads are a snap. You'll need a serving of protein and this doesn't have to be deli meat, although sliced turkey breast is a good low calorie choice. Try to vary your protein by having beans, tuna, or eggs. The key is variety.

  • Lime and Cumin Bean Salad - A great high protein, high fiber choice. It can be eaten cold or at room temperature. The flavor is mild and delicious.

  • Waldorf Chicken Salad - A new take on an old favorite. It has the crunchy apples, celery and walnuts of the traditional Waldorf Salad, and adds chicken and shredded cheese to include all the food groups except grains. Tossed in a light mayonnaise and mustard dressing instead of heavy, full fat mayonnaise keeps it low in calories.

  • Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich Spread - What a great idea to spread on bread, a whole wheat pita, or a tortilla. Instead of salty mustard and fatty spreads, use this and then stuff your sandwich with lots of lettuce and tomato slices, and anything else that tickles your fancy.


Comments


I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.



totally agree



Thank you for posting the Lime and  Cumin Bean Salad recipe.  I'm hosting an Anniversary Party for our neighbours this weekend and I'm putting that on the menu.Smile



Original Post by: m_cyclops

I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.


wow, never thought about that :) TWO THUMBS UP!

 



@m_cyclops: good point. It's a slippery slope when you try to associate bad eating habits with any single food, since smart dieters can make any combination of foods work for them - as long as they get enough nutrients and stay under their daily calorie goals. I approved Claire's article before we published it, and it didn't sound bad in my ears when I first read it - so apologies, my bad.



I would love to hear real alternatives to unhealthy fast food when you do go to fast food places with co-workers.  Other than the obvious salads with non-fat or low fat dressing, what are some alternatives at McDonalds?  Burger King? etc.?



Original Post by: m_cyclops

I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.


Perhaps I should have distinguished home made healthy tacos with greasy Taco Belle tacos.  I did start the article by mentioning that workplace dilemma when everyone orders in fast food.

I promise to follow up with a healthy taco recipe right here!  OK?



Thanks for the recipes.  The Waldorf Salad sounds really good.  I think most of us knew what you mean't regarding the tacos........the article IS about fast food.....!  Thanks again, great work.



I am not currently working, so I can't speak for lunch time dilemas at work.  But if I'm not going to be home at lunch time, I take food with me.  The drive thru's still try and pull me in, but I tell myself that yes I can have that food, but I choose not to because I don't want to clog my arteries.  I also don't want to see that bad choice show up on the scale... or on my backside!  (Yes there are healthier choices, but when sitting at a drive thru, most of us are more likely to be drawn to ordering a burger and fry, like we used to.)

For a few days, I was helping my brother paint his new house, and I made sure to pack a lunch.  I didn't know what the plans were for lunch, but I figured it would be either skipping lunch or ordering something.  They ended up ordering pizza, which I love, but I ate my turkey sandwich and apple still.

Yes, it's tough to stick to eating healthy when those around us aren't, but we have to be tough.  We could give in and eat the unhealthy food with them, but how will we feel after we have eaten all that grease and fat?  I know I feel bloated and it's harder to digest.  Not to mention feeling like a failure when we cave into those temptations.  So, I think about how I'll feel if I cave, and that gives me the encouragement to eat healthy.  Then, instead of feeling bad, I feel proud of myself for sticking to what is good for me, rather than going with the crowd.

As for the healthy taco thing, my son was into wraps, using the soft taco shells, so I tried that with the wheat wraps.  They were horrible, and also high in sodium.  I did find one brand that was multi grain and lower in sodium, but I haven't tried them yet.  Has anybody found a healthy brand, that's not made with white flour and isn't loaded with sodium, that tastes good?  Finding low sodium foods is really hard.  Atleast where I live. 

Have a good day everybody!



Original Post by: m_cyclops

I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.

I think you are missing the point.  When she said "taco" she is talking about what you would see advertised at Taco Bell or Taco whatever with the red dripping oil and the deep fried taco shell. 

What you make at home for yourself isn't considered fast food "going out for lunch" which is the point of this article.  You people need to open your minds and see the BIG picture instead of picking up offences where none were intended.



Just FYI, La Tortilla Factory has good healthy tortillas. I went through 7 brands of wheat torillas and these are the best. I never feel the need to have a flour tortilla again, and they taste good!!


http://www.latortillafactory.com/jadworks/ltf/jwsuite.nsf/Do cLibContent?OpenView&site=Home*ViewSelection=Products**



There is a great taco place here in San Jose, CA that before I started eating healthy (I have lost 60 lbs and 11 inches in the waist!) I went to all the time.

However, I still go with my team when they have a hankering for tacos/burritos. I just make different choices.

Instead of carnitas, I choose the grilled chicken. Drop the sour cream. Instead of their corn tortillas I ask for a leaf of Romaine lettuce. Now this is a "hole in the wall" taco place. But they are more than happy to accomodate me. I find the "Lettuce Wrap Taco" to be very tasty (especially with salsa & a jalepeno).

The result is a fairly healthy taco (easy to ask them to add chopped tomatoes, etc.) and I still go out with the team.

 



bestlife brand has awrap they call "light flat out wraps" they are made withwhole grains and come in several flavors including sundried tomato, my favorite, and parmesan herb. they are big and only contain 90 calories each with 2 grams fat and 9 yes 9 grams of fiber. they make great tuna wraps with leaf lettuce, tomato slice and a slice of pineapple : ) i found these in my area at fred meyer, there is a web site www.bestlife.com where you should be able to find them in your area


+1 on La Tortilla Factory brands, Laura B.


Another one with good stats, and is a great-tasting soft wrap is "Flatout" flatbread (try the "light" variety, with 33% fewer cals. than original Flatout-- it's a "bestlife" approved product).

www.flatoutbread.com

 

(Thanks for this post, Claire!)

 



I made a batch of that Roasted Red Pepper Spread and ended up eating it with celery last night.  It's really good!  There's a lot left and I have a feeling that the flavor gets better the next day.

When you take lunch to work, what do you like to take?  Would you like to add a recipe to the blog?



I'm always looking for healthy lunch ideas, thank you for the article.  I am definintely going to try the chicken salad.  Any more ideas for healthy lunches would be greatly appreciated :-)



I don't think they meant to insult you about the tacos



They also carry them at Costco - at least the several in my area.  They're much cheper there, but I've also seen them at Safeway.



Original Post by: tamminin

They also carry them at Costco - at least the several in my area.  They're much cheper there, but I've also seen them at Safeway.


Oops, forgot to click "quote".... "They" are the light Flatout wraps that cnmkymnky.  They make great pizzas too!

 



Original Post by: jokapfhammer

I would love to hear real alternatives to unhealthy fast food when you do go to fast food places with co-workers.  Other than the obvious salads with non-fat or low fat dressing, what are some alternatives at McDonalds?  Burger King? etc.?


At Mcdonalds you can get a regular hamburger and a side salad with low fat dressing or one of there grilled chicken snack wraps. Also the grilled chicken sandwich without mayo isn't too bad. I'm not as sure about Burger King, but I think they have a veggie burger that isn't terrible. Just in general go for the smaller portioned burgers or even kids meals. A lot of places offer different sides for kids (fruit, yogurt, etc).



hi,I'm new and already enthralled. Love the light lunch recipes. I do a nice mediterranean salad with tuna(in water!), peppers, lettuce, grape tomatoes, and 6 marinated olives(spicy ones). Also, a few homemade wheat croutons. Olive juice makes the dressing. I teach so I have to have breath mints around but it's really good. I'm training for 5K in June so will be visiting often. thanks!



You can go to any fast food web sight and look up the nutrational counts  good luck

Nancy



I don't think the point was tacos are unhealthy or that the author intended on causing insult. They were just an unfortunate example and the gist of the article is something that we all experience - that seeing other people around us eating yummy stuff that we would want to and wrecking our diets. I know it's happened to me before. This week my coworker and I went to the mall at lunch and she wanted to pick up something on the way back. I knew I had green beans and chicken waiting at my office for me, but here she was ordering delicious spring rolls and korean BBQ. It took all my restraint not to buy it too, and you know, when I got back and ate my lunch it was actually pretty yummy and I was happy afterwards I hadn't caved in, but it's a struggle and it happens all the time.

Similarly, on Monday we are going to be ordering in pizza at lunch time from a place that has no good food options. I know I have to either avoid the lunch or figure out something that I can eat that will make me excited to eat it, and not cave in.



Insulted about the taco comment? Oh come on, for crying outloud, you know what he/she means, quit being so pissy and butthurt and get over it.



i just wish i knew how to get started, low cal, low carb,low fat, one diet says dn't eat this and another says dnt eat that i dnt know what to do?



Have any of you ever made fresh tortillas? This could help if you like tacos. It takes some special equipment that can be found relatively cheap - a comal and a tortilla press. Make them from ground corn flour called Maseca. Just add warm water to make a soft yet firm dough. Grap a small handfull - a little larger than a golf ball and press in between two sheets of plastic with the press. Cook on the comal over medium to high heat. Turn them every 20 seconds or so and if you mixed them right they will puff up. You may have to press gently to get them to puff. My kids call them turtles when they puff. When they puff remove them carefully because the steam coming out will burn you. The Maseca is 110 calories per 1/4 cup and I have done the math before and my tortillas usually end up being around 65 calories a piece. They are much better than store bought but they don't last long. You can successfully warm them the next day but thats about it. Stuff them with whatever you want. My favorite is chicken fajitas, tomatos, cilantro and cabbage sliced very thinly sprinkled with a little lime. (The cabbage doesn't wilt so it adds a nice crunch) YUMMO!



Original Post by: m_cyclops

I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.


You shouldn't feel insulted, you should read the article in the spirit it was written. In comparison to fast food. Fast food tacos are not typically the healthy, lean variety.


I do agree that it's easy to make a taco that's not bad for you though. And for portability, a tortilla doesn't get smooshed like bread, so that's an added benefit.

 



My problem is sometimes having the time to pack anything or remembering to take it with me. Are there some easy pasta salads recipes to fix? I will try the Lime and Cumin Bean Salad.

I like to use the Flatbread for pizzas, esp with just herbs and cheese and a little sauce, !

 



I love Chickfila chargrilled sandwich, it's very tasty and I order a fruit cup instead of fries. All for only 360 calories!!!

Chargrilled sandwich=260 calories
Fruit Cup=100 Calories



Original Post by: m_cyclops

I feel a little insulted about the taco remarks. A taco can be as healthy as a zuccini sandwich or as bas as a fatty hamburger, the thing that makes a taco a taco is the fact that a tortilla surrounds the food, the same way that the think that make a sandwich a sandwich is bread surrounding food. What you put in between is up to you. I personally bring lean meat, salad, tomatoes, and cucumber and eat them with two tortillas: A real tortilla will be in carbs, cals, and other nutrients, as healthy as a slice of integral bread.


Hahah. What are you, the inventor of the taco or something? Don't take things so seriously!



No, I am not the inventor of Tacos ellabella89, it is just part of my deep culture and yes, sorry, if somebody says that they are something that they are not I will feel insulted, because again people like to stereotype my culture.



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Original Post by: m_cyclops

No, I am not the inventor of Tacos ellabella89, it is just part of my deep culture and yes, sorry, if somebody says that they are something that they are not I will feel insulted, because again people like to stereotype my culture.


I spend 6 months of the year in Arizona and have leaned so much about Mexican cooking.  I met a great group of people of Mexican descent and they have taught me so much about their cusine.  Before I moved out west I thought that all of that type of food was spicy and dripping with cheese and fat and it is not so.  There are so many healthy good tasting dishes. 



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