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Calorie Count Blog

Skinny Lunches


By clairelaine on Jan 08, 2010 12:00 PM in Recipes

Do you eat at your desk or are you at home?  How about lunch out with friends?  Do you ever resort to fast food because you are hungry and short on time?  We can learn how to plan our lunch to keep within our calorie goals and still have delicious food with great nutritional value.  What we need are convenient, easy to pack items that are low calorie to allow us to have some little extras if we can fit them in. They should be good for work or at home.

First some tips no matter where you have lunch.  Keep lunchtime in mind when you go to the grocery store.  Resist the temptation to buy already prepared food because it's usually high in sodium or sugar, and is likely to contain more calories from fat than you would expect.  Instead, look for lean, low sodium deli meats such as turkey or chicken breast and lean roast beef.  Lower fat and lower salt sliced cheeses are also available.  Don't be afraid to ask for help making a good choice. 

In the produce department make sure you get a piece of fruit and a vegetable for each day's lunch.  If you are eating at work, keep it simple.  You may want salad greens, especially the darker green kinds.  Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are good additions to salads.

Next, you need a whole grain such as a wrap or tortilla to make roll-ups.  There are a number of flat-breads available so read those labels and choose carefully.  If you want bread, get 100% whole grain.

If you prefer a hot meal, try some soup or stew.  Either make it yourself or buy one of the healthier brands.  Again, read those labels.  Another option is to cook extra for dinner the night before and put a lunch size portion in the refrigerator.  For instance, chili can be a good choice if made with ground turkey breast and no fat added.  Make a big batch and freeze lunch size portions in microwave safe containers. 

Planning and preparing ahead is the key to success.  Try to assemble your lunch the night before if you can.  If you carry your lunch to work, invest in some freezer packs.  Put one in your insulated lunch bag just before leaving for work to keep everything cold and fresh without refrigeration.  If you eat at home, have your food partially ready so you can fix lunch easily.  It really helps if you have a game plan and know what you're going to have.

We've chosen recipes by Calorie Count members for sandwiches, salads and soups that are low enough in calories that you can have that piece of fruit and vegetables with them for a more filling meal.



Comments


Better still as a much lower calorie and healthier low fat option use soya mince in your Chili's, Bolognese sauces, shepherds pies etc etc. In fact you can substitute Soay mince in any dish that needs minced meat or ground meat.



at one time lunch was my biggest meal of the day and now it is breakfast which still is not that big just hearty (hot cereal with fruit)

for lunch I always make my lunch which is usually half a sandwich on wholewheat bread ... either chicken, tuna, salmon or roast beef with a touch of mayo

I have a cute little plastic container that holds half a sandwich perfectly

and I always have low fat yogurt Smile

 



When I click on the white bean and pepper stew, it takes me to the turkey wrap recipe every time.  I would really like to try the stew.  What happened?



Skijulie- It's happening to me to... The link is wrong..



If you're craving a midday sweet (and I always do!!) try the sugar free jello.  It's only 60 calories and soooo good!



Let's have that white bean and pepper stew recipe corrected.

Doing the vegan kickstart and that recipe sounds good!



I wished some of these articles would be a bit more realistic.

"In the produce department make sure you get a piece of fruit". How do we do that? We go to the produce department and cut off a piece and leave the rest there?

"Either make it yourself or buy one of the healthier brands." - Why not give ideas/options what the healthier brands are?

 

Even Healthy Choice brand and south beach brands are loaded with salt!

 

 



Soya mince?  I personally like to stay away from soy products.  Unless it is fermented soy such as tempeh or miso, chances are it is genetically modified.  Soy is marketed as a health food but it is deceiving.

The lean ground turkey is a better option for the chili.



I'm pretty good  at coming up with healthy choices when I'm at home...a lot of which have been mentioned here. My problem is that I'm a flight attendant and whatever I choose to take to work has to be something that won't go bad over a day, two days, even three days!  We have inserts of ice, but no real refrigeration on the plane, and sometimes there is a fridge in our hotel room but often it's just an ice bucket!  Right now I eat the perishables the first day but pickings are slim after that ...nuts and raisons, oranges, apples...and chocolate.  That's when you start grazing coast to coast on plane food!   Any ideas for healthy non perishable lunch items?



I keep hearing more and more negative things lately about soy. I like edamame (cooked soybeans) theyre so awesome. I think those are safe to eat. My friend told me (hes vegetarian) that they had something called "seitan"? I think i had that once in a wrap and that was delicious. I just havent been able to find it lately.

Is it the purchased block of soy thats not good for you or some other type? What about soybean oil? I dont have allergies to soy so im good.

 



Bell Plantation  in Ga. Makes vitrtually non-fat peanut butter POWDER. They ship.  You mix a portion with water, it turns into traditional peanut butter (smooth) and it's delicious.  They also have chocolate peanut butter, too.  It's all I ever buy now..you can't beat it.  No refrigeration needed! You can also mix the powder into  shakes or milk using a BLender Bottle, which is available thru Amazon.com



Thank you Fluffygirl for the Bell Plantation recommendation, wow I want to try.

There very best peanut butter that I have found on the market is called "Naturally More" I found it always at Super Walmarts, its higher in Protien and dietary fiber it has flax and Omegas. It tastes great and is lower in sugar and fat also no trans. http://www.naturallymore.com/



I refuse to bring my lunch to work!!!  I do not consider it more healthy to bring my lunch as doing so deprives me of the "healthy break" away from the office!!! I hate our break room - crowded, noisy, smeily, etc.  Eating at my desk (despite my light being turned off and door closed) still somehow indicates to people that I am "available" for signatures, questions, etc., so I wind up w/no break at all!

I have made peace with fast food and found healthy options at all my favorites - even McDonalds, although usually I go to San Sai, Qdoba, or St Louis (Panera) Bread Co. 

As each of these have their complete nutritional info online, it is easy to figure out ahead of time what fits and what does not.  And yes, these can fit into a 1200 calorie diet, as I have been doing so since July and have to date lost 33 lbs.  Why be miserable eating what you don't want (anything I could make at lunch at home fits into this category) when I eat what I like and still lose weight?! :-)



Thanks for this article! I do think it is pretty realistic and helpful for people who aren't used to packing a lunch. When people say "a piece of fruit" that usually means a whole apple, a whole banana, a whole orange, etc - not a chopped off piece. And I'm glad you didn't identify too many specific brands, as different brands are popular in differnet parts of the world.

Kenoramoose, I've seen some threads about camping and road trips in the food forums that might give you suggestions on things you can pack for on the road.

Mazanec, you have a good point about needing lunch to be a real break. I think it's a good idea to actually move AWAY from the desk/workspace for at least 30 minutes just to refresh and recharge. Sadly, I haven't found any low-cal, filling and vegetarian options in the restaurants near my workplace :/



Original Post by: samhainaz

I wished some of these articles would be a bit more realistic.

"In the produce department make sure you get a piece of fruit". How do we do that? We go to the produce department and cut off a piece and leave the rest there?

"Either make it yourself or buy one of the healthier brands." - Why not give ideas/options what the healthier brands are?

 

Even Healthy Choice brand and south beach brands are loaded with salt!

 

 


Doesn't your grocery store sale apple, oranges, and such individually? One apple is a 'piece of fruit'  Even most stores now sale package fresh fruit.  Pineapple, grapes, berries, melons etc.  My daughter and I shared a carton of mixed berries and kiwi while out shopping the other day- so yummy.  Although I admit, a bit pricey.  I can't do it every trip, but it is a nice treat.



Tip:  Carrying a "lunch pack" can be a drag, expecially if you already have a tote with reading materials (for work or pleasure), shoes, etc. to lug . . . .I found a way to get everything in one bag . . . .some of the tote looking "diaper bags" now available look very professional and are sold with nice pads intended for changing.  Those pads insulate a container and cold pack just as well as any lunch tote!  Just wrap the pad around your food containers, add your reading, blackberry, dress shoes, etc and you're good for the day!  Mine has pockets on the side to insert a water bottle as well.



Kenoramoose  is right on about soy.

NOT great for you. Fermented is much better.

I read horrific research done about soy-some of the research even claimed that if too much soy was eaten while pregnant, and you were carrying a boy, that the size of his genitalia could be drastically reduced.

Crazy.



Great idea about a diaper bag, I never thought of that!  Thanks!



I found very great tasting selections of 'on the go' entrees by Transitions that are healthy and do not require refridgeration.  I keep one at my desk in case I need to work through lunch.  http://trynow.transitionslife.com/



Original Post by: le_cabinet

Kenoramoose  is right on about soy.

NOT great for you. Fermented is much better.

I read horrific research done about soy-some of the research even claimed that if too much soy was eaten while pregnant, and you were carrying a boy, that the size of his genitalia could be drastically reduced.

Crazy.


Would you mind sharing a link on that?



I try to pack my lunch for the next day when cleaning up the leftovers from supper. I make sure to eat 1/2 banana on my way in to work. Then when I get to work i usually have a hot oatmeal packet(the weight loss ones from Quaker or Kroger's Active Life ones which have extra protein and fiber) or I pack a container w/ a serving of AllBran w/ Yogurt Bites or some other cereal that has at least 5 g fiber in it and I pour milk in a glass jelly jar. I have been trying to follow Zonya Foco's dietfree tips(she's a cool dietitian that I saw in Nov.). She has a website. She encourages you to eat fruit or veggie every time u eat. I'm not that good but I have started (and am maintaining) eating more fruit(1 apple and 1 tangelo almost every day while at work at my desk, and berries w/ my cereal/oatmeal) and a vegetable(I like getting a yellow, orange, or red pepper and have it sliced for the week). Her reasoning is that you won't crave sweets as much if you are truly eating sweet fruit thru the day. Then she says u can allow yourself 2 small sweet treats a day(1/2 cup light ice cream or 1 small chocolate treat) and 1 drink that has 200 cal or less(like a good latte). And then it helps me to log my food I eat while at work so that I'm aware of how many calories I have left when I head home/out for the evening. Love hearing everybody's good ideas!



Original Post by: myfran

Soya mince?  I personally like to stay away from soy products.  Unless it is fermented soy such as tempeh or miso, chances are it is genetically modified.  Soy is marketed as a health food but it is deceiving.

The lean ground turkey is a better option for the chili.


Trader Joe's sells organic Smile soy products with the added benefit of good prices.



Um, I believe that apples, oranges, tangerines, plums, pears, tangelos, bananas all come in individualservings at the grocery store. You can buy more than one and stash it in your desk, purse or company kitchen.



What recipe is in the article picture?! It looks so good.



FYI, I'm pretty sure when the writer says "in the produce department" she is not actually referring to the grocery store produce department.  She's using department to refer to catagory of produce...it would be like saying "to meet your requirements in the catagory of produce."  I think this will help a lot of people who are confused as to where to get single serve produce.



What I need to know is how much am I supposed to be eating, how many times a day, and at what times?



Thanks, that's helpful. I"ll look  at the camping and road trip tips.  And also at Fluffy girl's peanut butter recommendation - protein is sometimes the hardest to plan for...there's always instant oatmeal and dry cereals for starch!  And apples and oranges - bananas don't travel as well!  Protein drinks are OK too....



So sorry for the mistaken links! It was my fault for not linking correctly.  

Here's the one for  White Bean and Red Pepper Stew



i know its no longer in season, but i found corn to be amazing for lunch

it takes a long time to eat, and fills you up, and is still healthy and low in fat and calories.

also things like yams, edamame (soy beans) and mushrooms <---lots of people dont like these but i find they taste really good raw (maybe im alone in this) plus they are almost calorie-free and filling as they are mostly water.



My favorite go-to lunch recently has been a sandwich made with a double-fiber whole grain english muffin, toasted, with hummus, tomato, a hefty layer of spinach, and then I'll add cucumbers, roasted red peppers or a slice of deli meat, depending what I have.  It's super convenient because on Monday I just take a package of English muffins, a container of hummus, and a tuperware with a tomato and spinach, and I don't have to worry about packing my lunch the rest of the week.  I just be sure to bring fresh fruit everyday, which I usually eat an hour or two after lunch, and that will generally keep me full.

Sometimes I mix it up with soup, I like the Pacific Natural Foods boxed soups, especially the carrot ginger, and that's also easy because one box will last for about 3 lunches.  Like the article says, I always make better decisions when I plan for lunch than when 12 rolls around and I don't have something waiting for me..



Original Post by: samhainaz

I keep hearing more and more negative things lately about soy. I like edamame (cooked soybeans) theyre so awesome. I think those are safe to eat. My friend told me (hes vegetarian) that they had something called "seitan"? I think i had that once in a wrap and that was delicious. I just havent been able to find it lately.

Is it the purchased block of soy thats not good for you or some other type? What about soybean oil? I dont have allergies to soy so im good.

 


Seitan is a great substitute for meat!  It is made from gluten flour and is packed with protein.  I eat it on sandwiches, in fajitas, pastas, omelets, etc.  I just make a batch at the beginning of the week and then use it in my meals all week.  Here is an easy recipe on how to make it (there are a lot more online)--I use Bob's Red Mill Vital Gluten flour.

2 cups gluten flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1-1/4 cups water or vegetable stock

3 Tablespoons soy sauce 

Add garlic powder and ginger to flour and stir. Mix liquids together and add to flour mixture all at once. Mix vigorously with a fork. When it forms a stiff dough knead it 10 to 15 times.

Let the dough rest 2 to 5 minutes, then knead it a few more times. Let it rest another 15 minutes before proceeding. 

Cut gluten into 6 to 8 pieces and stretch into thin cutlets. Simmer in broth (see recipe below) for about 60 minutes

 Broth:4 cups water and 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

 Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring broth to a boil. Add cutlets one at a time. Reduce heat to barely simmer when saucepan is covered. Seitan may be used, refrigerated, or frozen at this point.

 



I WORK 12 HOUR SHIFTS THROUGHOUT THE NIGHTS I GO IN AT 630PM AND GET OFF AT 730 AM EVERY ONE ON THIS SHIFT COMPLAINS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN GAINING WEIGHT SOME ONLY 5-10 LBS BUT OVER TIME THATS A DEFINATE WEIGHT GAIN I KNOW MYSELF I GAIN 10 LOSE 10 ITS A LOOSING BATTLE I EAT AT 5PM USSUALLY SANDWICH OR SOUP  GO TO WORK EAT AT 11 OR 12 OCLOCKUSUALLY SOUP FRUIT YOUGART OR SALAD  THEN TRY NOT OT EAT AGAIN TIL I GET OUT OF BED THE NEXT DAY AND STILL I GAIN WEIGHT HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSE TO WORK THIS SHIFT WITHOUT GAINING WEIGHT PLEASE GIVE ME TIPS CANT FIGURE OUT THIS LOOSING BATTLE AM GIVING UP JUST DONT WANT TO END UP BIGGER THAN A BARN NEED TO KNOW HOW TO EAT ON THIS SHIFT THERE HAS TO BE A SECRET TO IT PLEASE SEND ANY TIPS THEY WOULD BE APPRECIATED



I need to work on my lunch habits, but there's so much I can't eat..



Yes. The Soya mix I use is Yves meatless ground round.

I cook the soya with cut up roasted red peppers, chopped scallions, a little soy and toasted sesame oil (very little that is powerful stuff) I add some garlic and seasoning salt. If you like things spicy a little asian red chili. 

It cooks in just a few minutes and I serve it over white or brown rice. Delish!!!

I served this to several friends and no one knew that it was not ground beef until I told them after they complimented me on my dish.

By the way it tastes great by it's self .



I heard the other day on Dr. Oz that if you end up eating something unhealthy like a burger be sure to pair it with a cup of yogurt b/c the dairy product will help absorb some of the saturated fat so your body doesn't absorb it all. Sounds like a good idea to eat yogurt everyday with lunch then! I'm very glad Activia finally introduced a light version (I do have to check to make sure it is in Canada though) since it was 110 calories now 70 and I never bought it before since Source and Astro were only 35-40 calories.



Sorry one more comment, due to the CC website I really learned that my sodum intake was much much higher than I ever thought. I never add  salt to anything so I thought it was ok but i found my daily cup-of-soup (those ones in the packets you add water too) that i loved since it was only 1WW point, 60 calories is shooting my sodum through the roof!! Better off having that whole wheat sandwhich or even half at 3-4 points. Wow what a balance eating is, its a whole 2nd job!



I keep reading about the negative comments regarding soy and I have to say that the research is a bit skewed if you truly look into it. The portions of soy they are testing in the studies are enormous, like a person living on soy - (eg. soy protein powder and soy milk smoothie for breakfast, morningstar/boca product for lunch, and additional soy products for dinner like tofu). This is also coupled with the fact that soy is in practically everything when you look at labels, mostly processed crap. The idea of using soy in your diet is being smart about your body like everything else. You wouldn't eat McDonalds everyday three times a day because it is bad for you. The same applies to soy, not because it is bad for you in moderation but in excess. Many vegatarians as well as people trying to loss weight take the way of encorporating soy into their lives in an uninformed way. Moderation is key like everything else in life. As a vegan I eat soy, not daily but weekly, as well as incorporating high protein grains, fruit and veg, seitan, etc.  I have heard rumors that some of the negative claims have been sponsored by the meat industry, which if you think of it is understandable, why would the meat industry want you getting your protein from a vegtable?! Regardless of that conspiracy theory I feel moderation is the key in life for everything. Non-animal products and animal products alike.

Cheers to all in their goals.



This isn't a food suggestion, but a suggestion for how to get a fridge when you're staying in a hotel.  My friend and I travel together 2-3 times a year and we have found that mgmt. is quite helpful when you tell them you're a diabetic and need to keep your insulin chilled.  Now I'm also taking Byetta, a diabetic medication that helps control hunger and improves blood sugar control, and that too needs to be refrigerated.  You may not be diabetic, but you are working on an issue that can impact your health and I think it's not so bad to tell a fib to accomplish your goal!



Thank you to Bleaver for the seitan recipe!  I would suggest using light soy in the recipe; it has less salt.  Both tamari and soy sauce are fairly salty.  When I lived w/ a vegan, she shared some seitan that she bought pre-made, an awesome chicken substitute!  Wish I could remember the brand, but they didn't have much advertising going and they may have gone out of business.  :( 



Great suggestion Deb! I often have to fib at restaurants and say I'm lactose intolerat b/c a. I hate cheese (unless in very small amounts on pizza) and b. the fat content of cheese just isn't worth it. Only Moxies asks is it for an allergy or preference to really ensure dairy doesn't touch your meal - how considerate! Ps everyone must have the Kitsilano Chicken sandwich there. With side salad it’s like 17ww pts so like any restaurant day, eat a small breakfast and very small lunch to fit it in.



Thanks justdoitdeb--I should have noted that in the recipe.  I use low sodium soy sauce and also low sodium vegetable broth.  It makes the seitan much healthier and does not make it bland.

I have seen seitan at a few health food markets, but it is hard to find.  I should also note that the homemade seitan tends to be less dense than what I have bought at the store, but it is still really good.



I vary my lunches at work. Some days I have to get out of the building so we usually head for Wendys (plain baked potato and a small chili). Some days I have to grab a frozen meal out of the freezer, then the others I pack  (my least favorite option). I always have a couple of bottles of water at my desk and fresh fruit. My days nutition grade is usually a "B".  If I know we are doing something else, I look up the menu before we go and figure out what I can have, maybe it's just portion contol (ask for the to go box).



My favorite skinny lunch is canned white chicken made into salad with low fat salad dressing, celery, and pickles on a tossed salad with a few of your favorite crackers and an apple for dessert.



For those of you who claim that you need to *get out* for lunch: the idea about PACKING lunch isn't just about loosing weight or eating healthy. Having been a student - packing a lunch just saves you TONS of money. Restaurant and even cafeteria food just isn't worth the money you save!

If the problem is not wanting to eat in the employees room/cafeteria, go to a park and eat you packed lunch sitting on the grass! In the summer here, we eat lunch outside everyday. Its so much nicer!

The best lunches are - i agree - leftovers if you have microwaves at work. we always make food for more, but often i leave the leftovers for my hubby because i love veggie spread with alfalfa on brown bread, or a bagel with light cream cheese and homemade pepper jelly. I always have salad, cut raw veggies and vegetable soup in the fridge to bring as a side, and i always pack a yogurt and a fruit. Best packed lunches and very healthy.



I AM NEW TO THIS SITE AND WANT TO LOSE ALOT OF WEIGHT BEFORE MY DAUGHTERS WEDDING IN JULY!!! ANY IDEAS TO HELP ME GET MOTIVATED???Wink



this article was quite helpful because i am always stuck for ideas for things to take with me to college and lunch is always hard to choose a healthy options cos the things in the supermarket always have so many calories.



Another great tasting low calorie lunch... Salad with tuna. Sounds weird but tastes great. I usually have about two cups of romaine lettuce, add a pouch of tuna, a couple tbsp. of low fat buttermilk ranch mix and eat! It's filling, you get a good dose of protein, omega 3 fats which are esential in losing belly fat, and a veggie serving! Best of all it's only 200 calories or less depending on the dressing and tuna brand used!



I love that stuff too!  It has flax seeds in it too.



Another great (and easy, nutritious and convenient) lunch idea is what I call "chili salad".

This consists of 2 cups of baby spinach (or spring mix, field greens etc) with some salad fixings (grape tomatoes, cucumbers, grn onions, grn peps - your choice). Then you top it with 1 cup (bring to work in separate container) of home-made turkey chili (with lots of veg such as kidney beans, zucchini, onions, celery, red/yellow/green peps, mushrooms etc).

Heat the chili and add on top of salad - makes a spectacular lunch!!! I also often top it with a sprinkling of low fat feta cheese. YUMMMMM!!

Not only does this salad taste great (plus is very easy to prepare a few lunch servings at a time to refrigerate for quick and easy grabbing during the week) but it is very filling and jammed packed with nutritious goodness - plus it moves through you like nobody's business (Ha!Ha!Ha!) - due to all of the fiber.

This is my 'no fail' lunch and is great when I don't want to put in the effort to 'think' about what to make/pack for lunch. It is also a great way to get in tons of veg. Plus, you can make a huge batch of chili and freeze it so that some will always be accessible. 

CHILI SALAD ROCKS! I would make a commercial for it if I could...



Original Post by: samhainaz

I wished some of these articles would be a bit more realistic.

"In the produce department make sure you get a piece of fruit". How do we do that? We go to the produce department and cut off a piece and leave the rest there?

"Either make it yourself or buy one of the healthier brands." - Why not give ideas/options what the healthier brands are?

 

Even Healthy Choice brand and south beach brands are loaded with salt!

 

 


You don't have to go to the grocery store and buy one piece of fruit every day.  I think they are suggesting that you buy enough produce (a bag of apples or a bunch of grapes) so that when you pack your lunch each day, you have enough to include a piece of fruit. 



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