Guest Blog Post: Nutrition Tips For On-the-Go & Healthy Lunch Ideas!
This week’s blog post is written by Ashley Harper Evans, RDN, LD. She is the owner of the The Gypsy Dietician, LLC and she has a wealth of knowledge about nutrition that we can all learn from. Check out what she has to say!
Nutrition Tips for On-the-Go, Healthy Lunch Ideas
Hi there! My name is Ashley Harper Evans and I am a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist with roots planted in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a nutrition consultant in the insurance industry and spend most of my day working with clients with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity among many others. With a passion for fueling an on-the-go lifestyle, I’ve set out on a mission to show (and teach!) the world (that’s you!) that healthy eating is possible, regardless of your situation (to find out more about me, check out The Gypsy Dietitian blog at www.ashleyharperevans.com). Today I want to talk to you about the meal that seems to be the most challenging for most everyone I talk to – and that’s lunch!
As you might agree, for a lot of people (especially those away from the house during the lunch hour), lunch can be the hardest meal of the day. What do I eat? What can I eat? What should I eat? Not only that, but lunch looks different for every person: work from home/lunch at home, lunch in a cubicle, lunch meetings, no time for lunch, lunch in the office lounge, lunch on the road, lunch in between meetings, lunch in the cafeteria, lunch from a vending machine – as you can see the definition of lunch really varies for just about everyone.
Regardless of that, I hope to help take some of the stress out of finding or making a healthy lunch so that this mid-day meal can further promote your healthy eating/living goals rather than derail them. Here are my top tips on planning and/or packing a healthy lunch, as well as a few of my favorite go-to lunch ideas below. Not only will this help you become a healthier person, but it can also save you some time and money too – two things that we could all use a little bit more of!
Top Four Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch
1. Plan Ahead. You’ve heard it a thousand times: failing to plan is planning to fail; and unfortunately, nutrition is no different. Don’t wait until you’re in your worksite cafeteria to decide what you are having for lunch. At that point, you will either be too hungry to make a healthy choice or there won’t even be a healthy choice available. Take an hour of your day (or even less) to plan out an entire weeks’ worth of lunches and stick to them. A little preparation really goes a long way!
2. Find Balance. Protein + carbohydrate + fat. Yes, you need all three – even at lunch. Pick a protein whether it be animal based or plant-based, such as grilled chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, beans, Greek yogurt, quinoa, light tuna, etc. Next, add a carbohydrate such as veggies, fruit, whole grains, etc. Last (and certainly not to forget!), add a healthy fat like natural nut butter, nuts, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter made from grass-fed cows, etc. Not only will this combination will help keep you full throughout your afternoon but it will help keep you mentally sharp as well. Your body needs all three macronutrients to power through your day!
3. Portion control. And by portion control I mean pack yourself enough. I’ve seen it a thousand times (and even used to be guilty myself!): clients that pack a tiny salad for lunch thinking this will help them cut back on calories throughout the day. Lunch is supposed to fuel the remainder of your afternoon; it’s not intended to leave you starving an hour after you eat or ravenous by the time you make it home. You may think that you are doing yourself a favor and packing a tiny, “healthy” lunch, but when the vending machine won’t stop calling your name at 3pm, you’ll find that you didn’t do yourself any favors at all. Not only that, but more often than not, when we minimize our intake throughout the day, this tends to lead to over eating as the sun goes down. Think about the amount that you would eat if you were at home and then pack it to-go too (balanced of course). Give yourself choices, but not too many! If you’re looking for ideas – check out some of my favorite “lunch go-tos” below.
4. Plan for the Unplanned. Last but not least, be real with yourself. Everyday isn’t going to go as planned. Life will always throw us curveballs. To combat this, look up a few restaurant menus beforehand and keep a list of healthy restaurant options in your desk, purse or wallet. That way the next time your coworker asks you if you want to grab lunch (and it happens to be the day that you left your lunchbox sitting on the kitchen counter), you have a healthy plan in mind!
Looking for lunch ideas? Here are a few of my favorite RD approved “Lunch Go-Tos”:
- Leftovers: cook double the amount of dinner the night before and turn it into lunch for the next day.
- Build a sandwich: whole-grain sprouted bread + protein + load it up with veggies (lettuce, cukes, tomato, onions, bell peppers, etc.) + fat (avocado, olive oil & vinegar, etc.) + throw in a few sides (veggie and/or fruit slices, nuts, whole grain crackers, soup, etc.).
- Mexican bowl: black beans + quinoa (or brown rice) + bell peppers/onions + salsa + shredded cheese + avocado + a few whole grain crackers/tortilla chips.
- Smorgasbord lunch: hummus + carrots + celery sticks + bell pepper strips + avocado + apple slices + peanut/almond butter + Greek yogurt.
- Prepare a weeks’ worth of your favorite soup on Sunday and freeze it in individual containers to grab-and-go each morning.
- Peanut butter + banana sandwich on sprouted cinnamon raisin bread (such as Ezekiel) + apple/orange slices + Greek yogurt.
- Make a huge salad: throw your greens in one bowl + all of your toppings in another bowl + your dressing in a third container. Mix it all together at lunch time for a healthy, light lunch.
- Make a pizza for dinner, like this one, and bring a few slices for lunch.
By taking just a few hours on the weekend to plan out your week (healthy eating and exercise too), the chances of achieving your healthy living goals is much more likely to occur. You will have more time to focus on the things you love, you will feel better about the healthy decisions that you made and you will feel less stress in trying to get everything done – not only that, but you will have more energy to get it all done too! For more healthy recipes and nutrition tips, come on over to The Gypsy Dietitian at www.ashleyharperevans.com.
Ashley Harper Evans, RDN, LD