Ways to balance your lunchtime meals

Sandra R. Cain Extension director

Whether you’re packing lunches for school or attempting to eat a healthy lunch at work or home, you don’t have to be stuck with the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day. Any lunch should provide 400 to 500 calories and should be made up of 30 percent protein (4 to 5 ounces of fish, lean meat or tofu), 50 percent complex carbs (whole grains, veggies and fruit) and 20 percent healthy fats (olive oil and nuts).

Packing or preparing a lunch can really be a great way to start eating healthier. Here are a few lunch ideas that taste great and can be made in a few minutes.

— Eat lean with protein: Putting lean protein on your plate helps make a power lunch in several ways. Lean choices from the meat and beans group give you protein, iron and B‐vitamins for muscle upkeep and repair. Lean protein helps with satiety. This means that you will feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. It doesn’t take a ton of protein to keep the afternoon munchies away. Just three to four ounces of fish, skinless poultry or lean red meat will do.

— Eat smart with a least four colors: Color is one of the food cues you can use to get the 40+ nutrients that your body needs. Brightly or deeply colored foods are naturally rich in nutrients. Red meats have iron and zinc. Breads with many shades of brown and tan have fiber and a variety of B‐vitamins. All the colors of fruits and vegetables are a real nutrition bonanza. Different colors mean different phytonutrients. Make at least one green and one red/yellow/orange choice for every lunch.

— Drink milk or water: If you usually drink a super‐sized soft drink at lunch, it’s time to make the switch to milk. A single 12‐ounce can of regular soda has about 150 empty calories. Large drinks can easily have 300 calories or more with no nutritional value. Low‐fat or fat‐free milk is a smart choice. You get lots of nutrition for less calories. After an 8‐ounce glass (or carton) of milk, switch to ice‐cold plain or sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime. If you occasionally pack a juice box, make sure to use 100 percent fruit juice. If possible, avoid sugary drinks like fruit drink, fruit punch, and soft drinks.

— Start small, slow down, savor your food: With busy schedules, lunch is often a super‐sized portion of fast food eaten quickly, maybe in the car. There is little time to savor the flavors. You don’t pay attention to how full you feel. The healthier way to enjoy lunch is to start with a smaller portion. Try half a sandwich, a cup of soup with a side salad or shared entrée. Take at least 20 minutes to eat. Really pay attention to the quality of the meal and to your internal cues of fullness.

Source: N.C. Division of Health and Human Services


Cranberry Turkey Wrap

1 can (11 ounces) reduced-sugar mandarin oranges, drained

1 medium tart apple, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

1 carton (6 ounces) fat-free plain yogurt

2 tablespoon fat-free mayonnaise

8 flour tortillas (8 inches)

8 lettuce leaves

1 ½ pounds thinly sliced deli turkey

8 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

In a small bowl, combine the oranges, apple and cranberries. In another bowl, combine yogurt and mayonnaise. Spread over tortillas. Layer each with lettuce, turkey, cheese, fruit mixture and pecans. Roll up tightly.

Black Bean Salad

½ (8ounce) can drained black beans

1 (15ounce) can drained whole kernel corn

4 chopped green onions

½ chopped green bell pepper

3 diced tomatoes

½ avocado peeled, pitted and diced

1 (two ounce) jar of pimentos

2 Tbsp lemon juice

3 ounces fat free Italian dressing

¼ tsp garlic salt

Combine Italian dressing, black beans, green onions, corn, bell pepper, avocado, pimento, tomatoes and lemon juice in a bowl. Add garlic salt and pepper. Mix well. Chill before serving.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached by calling 910-862-4591.

Sandra R. Cain Extension director R. Cain Extension director
Ways to balance your lunchtime meals
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