Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Lunch

With the COVID-19 Pandemic everything has changed including most of our lunchtime routines. Whether you are working from home, helping your kids with remote learning, or going to work each day, lunchtime options have changed. What once may have been a second thought can now cause overwhelming stress for anyone.

If you’ve noticed your family or you are questioning what to eat tomorrow follow the tips below to alleviate some anxiety.

-Use the Plate Method as a guide for what to choose. Aim to include a food from each food group: a protein, whole grain, low fat dairy, fruit, and vegetable.

-Choose lean proteins. If food allergies are not a concern, consider nuts, hard boiled eggs, tofu, beans, canned fish, nut butters, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, soybeans, etc.

-Fruit and vegetables options can vary throughout the year. Frozen and canned options can be as healthy as fresh as long as you look at the nutrition facts and choose options with no added salt or sugar, and are packed in water.

-Try to include low fat dairy options whether it is a cheese stick, Greek yogurt or skim or 1% milk.

-When thinking about grains try to make sure you choose whole grains. Look for “whole grain” or “whole wheat” to be the first ingredient listed on your breads, crackers, wraps, etc.

-If you are preparing a lunch for your child, include them in the decision making process of what to make.

-Utilize leftovers. Especially if you have access to a refrigerator/microwave, leftover taco meat could be used for a taco salad or leftover grilled chicken could be used for a wrap.

-Plan ahead. Portion leftovers into containers after dinner and place them into your lunchbox before going to bed to help save time in the morning and help with portion control. If you forget your lunch in the refrigerator before leaving for work either set an alarm reminder or place your car keys in the refrigerator next to your lunch.

-Choose drinks wisely. Purchase a reusable water bottle that you enjoy. Try adding fruit, herbs, or low calorie flavoring packets to your water. Or choose zero calorie seltzer water or low fat milk if you want something different than water.

-Think outside of the box, or can. Instead of traditional prepackaged lunches try making them instead. For example whole wheat or multi grain crackers, low fat cheese, and lean, low sodium deli meat are a healthier take on Lunchables. Or instead of a can of Chef Boyardee, cook pasta over the weekend and add 90% lean ground beef or turkey and vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc. can all be added) and then separate it out into containers to be eaten for lunch throughout the week.

-Schedule a set time for lunch and try to get away from your desk. Even if you plan to work through lunch be sure to get up and stretch or go for a quick 5 minute walk to help yourself recharge.

For individualized recommendations, calorie/macronutrient goals, and meal plans, make an appointment with a dietitian.

Many insurance companies cover outpatient nutrition counseling. For more information, please contact:

Emily Decker RD, LDN, CDE

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Chicken Caesar Salad Lunch Wraps

Emily Decker, RD, LDN, CDE