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Upgrade your midday meal without packing on the kilos
When you’re trying to shed kilos, lunchtime can be a real battle.
“Although there doesn’t seem to be anything special about lunch, consuming regular, healthy meals and reducing snacking may promote a healthier body weight,” says Tom Hritz, Ph.D., R.D., clinical nutrition manager at Mercy Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Aiming for three healthy meals a day, including lunch, can help maintain appetite-regulating hormones and keep your blood sugar stable, making it even easier to resist cravings when they strike, says Hritz.
So to keep your second meal of the day on point, we’re bringing you 14 healthy and easy lunches that you can actually get excited about.
KALE SALAD WITH SALMON AND AVOCADO
Eating leafy greens is a great way to increase the volume of your meals without increasing the calories, says New York-based registered dietitian Brooke Alpert.
Meanwhile, salmon is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids—the former boosts fullness while the latter revs up metabolism, she says. Avocado is also packed with protein and contains a compound called oleic acid, which can reduce your appetite and melt away belly fat.
Mix a handful of chopped kale with a palm-sized portion of salmon and half of an avocado, pitted and cut into small chunks. Add chopped tomato, cucumber, and bell peppers to taste.
Drizzle with lemon dressing (three parts extra virgin olive oil, one part lemon juice).
TUNA WRAPS WITH PESTO AND TOMATO
Lean protein is crucial when it comes to appetite control.
“Studies have shown that making your protein intake 25 to 30 percent of calories can cut cravings by 60 percent,” says Alpert.
That helps to curb those 3 p.m. vending machine binges. And even though pesto is higher in calories, it can improve cholesterol and decrease inflammation, which play a role in obesity and metabolic disease, she adds.
Plus, it adds a ton of flavour so you’re satisfied quicker.
Mix one can or packet of tuna with your choice of pesto and chopped tomato. Spoon onto lettuce leaves, roll up, and enjoy.
PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICH
The peanut butter, banana, and whole-grain bread all provide fibre from low-calorie sources, which helps you stay full, says Hritz.
There’s also some healthy, monounsaturated fat in the peanut butter, which helps keep your blood sugar in check and levels out your appetite.
Bonus: You can keep all of these ingredients in your desk drawer.
Spread 2 tablespoons of peanut butter onto one slice of sprouted whole-grain bread and add a layer of banana on top. To stomp out your hunger, add another dose of low-calorie fibre with a side of carrot and celery sticks, he says.
BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD WITH GRILLED CHICKEN
Like most vegetables, Brussels sprouts are high in fibre, but these petite cabbages seem to keep her clients fuller for a longer period of time, says Cipullo.
Bonus: The lean protein from the chicken adds to the fullness factor, which helps curb late-afternoon cravings.
Roast 1 1/2 cups of shredded Brussels sprouts. Add a palm-sized portion of grilled chicken, one strip of cooked bacon, and cherry tomatoes to taste.
Mix two parts olive oil to one part apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper, coating the salad with the mixture.
This combination of protein, fibre, and healthy fats is super-satiating and will help keep your appetite in check over the long haul, says registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet.
Mix one can or packet of tuna with half an avocado, plus seasonings like garlic or chilli powder to taste.
Spoon onto a whole-wheat wrap and top with salad greens.
There’s tons of protein and fibre-rich carbs in veggie burgers (mostly from soy beans or other beans), says Hritz.
The protein and fibre will keep you full, and the carbs will give you an energy boost, curbing your appetite until dinner.
Cook a veggie burger and top with one slice of low-fat cheese, mushrooms, and tomato on a whole-grain bun.
Fish provides a good amount of protein to keep you full and metabolism-boosting omega-3 fatty acids (especially albacore tuna or salmon), says Hritz.
Plus, the cabbage, avocado, and whole-wheat tortillas provide low-calorie fibre.
Layer a whole-wheat tortilla with a palm-sized portion of fish (sautéed and shredded), half a chopped avocado, and shredded red cabbage.
This easy creation is full of flavour and contains more than 20 grams of protein, keeping you full (and satisfied) throughout the afternoon, says Braaten.
Start with a base of 1/2 cup of brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes, or lots of greens.
Top with a half can of black beans mixed with taco seasoning, pico de gallo, and an avocado slice or dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
This salad is easy to take on the go, doesn’t require heating, and is packed with weight-loss promoting nutrients, says registered dietitian McKenzie Flinchum. The quinoa is a great protein source and full of fibre, while the pistachios are low in calories and contain heart-healthy fats.
As for the reduced fat feta cheese: It boosts the protein content of the meal without the fat and calories of other cheeses, which further contributes to the feeling of satiety, says Flinchum.
To make two servings, cook 1/2 cup of quinoa and let it cool. Mix in 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, 1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries, 1 or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest.
SPICY SHRIMP AND BLACK BEAN WRAP
The whole-wheat wrap provides fibre, the shrimp is a source of lean protein, and the black beans add to the fibre and protein quotas, says Flinchum.
The hummus adds flavour, but heart-healthy fats help keep your blood sugar in check, quashing cravings before they start. On top of all that, adding spring mixed greens is an easy way to add volume and fibre to a meal without adding many calories, she says.
Spread 1 tablespoon of hummus over the bottom of a whole-wheat wrap. Add 60 grams of cooked shrimp (roughly 5 or 6 shrimp) and 1/3 cup black beans. Top with spring mix and 1 to 2 tablespoons of salsa.
PEANUT BUTTER CUP SMOOTHIE
Having a smoothie—and taking a short break from solid foods—encourages your metabolism to burn off stored fat, says Caroline Apovian, R.D., director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center.
The high protein content feeds your muscles and prevents muscle loss, which contributes to a slower metabolism and higher body fat.
Blend 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 banana, 1 cup of spinach, 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of powdered peanut butter, and 1 serving of protein powder.
Blend until smooth, adding water or ice to achieve your desired consistency.
GREEK YOGURT CHICKEN SALAD
The chicken and yogurt contain protein, while the almonds contain protein and healthy fats. That keeps your stomach full and your blood sugar in check, says Ashvini Mashru, R.D., author of Small Steps to Slim.
The water content and fibre from the celery, apple, and grapes adds to the satiety factor by filling you up with fewer calories.
To make three servings, dice 1 poached boneless, skinless chicken breast and place in a large bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons of nonfat Greek yogurt until the chicken is evenly coated.
Add 2 or 3 tablespoons each of diced celery, apple, and grapes, along with 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds.
MASON JAR SALAD
“This lunch packs a heavy punch of fibre to help you feel full and curb cravings,” says registered dietitian Taylor D’Anna.
Layer your favourite salad components in a jar and pour in your dressing of choice.
Add firmer veggies to the bottom of the jar, like tomatoes, cucumber, or peppers.
Then add your greens. Opt for a mix of kale, spinach, and romaine for a flavourful and vitamin-rich mix.
Don’t let the name fool you. This is a delicious way to morph your leftovers into a brand new dish, says D’Anna. Just make sure to include a combination of lean protein, fibre, and healthy fats for weight-loss success.
Start by adding a base, such as quinoa or brown rice (fibre). Next, add grilled chicken (lean protein), tofu, or even hummus (protein and healthy fats).
Choose a colourful addition of veggies, such as peppers, onion, carrots, cauliflower, or broccoli (for more fibre).
Lastly, add your seasonings to taste.