What Does a Healthy Lunch Look Like?

Posted on by Chiara Iacoviello. This entry was posted in Eating Well, Staying Healthy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Now that we know how to start off our day right with a nutritious breakfast, let’s explore lunch. We asked Judy Simon, dietitian at the UW Medical Center Roosevelt Clinic, adjunct faculty member of the Nutritional Sciences program, and host of our Ask the Dietitian Wednesday Q&A on our Eating Well group, if she would give us a few pointers. Together with her student intern Julian Whitford, she provided us some easy tips to create tasty, balanced meals.

What foods make a nutritious lunch?

Lunches, like any other meals, should be nutritionally balanced and enjoyable. An easy way to help build a balanced lunch is to include foods from at least 3 food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy/calcium-rich foods).

What should my lunch never lack?

Good and tasty food! The most nutritious foods in the world are no good if we don’t enjoy eating them.

What foods should I limit?

Try and limit processed foods (such as canned soups and sauces, deli meats, pre-made meals, and sodas). Choose mostly whole foods (fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, and whole grains) and lightly processed foods (pre-cut and frozen vegetables and fruit, hard-boiled eggs, canned tuna).

What are some ideas for quick and easy lunches?

What about portion size?

Size depends on your needs! Some people do well with a larger lunch if they have an active day. Other people may eat small snacks throughout the day and, for them, a light lunch is enough. I encourage folks to be intuitive with their food. If they are satisfied with ¾ of their lunch, save the rest for a snack later or keep it for the next day.

Packing your lunch vs. eating out – Does it really make a big difference?

You can have nutritious meals whether you are eating out or bringing food to work from home. However, eating meals that you prepared gives you control and knowledge of what and how much you are eating. Sodium and fat are usually much higher when eating out, and there are often many hidden calories from added fat or inexpensive processed grains.

Do you have any tips on how to plan in advance?

  • Write down some easy-to-prepare lunch ideas before the work week begins. Try writing down a weeks’ worth of lunches ahead of time.
  • When cooking dinner, make more than enough for the meal and use the leftovers as an easy lunch.
  • Prepare multiple lunches at one time.

What are some of your favorite lunch recipes?

During the workweek I love leftovers such as a hearty split pea soup, fruit and ak mak crackers when the weather is cold. I enjoy making entrée salads in Mason jars or grain bowls when I prefer a cold meal (check out these fun, tasty Mason jar recipes). On the weekends I love soup and splitting a grilled sandwich with my husband. It’s often grilled cheese and tomato on fresh bread with a little olive oil in the pan and fruit on the side.

Share your lunch pictures and recipes on the Whole U Eating Well Facebook Group this week and we’ll send you a Whole U multi-use measuring spoon (pictured at left). There is still time to register for the Put Your Best Fork Forward for 28 Days challenge we designed to celebrate National Nutrition Month. Register here and commit to making a small change each week for the next 3 weeks for what, with a little daily dedication, will amount to significantly better nutrition habits.