Food for Thought - The Low Calorie Lunch Hour

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Eat a healthy lunch

12 Secrets to a Tasty Low Cal Lunch

by Kim Paolino

For many of us, the perplexing question of the day arises as soon as that last bite of breakfast is taken. What's for lunch?

In today's fast paced world, it's still possible to eat right. You can make the mid-day meal low-fat and nutritious, yet quick and easy- while staying within your budget and not sacrificing taste.

When eating on the go, whether at work, school, or dining out with the gang a couple times a week, it doesn't take long to discover how difficult it can be to manage a healthy diet. Of course, brown bagging it is one option, but if you work in an environment like mine that's not always the solution.

For the past fifteen years I've been privileged to be employed by the New York City Fire Department, and I'm currently assigned to Division 14 in Corona, Queens. As a civilian employee of the FDNY, I work with over 50 firefighters, lieutenants, captains and chiefs (lucky me!). I can personally attest to the fact that firefighters are amazing cooks, and their culinary skills are only surpassed by their tremendous appetites.

Trying to keep up with them and their portion size can add a lot of extra pounds to this girl's body -- something I just don't want. I need to be smart and continuously aware of what I'm eating. Planning and preparing ahead cuts down on the impulsive eat-what-you-can-get your-hands-on syndrome, saving you unwanted fat and calories.

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Follow the below 12 steps to get a head start on a healthy lunch.

Today, many work environments and offices now provide refrigerators, microwaves - considerably expanding the lunch menu. Take advantage of this fact by keeping the refrigerator stocked with such staples as fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and carrot sticks. Whole wheat bread, reduced fat peanut butter, mustard, and low-fat mayo make a good foundation. Try a salad in a bag, they comes pre-washed and ready to eat. Mix that with any other raw vegetable, (celery, peppers, radishes, etc.), add a serving of chic peas, a sprinkle low-fat dressing, and viola, a nutritious, low-fat lunch - that tastes great!

When preparing your own food, think variety! Try not to eat the same thing twice in the same week. As a cardinal rule, keep it interesting; boredom can sabotage the healthiest, most well intentioned diet, and send you running for the nearest fast food joint or Chinese resturant.

Leftovers are a big aid to consuming a low cal, nutritious lunch. At home, prepare roasted skinless chicken and baked potatoes for dinner one night - just make a little extra. Pack up and bring the leftovers to work with you the next day. One tasty option is to cut up the baked potato and a tomato and drizzle with some balsamic vinegar. This makes a great low-fat side salad to that piece of homemade chicken. You'll be totally satisfied without the extra fat and calories, while saving a couple of bucks as well.

Sandwiches are one of the most common lunch selections. When ordering a cold cut sandwich from a deli, pay attention to how much meat they pile on. Chances are it will be enough to make two or even three sandwiches, the size of which you'd make at home. As with any meal, watch portion size, and if necessary remove some of the meat. Remember, according to the USDA and the Food Guide Pyramid System, a serving size of meat is about 3 to 4 ounces.

Processed deli meats, such as bologna, salami, and pepperoni, are high in fat and salt. Choose leaner cuts, such as sliced turkey breast, lean roast beef, or grilled chicken. Eating the right kind of sandwich for lunch can be very fulfilling, and a great combination of carbohydrates and protein that will fuel your afternoon.

When it comes to bread selection, opt for the more nutritious whole wheat or rye. Eating a sandwich on sliced bread rather then a hero or roll saves many calories.

I know we all love cheese. Make a deal with yourself, one or two slices of cheese on your sandwich once a week and that's it. As a tasty substitute, try tomatoes, pickles, onions, jalapeno pepper, and lettuce. I like to slice oranges on my turkey sandwich and use a little mustard. Sounds weird, but it's a taste bonanza.

If using mayo, try low fat - you'll never taste the difference. Horseradish sauce (Heinz is my favorite), with only two grams of fat per one teaspoon gives any sandwich a nice little kick.

Instead of potato chips or mayonnaise drenched potato
salad spoiling your otherwise low fat lunch, try pretzels, applesauce, or my favorite, a sweet salad of chopped carrots and apples laced with balsamic vinegar.

For those days that life gets too busy and you just can't stop and eat, have some fruit, dry cereal, nature valley bars, flavored mini rice cakes or pretzels available. Don't just not eat. Lunch supplies energy for a successful day at work or at home.

When dinning out for lunch use common sense. Skip the
bread and butter, begin with a salad and be conscious of what type and how much dressing you use. Pass on the fried, and cheesy appetizers in favor of a grilled or broiled entree. Also, watch what your beverage consumption. Soda will add unwanted calories and sugar to any meal. Stick with a tall, cool glass of water with a wedge of lemon. No calories here, and oh so good for you.

During that much needed lunch break, try getting outside for some fresh air, walk around a bit, or sit quietly with yourself and meditate. Go back to work fulfilled and relaxed.

Eating right for lunch doesn't mean giving up all your old favorites. If you follow the above 12 steps you can still enjoy lunch, while cutting back on unwanted calories. And just as a reminder, remember the cardinal rule --Everything in moderation.

Working out and eating right is the fastest way to shed those extra pounds. Get your copy of the
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