Your Healthy Lunch Checklist
A healthy lunch can be as simple as an equation.
One way to save a load of money each month is to pack homemade lunches. Aside from the tremendous savings, homemade lunches are almost always healthier than what you’d end up grabbing as a quick meal on your lunch hour. If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is!
Let’s dig into five essential components to include in your lunch to make sure you’re getting the most out of your meal. Once you get the hang of packing healthy lunches, it’ll be second nature. Let’s dig in.
Fill up on nutrient dense non starchy vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are not only fantastic sources of essential vitamins and minerals, but they also can bulk up your portion size without contributing empty calories. Certain veggies, such as dark leafy greens, are also extremely rich in fiber, which means that they will help fill you up even if they aren’t calorically dense. Your veggies don’t have to be a boring salad— try to incorporate at least three different colored vegetables in your meal. This way, it will be colorful and interesting while also offering a variety of important antioxidants.
Make sure you get your protein
Protein is an extremely valuable macronutrient. The body only uses it for energy expenditure when it has no other option because it is so essential to other functions. Protein is broken down into various amino acids, which are the body’s building blocks. They are responsible for building every cell in our bodies and repairing any damaged tissue (i.e., after an intense workout). Make sure to include a quality source of protein in all your meals. This can be plant-based, such as tofu or legumes, or animal-based, such as lean, pasture raised chicken breast or salmon.
Don’t skip the healthy fats
All fats, in general, are often avoided under the misconception that they will lead to weight gain. There are unhealthy fats that you’d do well to avoid, but healthy fats are essential to your healthy meal checklist. Healthy fats are crucial macronutrients that play a role in brain function, hormone production, cell structure, and so much more.
There are two categories of dietary fats — saturated and unsaturated. While saturated fats are not very healthy and may increase the risk of unwanted illness, unsaturated fats are essential to include in your diet. Add an avocado to your lunch, drizzle your salad with quality olive oil, snack on some nuts and seeds, or have a fillet of salmon.
Include fiber and whole grains
Fiber is especially necessary for the well-being of your digestive system. Whole grains are a great source of fiber and offer many more nutrients compared to their processed carbohydrates, such as white bread or pasta. Try switching to brown rice, whole grain bread, and other pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. Because of the fiber, you will also notice that these alternatives will keep you full for a lot longer.
Don’t forget to drink water
Eating a healthy lunch is excellent, but don’t underestimate the importance of drinking enough water throughout the day. Make sure you drink a big glass of water with your lunch to stay hydrated. Try to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces each day, and bump it up if you are sweating (i.e., exercise or if it’s a hot day).
Fiber is also most effective in your digestive system if you drink water with your meal. If you get bored with regular water, you can put in a teabag, lemon slices, or your favorite berries to spice it up with some flavor.
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