What can you bring for lunch on the go? When all we have time for is to pack a brown paper bag or an insulated lunch box, it can be tough to find some tasty, portable options. While it sounds like a simple problem, it does take some thought, a trip to the grocery store, and some serious brainstorming. Luckily, the work has been done for you (well, except the grocery shopping!). Here are a few suggestions:
Sandwiches and Wraps
Chicken, turkey, lean cold cuts, and low-fat cheese on 100 percent whole-wheat bread ("whole grain" must be the first ingredient in the package's list) are all great options. Wraps, whole-wheat pita bread, and tortillas (not fried) are also good, but always check the number of calories. A 1-ounce corn tortilla has about 70 calories. Avoid mayo, tartar sauce, creamy dressings, and full-fat cheese. Use mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, or vinegar.
Use whole-wheat pasta and add vegetables and a low-calorie sauce (50–60 calories per half cup). Pack the pasta in a plastic container like GladWare or Tupperware. One cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has 170 calories.
Buy prepackaged bags of salad and keep them in your cooler, then add your low-calorie dressing at lunchtime. Avoid nuts, croutons, noodles, and creamy salad dressings.
Hot (in an insulated container) or cold soups are great, especially because research shows that low-calorie soups (fewer than 120 calories for 8 ounces) are very filling and help you eat less. But soups can have a lot of sodium. Your best bets are those with less than 600 mg per serving, such as those made by Healthy Choice and the low-sodium versions of Progresso and Campbell's soups.
There are also low-calorie soups from Fantastic Foods and Health Valley to which you only need to add hot water (make sure to follow the directions, and don't add too much).
Snacks and Sides
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, nutritious, and filling, and they don't have to be refrigerated or reheated. Apples, pears, grapes, and cut-up melon are durable and portable. You can also tote unsweetened all-natural applesauce packs or a small box of raisins. Other good choices:
• Nonfat yogurt is a great portable snack, but it's perishable, so pack it in an insulated bag or freeze it the night before.
• Low-calorie cereals (for example, Puffed Kashi, with only 70 calories per cup) work well in a sealable bag. Choose cereals with no more than 160 calories per cup, and avoid added sugar and partially hydrogenated oil.
• Hard-boiled eggs pack well, and you can eat only the whites or go for the entire egg, for about 80 calories.
• Whole-grain rice cakes vary widely in calorie and fat content. Quaker Lightly Salted Rice Cakes have only 35 calories.
• Energy bars tend to be high in calories and fat but are an okay alternative to candy bars. One bar shouldn't exceed 200 calories.
• Soy chips and baked chips are available in 1-ounce portions. Look for brands with fewer than 120 calories per ounce (potato chips have about 160).
• Jell-O Pudding Sugar-Free/Reduced Calorie Snacks have 60 calories and can be kept in a cooler until lunch.
• Jell-O Smoothie Snacks have 100 calories and are a good substitute for yogurt if you're not fan.
• Nabisco has created 100-calorie portion-controlled snack packs (Oreo Thin Crisps, Wheat Thins Minis, and others) that have no trans fat. They're a decent snack once in a while, but don't use them to replace fruit.