Lunchtime, Simplified

healthy pasta salad

Is meal planning a challenge for you when it comes to lunchtime? Do all your best intentions go out the window when you get to work and your coworkers decide to go out (again!)? How do you follow your healthy eating plan when others make it so much fun to follow another path?

road less traveled

If you are committed to making real changes in your life, you’re going to have to do things that other people won’t do. You will have to make friends with “the road less traveled,” at least by most people’s standards. But let me ask you this: do you really want to live by most other people’s standards? NO WAY! Be a leader, not a follower! It’s up to you to create an abundantly healthy life for yourself. You may have to say “no, thank you” when you’d rather say “yes”—especially when French fries or queso is involved. But other people’s decisions are not your decisions, because their goals are not your goals.

good choice bad choice

Here are a few tips to help you stay the course when surrounded by well-meaning but hungry friends at work:

Get Your Mind Right: No, those half-hearted “I guess I should eat something healthy” lines will not do! If you think that you should try to see if T.G.I.Friday’s has something green and nourishing on its menu, your resolve will crumble the moment your hunger becomes more ravenous than your willpower. Read that last sentence again—see those words “should,” “try,” and “if”? There’s no power there! Commit to feeding yourself well—you’re the only one who’s gonna do it.

Bring Your Lunch: This option is the best one for ensuring that your meal is exactly what you mean it to be. So, what’s on the menu? Lean protein, whole-grain carb or beans, fresh veggies and fruit, healthy fat, and lots of water. Downside: You need to plan ahead to prepare your lunch. So, the next time you get groceries, start thinking about your lunch options for the next few days. If you need to cook your healthy carbs (oatmeal, quinoa, rice, potatoes), give yourself a little bit of time on Sunday night to get ready for the week. I promise you will feel much more in control of things when you bring your fuel wherever you go.

Go Home for Lunch: This may not always be possible for everyone. But if you can do this, you will save so much money and be far better off. If you cannot make it home to eat, see above and bring your cooler! Lately, running home at lunchtime has been a nice break in the day. As long as I’ve prepared my food ahead of time, I can swing home, squeeze in an episode of Sex and the City while I eat, and return to work refreshed. It works for me J Downside: Allowing that I have lunch items ready in my house, the other danger here is home inertia. Once I’m home, I LOVE staying home. It’s tough to go back to work.

Pick Up a Healthy Lunch: This option is an essential for you worker bees out there trying to blaze a happy, healthy trail. Do you know how easy it is to zip into any number of fast food places because you only have 30 minutes to go, eat, and then get back? It’s such a temptation when you’re pressed for time—and let’s not forget the budget aspect here. Almost everyone can find a few spare dollars to throw at the closest drive-thru window, but is this truly serving you? Do your best to find a quick, nutritious restaurant or a convenient grocery store. Whole Foods sits right between my workplace and my home, so I’m kinda spoiled getting to stop off for good and yummy things. Downside: True, a healthier lunch will cost you more than anything on the $1 menu at Mickey D’s, but think about it this way—you can pay for it now, or you can pay for it later (with your health and your hard-earned money). I’m ponying up the dough right now!

Make Healthy Choices at a Restaurant: Sometimes, the lunch bunch cannot be avoided, and you will find yourself at the local lunch spot. Here’s where your knowledge of nourishing foods will be tested:

  • Depending on where you find yourself, you can search for heart-healthy or even vegetarian options on the lunch menu.
  • If you are craving something hearty and warm, choose broth-based soup rather than creamy soup.
  • A big green salad loaded with fresh veggies and a vinaigrette dressing is a great choice, but don’t stop there. A salad is a solid base, but it may not last you the rest of the afternoon.
  • Almost any restaurant will offer vegetable sides, and if you strive to order 2-3 green veggies or a salad and some green veggies, you’ll be doing great.
  • What’s your go-to carb? Instead of loading up on the bread basket, try adding redskin potatoes, a baked potato (unloaded!), or some rice.
  • Don’t forget your protein. Add a side of beans or eggs, or ask for baked fish, grilled chicken, or turkey.

No matter what lunchtime situation you find yourself in, you always have choices. Take care of yourself, one meal at a time, one day at a time. Pretty soon, you’re going to look around and love the life you are living.

To health and happiness!

Brooke

I make good choices

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