25 Healthy Grab-and-Go Lunches
"I love Chipotle's 'food with integrity' philosophy and their fresh, high-quality ingredients," says Cynthia Sass, R.D., author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches
. Her favorite menu item? A simple salad with only lettuce, black beans, fajita veggies, tomato salsa, corn salsa, and guacamole. "This meal is delicious and will leave you feeling satisfied but also energized," she says. And the nutrition facts are impressive: 400 calories, just 2g saturated fat, 23g fiber, and 15g protein.
2. Bean Burrito
Not in the mood for a salad? Order a burrito made with only beans, fajita veggies, and romaine lettuce (the beans provide enough protein on their own) and ask them to hold the rice, meat, cheese, and sour cream, says nutritionist Amy Hendel, author of The 4 Habits of Healthy Families. A healthier alternative to traditional burritos, this option weighs in at 435 calories, 10.5g fat (3g saturated fat), 15g fiber, and 15g protein. It does, however, contain 1090mg sodium and about 72g carbohydrates so Hendel recommends watching your salt intake the rest of the day and if you can, lose some of flour burrito to reduce the calorie and carb load a bit.
(Need yet another reason to love Chipotle? You can calculate the nutrition info of your go-to order on their website. Decide what you want before you go, and you'll know exactly what you're getting when you sit down to eat.)
Photo credit: Beth Galton
1. Brie, Apple, and Sweet Fig Sandwich
It's not easy to find a grab-and-go sandwich under 400 calories with less than 500mg of sodium, but this one fits the bill, says Samantha Lynch, R.D., owner of Samantha Lynch Nutrition in New York City. Plus, it's incredibly tasty! "This sandwich brought back memories of when I was a child and my mom would make me raisin bread. It has the comforts of home with something sweet (apples and fig spread) and a little salt (from the cheese)." Weighing in at only 320 calories, 9g fat (5g saturated fat), 41g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, and 11g protein, this sandwich also provides 20 percent of your daily recommended dose of iron.
Lynch loves this warm, filling flatbread made with grilled zucchini, onions, peppers, and tangy feta cheese because it's not only under 400 calories, but it's also topped with fiber- and antioxidant-packed veggies. This sophisticated sandwich serves up 20 percent of your daily dose of iron and 15 percent of your calcium and vitamin C for only 390 calories, 10g fat (4g saturated fat), 53g carbohydrate, 5g fiber and 19g protein.
1. Honey Bourbon Chicken Sub
Quiznos' small Honey Bourbon Chicken Sub serves up only 340 calories and 6g fat, along with whole grain bread, lean grilled chicken, and fiber-filled vegetables. "And the relatively guilt-free honey bourbon mustard and zesty grill sauce add flavor for minimal calories," says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of The 1:1:1 Diet. More noteworthy nutrition stats: 5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 13g sugar, and 22g protein.
2. Harvest Chicken Salad
"Quiznos' Harvest Chicken Salad is probably one of the healthiest chicken salads you'll find on deli menus, thanks to fresh fruit and vegetables, antioxidant-rich pumpkin seeds, and a tangy Acai vinaigrette," Batayneh says. The small version weighs in at 300 calories and 9g protein. While the fat content might seem a little high (19g), most of those are the heart-healthy, mono- and polyunsaturated kinds that will satisfy your appetite until dinner, she adds. The complete nutrition score (with dressing): 300 calories, 19g fat (4.5g saturated fat), 24g carbohydrates, 19g sugar, and 9g protein.
1. Quarter White Rotisserie Chicken (Skin Removed)
with a side of garlic dill new potatoes and steamed vegetables
There's no need to feel deprived at lunchtime! "Many people have this belief that a low-calorie lunch can only have protein and vegetables and no carbohydrates, let alone potatoes," Lynch says. That's definitely not the case with this midday meal. This satisfying lunch clocks in at only 400 calories, 9.5g fat (1.5g saturated fat), 5g fiber, and a whopping 53g protein.
2. Three-Piece Dark Rotisserie Chicken (Thigh and 2 Drumsticks, Skin Removed)
with a side of garlic dill new potatoes and fresh steamed vegetables
When it comes to picking out a healthy lunch, the lowest-calorie option isn't always best, Lynch says. "Pick the meal with the most nutrients." If, for example, you've been sticking with white meat chicken because you think it's lower in calories, you may want to reconsider your choice. One ounce of boneless, skinless chicken breast contains about 48 calories and 2g fat, compared with about 50 calories and 3g fat for an ounce of boneless, skinless thigh. Plus, dark meat has some added nutritional benefits—compared to white meat, it contains more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12, Lynch says. This delicious, nutritious meal totals 460 calories, 9g fat (4g saturated fat), 5g fiber, and 45g protein.
1. Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich
with a fruit cup
This hearty, grilled chicken sandwich is low in saturated fat, high in protein, and feels like a real meal for under 400 calories, Lynch says. The complete lunch clocks in at 355 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 58g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 20g sugar, and 29g protein.
2. Grilled Market Salad
with roasted nut and mixed fruit blend
Resist the idea of ordering this low-cal salad solo, as you'd likely feel hungry shortly after. This salad is only 180 calories on its own (way too little for lunch), so adding the heart-healthy roasted nuts will keep you satiated longer, Lynch says. Made with nutrient-packed strawberries, blueberries, red cabbage, carrots, and lean protein (chicken), this combo is a lunchtime winner! "There's even a sprinkle of blue cheese—a great cheese that has tons of flavor so you don't need a lot of it," she adds. The full meal delivers 260 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 16g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 9g sugars and 27g protein.
1. Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box
A more sophisticated alternative to a bagged lunch, Starbucks' bistro boxes make a super portable, healthy meal option. This one contains grilled chicken strips, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, wheat pita, and hummus for 260 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 5g fiber, and 20g protein. If you want, you still have room to add a serving of fruit and iced tea or a skim latte without breaking the 400-calorie mark, Hendel says. "I really like the fact that all the ingredients are simple and recognizable."
2. Protein Bistro Box
Not in the mood for chicken? Grab a Protein Bistro box packed with a cage-free hard-boiled egg, cheddar cheese, honey peanut butter spread, multigrain bread, apples, and grapes instead. With only 380 calories, 19g fat (6g saturated fat), 5g fiber, and 13g protein, all for fewer than 500mg sodium, it's a pretty good choice, says Hendel, who suggests saving the apples and cheese for an afternoon snack and adding a skim latte to round out your meal.
1. Grilled Chicken Sandwich
While McDonald's regular hamburger weighs in at only 250 calories and 9g fat, it's also half the size of this grilled chicken sandwich, Batayneh says. Avoid feeling hungry a few hours later by ordering this more satisfying option instead. Made with just lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, it comes in at 350 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 42g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 8g sugars, and 28g protein. Want to slash more calories and fat? By holding the mayo, you'll cut 50 calories and 5.5g fat from your total, Batayneh says.
2. Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken
"This salad is surprisingly filling, offering 28 grams of muscle-building protein and seven grams of filling fiber, thanks to lean grilled chicken, black beans, and fresh vegetables," Batayneh says. While the nutrition score is commendable without making special requests—390 calories, 14g fat (3.5g saturated fat), 39g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 14g sugars, and 28g protein—you can make it even healthier by dropping the cheese (30 calories, 2g fat), dressing (100 calories, 6g fat), or chili lime tortilla strips (40 calories, 1g fat). "And you can still count on the cilantro lime glaze and fire-roasted corn for flavor," Batayneh says.
1. Fresco Chicken Soft Tacos (2)
with a side of black beans
You can find a healthy lunch south of the border! "When you order your tacos fresco [at Taco Bell], fresh lettuce and Pico de Gallo replace the cheese and avocado ranch sauce, reducing the calorie count by up to 200 calories per taco," Batayneh says. Made with flour tortillas, marinated and grilled all-white-meat chicken, shredded lettuce, and Pico de Gallo, you can order up two of these delicious tacos for just 300 calories, 7g fat (2g saturated fat), 36g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 4g sugars, and 22g protein. Batayneh recommends adding a side of black beans, which offer an extra dose belly-filling fiber (5g) for only 80 extra calories, to round out your meal.
1. Whopper Junior
"Burger King's Whopper Junior Sandwich is made with 100-percent USDA-inspected ground beef, making it a relatively lean and protein-rich meat source," Batayneh says. For only 340 calories, 19g fat (5g saturated fat), 28g carbohydrates, 6g sugars, and 14g protein, this burger makes a healthy, quick lunch that's easy to eat on the go. If you can, hold the mayo to cut the fat content almost in half and to save 80 calories.
2. Chicken, Apple, and Cranberry Garden Salad Wrap (Grilled)
This BK order offers a full, balanced meal in one portable wrap for only 430 calories, 18g fat (5g saturated fat), 47g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 17g sugars, and 19g protein, Batayneh says. "With seven different types of lettuce and fresh apples to add vitamins and fiber, the chicken brings lean protein, and a wheat tortilla offers sustaining carbs." You can make this meal even healthier by skipping the dried cranberries: each tablespoon adds 25 calories and 5g sugar, Batayneh says.
1. Breakfast Egg White Flatbread
This satisfying flatbread isn't just for breakfast! The turkey sausage flatbread comes in at 280 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated fat), 32g carbohydrates, 4g sugars, 3g fiber, and 18g of protein. There is plenty of room to add a light vanilla latte (for an extra 80 calories and 0g fat), just realize that with 770mg sodium, you'll need to watch your intake for the rest of the day, Hendel says.
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1. Classic Sirloin
with Pico de Gallo and broccoli
Surprisingly, the Classic Sirloin is the lightest option on Chili's 'Lighter Choices' menu, with just 250 calories, 7g fat (3g saturated fat), 12g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, and 38g protein, Batayneh says. This satisfying meal is flavored with a dry spice rub of chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, and oregano (which adds metabolism-boosting capsaicin as well as antioxidants).
2. Spicy Garlic and Lime Shrimp
with broccoli and black beans
On its own, Chili's Spicy Garlic and Lime Shrimp clocks in at just 170 calories, 9g fat (2.5g saturated fat), 6g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, and 15g protein, but it's part of the 'Make It A Combo' deal, which allows you to pick from two entrees, and is served with a side of steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. Batayneh recommends skipping the potatoes and sticking with just the shrimp and broccoli to hit the 250-calorie mark, and feel free to add a side of black beans for just 100 additional calories and five grams of filling fiber.
1. Berry Almond Chicken Salad (Half-Size)
Wendy's makes it easy to order a personalized salad so it only includes what you want, Hendel says. "You can limit the high-fat ingredients like cheese and get fat-free dressing or dressing on the side," Hendel says. Order up a half-size Berry Almond Chicken Salad for only 270 calories, 12g fat (3g saturated fat), 24g carbohydrates, 16g sugars, 5g fiber, and 21g protein. Hendel recommends reducing the 600mg sodium content by asking for the dressing on the side and using only two teaspoons, and holding the Asiago cheese. If you're still hungry, she suggests adding a few baked crackers or a small Greek low-fat yogurt on the side.
2. Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (Half-Size)
Hendel's second favorite salad on Wendy's menu weighs in at 340 calories, 18g fat (4.5g saturated fat), 28g carbohydrates, 21g sugars, 4g fiber, and 19g protein. To help reduce the sodium content (770mg), ask for the dressing on the side and hold the cheese.
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1. Veggie Lover's Thin n' Crispy Pizza (2 Slices)
You can have two slices of this pie for 340 calories, 12g fat (5g saturated fat), 2g fiber, 4g sugars, and 14g protein, but it also comes with 1060mg sodium so be sure watch your salt intake at all other meals and snacks, Hendel says. Better yet, Hendel recommends ordering just one slice plus fruit and yogurt or one slice plus a large salad with a sprinkle of nuts or seeds for added protein.
2. Chicken Supreme Pizza (1 Slice)
If you prefer protein on your pie, order a single slice of the Chicken Supreme Pan Pizza (12-inch medium) for 230 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated fat), 27g carbohydrates, 2g sugars, and 12g protein. To round out your lunch, Hendel recommends adding a piece of fruit and a skim latte.
1. Grilled Chicken Salad
Ordered as is, this salad has 424 calories, 15g fat (8g saturated fat), 13g carbohydrate, 8g sugars, 4g fiber, and 38g protein (not including dressing). Go ahead and order it, but ask them to hold the bacon bits and cheese to reduce the sodium (a whopping 1070mg!) and saturated fat content, Hendel says. An even better option: Eat only half (split it with a friend?) and add a small Berry Pom, Mango-Pineapple, or OrangeBerry smoothie for about 260 extra calories, she suggests.
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