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Healthy Lunch Ideas: A Nutritionist's Top Food Swaps

A smart, healthy lunch can change the course of your day—when you choose lean proteins and vegetables, your energy will stay at optimal levels throughout the afternoon. You know this, you really do! But in the middle of a hectic workday, it can be hard to resist the siren call of tasty, tempting carbs or fatty convenience foods—which usually lead you straight to a 3 p.m. wipeout. You know, the one that sends you diving for the candy bowl or vending machine. And even if you do manage to muscle it through 3 o'clock, you're so starving by 6:00 that you stuff yourself at dinner—disaster. Here are some quick, easy swaps that will make your midday meal instantly healthier, give you fuel to power you through the afternoon, and set you up for a smart dinner and healthy night's sleep too.
healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of Coke
Try: Code Blue

You are an American girl and love your can of Coca-Cola. Maybe you even save on the sugar calories by doing Diet Coke, but diet soda has its own downsides, and what nutrients are you getting? Zero! Swap your soda for Code Blue. This lightly carbonated blue beverage is sweetened naturally with agave (a cactus plant), has milk thistle (which helps detoxify the liver), prickly pear extract, electrolytes (which help keep sodium and potassium in balance in your body) and antioxidants, and is low in calories (40 per serving).



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of Mexican take-out
Try: a CedarLane low-fat burrito

Cancel your Taco Bell run and try a Cedar Lane low-fat burrito. You'll be amazed how delicious they are; each burrito has 260 calories (with only 1g fat) and is packed with 7g of fiber and 13g of protein so you feel and stay full. Spoon on some salsa to add an extra kick and barely any calories—even better, bring your salsa from home and you'll save money, too.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of white rice
Try: lentil salad

White rice piles on the processed-carb calories and is boring to boot. Spice up your side with a lentil salad instead. It will keep you going a lot longer because it's filled with about 10g more of fiber and 18g more of protein per serving. You can even make a meal of it with this delicious Warm Lentil Vegetable Salad with Feta, Dried Currants & Dill.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of potato chips
Try: Pop Chips

We all like a little salty crunch now and then, but if you swap your standard potato chips for Pop Chips, you'll save on fat and calories without sacrificing taste. Pop Chips come in seven tasty flavors, and they're prepared by some kind of mysterious pressure-cooking magic that gives them half the fat of fried chips (and saves you from greasy fingers). Best of all, they're 120 calories per serving—and unlike many deceptive bagged snacks, have only one serving in a bag!



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of celery
Try: edamame

Celery's a healthy snack or lunchtime side, but it's also—let's face it—a pretty bland one, and takes some washing and chopping time. How about nibbling on some frozen edamame? Take a handful, toss them in a baggie on your way to work, and by lunchtime they're ready to eat.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of peanut butter crackers
Try: Justin's nut butters

Have you convinced yourself that the peanuts in those bright-orange peanut butter crackers must make them a little bit good for you? What about Nutter Butters? Ha! For a healthy and delicious nut treat, check out Justin's nut butters. Spread the almond, peanut, or one of five other flavors (ranging from 170 to 190 calories per single-serving squeeze pack) on fruit, celery, carrots, whole grain bread, or Arnold's 100-calorie sandwich thins. Nutritionally and tastewise, nut butters rock! They're filled with protein and great nutrients like vitamin E, which nourishes your hair and skin. Nut butter also makes a great post-workout snack thanks to its easy portability and good balance of protein and healthy fats.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of sweetened yogurt
Try: dressed-up non-fat Greek yogurt

Even the non-fat version of Greek yogurt has a rich, satisfying texture, and if you flavor it with real cocoa powder, you add an antioxidant kick. For sugar-free, heart-healthy sweetness, sprinkle on some cinnamon, which has been shown to help regulate blood sugar.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of feta
Try: cottage cheese on your salad

Most cheeses—even feta, which has a good nutritional rep thanks to its high protein and nutrient content—are loaded with fat. Scoop low fat cottage cheese onto your salad instead: It's a great source of calcium and protein.



healthy lunches, healthy lunch ideasInstead of Fig Newtons
Try: Stretch Island Fruit Strips

Maybe you thought you were getting a "healthy" cookie with a Fig Newton—hey, it's got fruit! Nice try, it's all cookie. Stretch Island Fruit Strips are made only from fruit and have just 60 calories—an all-natural choice your body will thank you for.




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