Monday, March 11, 2013

Take-Out Lunch Ideas

We've all been there.  You didn't plan ahead to pack your lunch the night before.  You wake up late.   You're still adjusting to Daylight Savings. You open the fridge and find that you have nothing but condiments and beverages.  You have absolutely nothing to bring for lunch.  So you have to eat out for your mid-day meal.  Which is not a necessarily a bad thing for me because I enjoy the chance to escape the office. But it's not always great health-wise.  Here are some strategies and tips I use to get a health(ier)* lunch outside out of the office.

Usually when I know I will be eating out for lunch, I try to scope out the menus of the restaurant that I am going to eat at on the internet, and if available, review the nutritional information.  Around my office, there a lot of chain restaurants, and while it may not be the most interesting of meals, the nutritional information is readily available on the internet.  This way I already know what I want to order when I get there, and I am less likely to be tempted by the higher calorie options.


 Cosi has a bit of a nostalgia factor for me because there was one on my college , campus, and it was our go-to place to eat, drink fancy lattes, and toast s'mores among my friends.  I also love their flatbread sandwiches.  So it was much to my dismay the first time I pulled up the Cosi menu to find out how many calories were in the Chicken t.b.m. (I won't say how many for the people who don't want to know, but for those who do, click here).  Cosi does have a few options that are a bit more figure-friendly like the Fire-Roasted Veggie Sandwich pictured here.  Veggies are always a tasty option, and the feta cheese spread on this sandwich is nice.  Order it warm with a side of baby carrots instead of chips.  My other favorites are the Turkey Light, which uses a spicy mustard, and the Chicken Tandoori Light (with fat-free vinaigrette  on their "Lighter Side" menu.  I also like that Cosi offers the option of multigrain bread instead of their original signature bread.

Au Bon Pain

ABP sandwiches were once a college staple for me, but nowadays I stick with their soups with a breadstick on the side.  ABP features different soups each day, you can find a list of their soups of the day and their nutritional information on their website. Usually what I do before I go to ABP is check out the soups of the day on their website, choose one in which a medium soup is around 200 calories, and another alternative soup, in case the particular location I go to doesn't have the one I picked.  When I get there, I know exactly what I want to order, and plus a breadstick.  Generally, the lower calorie soups are the broth-based soups, as opposed to the cream-based ones.  Pictured here is the roasted eggplant soup with an asiago breadstick. A few of my other favorites are the Vegetable and Beef Barley,  Portuguese Kale, and Turkey Chili.

Taco Bell

Believe it or not, there are healthier options at Taco Bell! I get the bean burrito which you see here.  (Sorry for the atrocious picture, but Taco Bell is unfortunately very unphotogenic.) It's also the cheapest option you see in this post.

Salad Bar Lunch

Got a company cafeteria or a local deli with a salad bar?  With some careful selection of salad bar toppings, you can put together a healthy salad that is both satisfying and tasty.  Just go easy on the meat, cheese, sauces, and dressing.  I usually go with a few small pieces of chicken, a tablespoon of shredded cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, on top of lots of veggies

Don't have any of these options near your work? Going out to lunch with co-workers that doesn't have these options available.  I just try to eat a normal-sized meal, and then eat a lighter dinner.  Balance is key in eating healthier.

* I say "health(ier)" because these options are healthier then say, ordering a big mac and fries, but not necessarily healthier than bringing your own lunch, where you can control the amount of fat and sodium.  Also, since restaurant food tends to be higher in sodium, I try to limit eating out for lunch to about once or twice a week.

Note: I was not compensated to mention any of the products or businesses named above.  They have no idea who I am.  I am not a registered dietitian or medical professional.  These are simply strategies and tips that I use that have worked for me.  You should consult with a registered dietician or medical professional before making any changes in your routine.

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