It's easy to hit the drive-thru for a burger and fries or some nuggets and a milkshake, but you know that's not a healthy way to eat. While you likely know that fast food isn't a nutritious option, that doesn't always mean you know what you should be eating at lunchtime. Fortunately, I've done all the work for you and brought you noontime advice from the best nutritionists in town. Here's what you need to know to create the perfect lunch any day of the week.
1. Pay Attention to Calories
One of the most important things to consider when you prepare or order your lunch is how many calories it has. As you know, taking in more calories than you burn is a sure fire recipe for weight gain. Lunch for the average woman should be between 400 and 450 calories. If you workout at some point during the day, you can eat closer to 500 calories without overdoing it.
2. You've Got to Have Some Protein
Not only does your body need protein for virtually every function it performs, but you also need it for energy. Experts suggest getting 20 to 30 grams of protein at lunchtime to help contribute to your daily needs and fuel you through the afternoon. This helps prevent eating junk food between meals, which is a great way to prevent weight gain. Choose lean meats, nuts, eggs, beans or cheese.
3. Don't Be Afraid of Carbs
The low-carb craze isn't as popular as it once was. That's because experts realize that your body needs a certain amount of carbs just to fuel you through the day. The trick is choosing complex carbs over the refined ones you find in white bread, baked goods and soda. Aim for 50 to 65 grams of good carbs when you make your lunch. Choose whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice, quinoa or fruits and veggies.
4. You Need Some Fat at Lunchtime
Fat isn't the bad guy it's been made out to be. Fat gives you energy and keeps your appetite satisfied so you don't make the mistake of eating junk food between meals. You've got to choose the healthy kind of fat though. That means opting for salmon, an avocado or some seeds over the fries and burger. You need 13 to 18 grams of healthy fats at lunchtime for the most benefit.
5. Go Easy on the Sugar
Some sugar is natural and comes in the form of healthy foods like fruit. However, added sugar piles on the calories and causes your insulin levels to spike, which leads to hunger when it crashes a short time later. Your lunch meal should be under 4 grams of sugar. Choose dried fruits, a sweet potato or some fruit over soda or a brownie.
6. Fiber is Pretty Important Too
Fiber is absolutely essential if you're trying to control your appetite and prevent weight gain. It digests slowly, which means you feel full longer when you eat a high fiber meal. Include fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and nuts or seeds to help you reach your fiber quota, which is about 8 grams at lunchtime.
7. Timing Matters Too
When you eat lunch plays a role in making sure you lose weight. The experts recommend enjoying your midday meal about 1 to 3 hours after your morning snack. So if you snack at 10:00, make sure you eat lunch sometime before 1:00. If you often forget lunch because you're so busy, set an alarm to remind you.
Are you ready to make lunchtime count for you? What's your favorite healthy thing to eat at noon?