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Let’s do lunch! But will it be healthy?

Mar 25, 2015 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Getting through the day can be an uphill climb. Work, stresses, errands, appointments—it’s all a balancing act worthy of Ringling Brothers. Of course, taking the time for a good lunch can give you fuel and focus. But that has its challenges.

First and foremost is the forest of fast food franchises that seem to be growing larger and larger around all our offices and neighborhoods. Wendy’s, Mickey D’s, and the entire food court at the Westfield Mall are a stone’s throw from our office, for instance. There’s also barbecue, burgers, and Italian choices.

A culinary knee-jerk reaction to all these temptations is the classic salad. But the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating, isn’t so sure. Salads can be a good way to go, but they warn that we have to be careful. “Regular salad dressings, cheeses, and mayonnaise-based salads (such as tuna, chicken, and egg salads) can contain unhealthy fats, hidden sugar, and salt. Not to mention lots of calories.” But the experts thoughtfully supply a salad building how-to that guarantees healthy and satisfying lunch salad:

Step 1: Build a vegetable base. Load your plate with leafy greens and raw or grilled vegetables.

Step 2: Add some protein—a few scoops of garbanzo or kidney beans. Beans are an excellent source of fiber—and they’re filling! Other good selections include grilled chicken, low-fat cottage cheese, or chopped eggs. Go light on the cheese. A sprinkle of a strongly flavored cheese like feta or Parmesan can deliver flavor with fewer calories.

Step 3: Add a small amount of healthy fat. Sprinkle on the nuts and seeds. They are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and healthy protein, give you a feeling of fullness and help food stay in your stomach longer. You might also opt for a dash of oil and vinegar.

Step 4: Whole grains and fruit make a nice addition to a creative salad. Look for whole grains like barley or bulgur wheat to sprinkle on top. Or add a few slices of fruit.

If the salad building techniques described above require too much craftsmanship for your tastes, salads aren’t the only way to go. Here are some other Harvard suggestions:

“Your meal should include lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates, and produce. Roughly half of your plate should be vegetables or fruit; one-quarter should be lean protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, tofu, beans, or low-fat cottage cheese; and one-quarter should be whole grains, such as one slice of whole-grain bread, or half a cup of brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, or quinoa. You might include a small amount of healthy fat, such as a tablespoon of oil-and-vinegar dressing on your salad.”

Come to think of it...that doesn't seem much easier than the salad building.

--Sarah Hagerty
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