Put Your Best Fork Forward: Brown Bag Lunches for Every Diet

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"Put Your Best Fork Forward" was the theme for National Nutrition Month in 2017. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has selected this theme to remind us that each person has the tools to make healthier food choices. Making small changes this month and over the course of the year can improve your health now and into the future.

You can have a huge impact on your health by brown-bagging your lunch. Meals eaten at fast-food restaurants may be one of the largest contributors to the obesity epidemic in the United States. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 92 percent of restaurant meals exceed recommended calorie requirements for a single meal. Packing your lunch can reduce overall caloric intake and help you to achieve a healthy weight.

What’s more, no matter what type of diet you follow, brown-bagging your lunch can be simple, economical, and healthy. Try one of these easy, time-saving recipes this week:

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Paleo Diet: Tuna-stuffed Avocados

This simple recipe requires just a few ingredients and takes minutes to assemble.

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 4 ounces cooked or canned wild tuna
  • Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions: Slice the avocado in half and scoop the middle of both halves into a bowl. Leave a small amount of avocado in each shell. Add onion and lemon juice to the bowl and mash together with the avocado. Add tuna, salt, and pepper and stir.

Fill each shell with the tuna mixture. Place in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Gluten-free Diet: Shrimp Salad

This simple recipe can be prepared in advance and used for lunches all week long.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds cooked shrimp
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salad greens

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill for one hour. Keep in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve over salad greens.

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Vegan Diet: Stuffed Collard Green Wraps

Try this new twist on a traditional lettuce wrap.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large collard green leaves
  • ½ cup garlic hummus
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon flax oil

Directions: Lay collard greens open on a cutting board. Spread hummus over greens and top with peppers, almonds, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Drizzle mixture with flax oil. Roll up each wrap and slice in half. Place a toothpick in each half to secure. Wrap in foil and place in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Pescatarian Diet: Blackened Salmon Wrap

Prepare the salmon for dinner the night before and use the leftovers to make a delicious wrap for lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salmon filet, skinned
  • 2 teaspoons blackening or Cajun seasoning
  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • Whole wheat tortilla wraps

Directions: Rub salmon on both sides with seasoning. Grill until cooked through, about three to four minutes per side. Mash avocado and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Spread some of the avocado mixture on each wrap and top with salmon, arugula, tomato, and onion. Roll wrap and slice. Wrap in foil and place in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Heart-healthy Diet: Apple Chicken Salad

This meal uses fresh herbs for flavor without the added salt, creating a great low-sodium dish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions: Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Grill or roast in oven. Set aside to cool. Combine lime juice, vinegar, and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss. Dice the chicken and add to the apple mixture along with apples, mint, peanuts, and basil. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Spoon over salad greens. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Mediterranean Diet: Orange Chicken Salad

Use a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken to quickly assemble this delicious salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 cups sliced chicken
  • 1 cup shaved fennel
  • ¾ cup toasted pistachios
  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Directions: Place arugula and romaine in a large bowl. Top salad greens with sliced chicken, fennel, and pistachios. Peel three oranges and separate into sections. Add to salad. Juice the remaining orange into a small bowl. Add oil, sugar, salt, and pepper and whisk together. Store both bowls separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Pour dressing over salad right before eating.

The bottom line Making one of these quick and healthy lunches takes less time than leaving the office at lunchtime for take-out. Limiting the number of times you eat out each week is a great start in helping you meet your weight loss and nutritional goals.

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