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10 Super Yummy Lunches - They're Diet Friendly Lunch Ideas, Too

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Do you think you're destined to a lifetime of red, white or green-boxed microwaveable lunches now that you've sworn off fast food forever? Or maybe you feel you're stuck in a rut of turkey or chicken breast on whole wheat with low-fat or no-fat mayo.

If so, you’ve got 'em... the dreaded brown bag blues.

Almost every healthy eater falls victim to this not-so-mysterious ailment at one time or another. What follows usually ain't so pretty: after just a few weeks of following a healthy meal plan, you get sick of traditional lunch staples and figure the only cure is slipping on over to your favorite fatty burger-and-fry joints.

Well, hold the mayo and hold your horses. Your days of successful dieting aren’t behind you yet. Variety is the spice of life. It’s also the key ingredient in sticking to a healthy eating plan.

Delicious and dynamic lunches come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with convenience, low cost and great taste, according to America’s favorite energy coach, Pam Smith.

Smith, the author of The Smart Weigh (Lifeline Press) and The Energy Edge (HarperCollins), has made a living feeding hungry folks healthy foods. From NBA superstar Shaquille ONeal to PGA pro Larry Nelson, the wellness coach has schooled a team of prominent athletes and businessmen in the art of healthy living.

Whether you are packing lunch for you or your children (they also need a well-balanced meal!), Smiths versatile menu is the ideal way to go back to school or off to work. While some of her quick picks require a microwave or thermos, others can be served cold in any school lunchroom or workplace cafeteria.

Smith says one of the secrets to a great lunch is to precede it with a well-balanced breakfast.

"The smartest tip for a power lunch is to have a great breakfast!" she tells eDiets from her home base in Orlando, Florida. "It gets your metabolism burning high and blood chemistry stabilized for an energized day. Lunch picks up where breakfast left off: it fuels the rest of your day’s activities.

"Like breakfast, lunch should contain a healthy balance of whole-grain, complex carbohydrates and low-fat protein to keep your performance and well-being at its peak and your appetite in control. In addition, quick energy giving, nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables round out the perfect power lunch."

Advance planning is a crucial part of healthy eating. If you don't plan ahead, you're likely to end up eating in the same old hot spots where a burger can cost you more than 590 calories and 34 grams of fat and a deli sandwich can tip the scale at more than 900 calories and 60 grams of fat. The latter is about half the calories and all of the fat the average woman should consume in a day.

Gulp... packing a lunch can greatly benefit your weight loss efforts.

One thing that’s important to remember: how you pack lunch is just as important as what you pack, especially when dealing with perishable foods. Sandwiches, soups and pizzas require more TLC than baked chips, fruits or vegetables.

Lunches carried from home often sit in a desk or locker until noon. That long wait at room temperature makes them a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So, pack wise to stay safe. Smith offers these precautionary measures:

  • Use hot soapy water on hands, countertops, utensils and cutting boards before and after food preparation.

  • Keep cold foods cold (below 60 degrees) and hot foods hot (above 125 degrees). Use thermal containers and give them a head start by chilling cold containers with ice water or a short freezer visit, while you preheat hot containers with boiling water. Make sure the hot food is very hot (for liquids, that's almost boiling) before going into the thermos.

  • Invest in a mini-cooler or an insulated bag. Freeze your juice box, water or beverage in a plastic container; it will serve as a perfect cold pack to help keep your foods cool.

  • If you make sandwiches in advance, wrap them airtight and refrigerate (they’ll keep for a day that way). You can also make and freeze meat sandwiches assembly-line style in sandwich bags, then store them in a large freezer-weight bag for up to a month. Pull one out of the freezer in the morning, and it will be thawed by lunch. Keep your sandwiches from becoming soggy by packing the little extras like tomato, lettuce and condiments in separate plastic bags to spread or tuck in the sandwich just before eating.

    Ready for 10 super-yummy and super-quick lunches that'll awaken your taste buds and put to rest your view of boring brown bag meals? Smith recommends you check out these 10 gourmet on-the-run lunches.

    1. Cheese Quesadillas
    Sprinkle 2 ounces shredded part-skim cheddar cheese on a fat-free whole-wheat tortilla. Add peppers, tomatoes and/or mushrooms, if desired. Drizzle with salsa. Fold and brown in a nonstick skillet until cheese melts. Serve with melon slices.

    2. Baked Spaghetti
    Spread cooked whole-wheat angel hair pasta into a sheet pan. Top with one jar of Classico Tomato Basil Sauce and sprinkle with one pound of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes on 375 degrees. One serving is index card size (about 3"x5"). Freeze the remaining servings for up to 6 weeks. Serve with "Salad in a Bag" with low-fat vinaigrette dressing.

    3. Vegetable Tortilla Pizza
    Brush a large whole-wheat flour tortilla with Classico's Tomato Basil Sauce and top with chopped veggies of choice. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella. Bake until lightly brown and crisp (about 5 minutes on 450 degrees). Serve with baby carrots.

    4. Grilled Chicken Sandwich
    Grill a marinated chicken breast (you can grab one from your freezer!). Serve on a whole-grain bun with lettuce, tomato, salsa or Dijon mustard. Add a side of fresh fruit.

    5. Turkey and White Bean Soup
    Add pre-cooked smoked turkey breast to chicken stock, tomato and Cannellini Beans. Serve with raw veggies and fresh fruit.

    6. Quick Taco Salad
    Rinse off canned black beans. Season with Creole seasoning and sprinkle shredded part-skim cheddar cheese. Heat and serve over mixed greens. Top with crumbled baked Tostitos and salsa. Serve with sliced oranges.

    7. Even Quicker Greek Salad
    Top mixed greens (from a bag!) with crumbled feta cheese, shredded Boars Head turkey or ham, and drizzle with low-fat vinaigrette dressing. Serve with toasted petite whole-wheat pita and a piece of fruit.

    8. Cheese Baked Potato
    Microwave potato for four minutes. Cut in two and top both halves with cooked broccoli florets and Laughing Cow cheese wedges (2 per potato) or other part-skim milk or soy cheese. Microwave until cheese melts. Top with nonfat sour cream. Serve with salad and low-fat vinaigrette dressing.

    9. Turkey Tortilla Roll
    Spread a whole-wheat flour tortilla with Dijon mustard. Top with sliced Boars Head turkey, shredded lettuce, diced tomato and shredded part-skimmed cheddar cheese. Roll up burrito-style and serve with seasonal berries.

    10. Tuna or Salmon Salad Pita
    Mix 1 small can of water-packed salmon or tuna with 1 tablespoon lite mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, chopped red pepper, 1/2 diced apple, and salt and pepper to taste. Stuff into whole- wheat pita lined with lettuce leaves. Serve with remaining sliced apple.

The mission of Team Beachbody is to motivate you and to educate you about health, fitness and nutrition and the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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