Steps to a Successful Lunch | Washington, DC Dietitian

It’s almost time to leave for work, and making a lunch to take with you just does not cross your mind. This happens to so many of the clients and friends that I talk to. They want to eat healthy, but time and other commitments can get in the way. My number one rule for healthy eating in general is planning ahead, whether its having snacks on hand, having some meal options for the week and preparing lunches ahead of time, especially when we are experiencing those rushed mornings. Here are some helpful tips to build a healthy lunch to-go! 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

 

Prepare Whole Grains a Day or Two Before. To help make lunch prep easier, trying buying whole grains from the market, such as brown rice or quinoa, and cook a good amount ahead of time. A lot of these whole grains only take a few minutes to cook, and can easily be made as you’re finishing up with dinner or a late night snack the night before. To spice your grains up a bit, you can quickly sauté a variety of vegetables or other legumes and add it to the mix.

Pre-Cut Your Vegetables. To help speed up the sautéing process, you can pre-cut your vegetables and store them in the freezer or refrigerator for easy access during meal prep. Many grocery stores sell vegetables already cut, which makes it even easier for storing! Chop up bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and celery and reserve for sautéing or cut some cucumbers, green beans, spring peas and carrots to use for salads. It is best to store these items in either air-tight containers or freezer bags.

Don’t Forget Your Proteins. Have your favorite proteins on hand and ready to be added to any grain bowl or salad. This can include sliced deli turkey, pre-cooked chicken or fish, or hard boiled eggs. If you prefer not to eat an animal protein, try out tofu or beans! These are loaded in protein and are perfect to give you that energy boost at lunchtime. They are also super fast to cook.

Or Your Spices! Forgo the salt, and add in a nice variety of spices! Spices have been known to have many health benefits, especially helping with balancing the digestive system. Turmeric, cumin and red pepper have anti-inflammatory effects while garlic contains protective phytochemicals that can fight bad bacteria in your body. Spices can easily be added to your salad dressings or sautéed veggies to take a regular meal to the next level!

Have Simple Toppings Available. Sometimes simple ingredients can take your meal up a notch. Some options to have on hand include avocado, hummus, seeds/nuts, low fat cheese, Greek yogurt, to light dressings. These can be added to sandwiches, salads, chilis and more. Greek yogurt is great as a mayo substitute and feta or cheddar cheese can be added to pretty much anything!

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

So now that you know what to prep ahead of time, what can you bring to work? Some of my favorite options include sandwiches loaded with veggies, soups and stews, salads with the works and rice or quinoa bowls. Think of some of your favorite meals that you eat out and try to recreate them, and use the plate method to guide your nutrient intake. You'd be surprised at what you can do! 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

You can get as creative as you want with these meals. There is no wrong or right combination of ingredients. Choose the ones you like best and start experimenting. Happy eating!

A Balancing Act | Washington DC Dietitian

There are many misconceptions about weight loss out there, mainly those that revolve around cutting out food groups and restricting food intake to reach your goals. But what if I told you that eating more instead of less could help with weight loss?

Many patients come in telling me about their typical meal plans. They skip breakfast, don't snack and eat a large lunch and dinner as their normal eating pattern. This, my friends, is also known as the Sumo Wrestler's diet. In order for sumo wrestlers to gain and maintain their weight (400-600 pounds), they skip breakfast, don't snack and eat an extra-large lunch and dinner. When we skip meals and snacks, our metabolism slows and we overeat later in the day, both which lead to weight gain. 

Therefore it is important to eat small amounts, frequently throughout the day. This helps your metabolism and keeps you satisfied to prevent overeating at meals. Try to aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, eating about every 3 hours. Not only does this keep your metabolism going, but it also keeps blood sugars stable to help prevent fatigue, headaches and cravings throughout the day.

Another important goal is to make sure that every meal and snack is a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates give you energy while protein and fat keep you feeling full and satisfied to hold you over in between meals. If you eat only carbohydrates your blood sugar goes up, but if you pair it with protein it stays more stable. Aim for 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you feeling satisfied. Eating only vegetables as snacks or eating "air foods" such as rice cakes will only leave you wanting more.

The point is to make everything that you eat count and be nutrient dense. Eating a balance at each meal and snack helps you stay satisfied, reduces cravings, increases energy, and prevents overeating later in the day.  Below are some examples to help clarify.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal made with skim milk topped with fruit and a small serving of nuts.
  • 2 Eggs with vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese, slice of whole grain toast on the side.
  • Whole grain cereal with skim milk
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, skim milk, low-fat yogurt and flaxseed

Lunch and Dinner

  • Salad with vegetables, beans and low-fat dressing
  • Soup with vegetables and beans or lean meat
  • Turkey sandwich with vegetables, mustard on whole grain bread
  • Lean meat or meat substitute, vegetable and starch

Snacks

Aim for around 150-180 calories and 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you satisfied between meals. Balanced options include:

  • Fruit and nuts
  • Fruit and low-fat cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Low fat yogurt (yogurt is a carbohydrate and there is protein in it)
  • Granola bars such as Kashi Chewy Bars or Snackwell's Cereal Bars (both include 5-8g of protein)
  • Sliced turkey and bread

Eat frequently and keep a balance of nutrients for overall health and satisfaction throughout the day.