When you’re trying to shed kilos, lunchtime can be a real battle.
“Although there doesn’t seem to be anything special about lunch, consuming regular, healthy meals and reducing snacking may help you lose weight,” says registered dietician Dr Tom Hritz, clinical nutrition manager at Mercy Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Aiming for three healthy meals a day, including lunch, can help maintain appetite-regulating hormones and keep your blood sugar stable, making it even easier to resist cravings when they strike, says Dr Hritz.
Read more: The 15 minute workout you can do in your lunch break
So to keep your second meal of the day on point, we’re bringing you 14 easy lunches that you can actually get excited about. Bonus: They’ll help you lose weight.
1. Kale salad with salmon and avocado
Eating leafy greens is a great way to increase the volume of your meals without increasing the kilojoules, says New York-based registered dietitian Brooke Alpert.
Meanwhile, salmon is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids – the former boosts fullness while the latter revs up metabolism, she says. Avocado is also packed with protein and contains a compound called oleic acid, which can reduce your appetite and melt away belly fat.
Mix a handful of chopped kale with a palm-sized portion of salmon and half of an avocado, pitted and cut into small chunks. Add chopped tomato, cucumber, and bell peppers to taste.
Drizzle with lemon dressing (three parts extra-virgin olive oil, one part lemon juice).
2. Tuna wraps with pesto and tomato
Lean protein is crucial when it comes to appetite control.
“Studies have shown that making your protein intake 25 to 30% of kilojoules can cut cravings by 60%,” says Alpert.
That helps to curb those 3pm vending machine binges. And even though pesto is higher in kilojoules, it can improve cholesterol and decrease inflammation, which play a role in obesity and metabolic disease, she adds. Plus, it adds a ton of flavour so you’re satisfied quicker.
Mix one can or packet of tuna with your choice of pesto and chopped tomato. Spoon onto lettuce leaves, roll up, and enjoy.
Read more: Four ways to build the ultimate protein bowl that you can throw in your bag and take wherever you go
3. Peanut butter and banana sandwich
The peanut butter, banana and whole-grain bread all provide fibre from low-kilojoule sources, which helps you stay full, says Dr Hritz.
There’s also some healthy, monounsaturated fat in the peanut butter, which helps keep your blood sugar in check and levels out your appetite.
Bonus: You can keep all of these ingredients in your desk drawer.
Spread two tablespoons of peanut butter onto one slice of sprouted whole-grain bread and add a layer of banana on top. To stomp out your hunger, add another dose of low-kilojoule fibre with a side of carrot and celery sticks, he says.
4. Brussel sprouts with grilled chicken
Like most vegetables, Brussel sprouts are high in fibre, but these petite cabbages seem to keep her clients fuller for a longer period of time, says Laura Cipullo, registered dietitian and author of The Women's Health Body Clock Diet.
Bonus: The lean protein from the chicken adds to the fullness factor, which helps curb late-afternoon cravings.
Roast 1 1/2 cups of shredded Brussel sprouts. Add a palm-sized portion of grilled chicken, one strip of cooked bacon and cherry tomatoes to taste.
Mix two parts olive oil to one part apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper, coating the salad with the mixture.
Read more: Add this protein-packed chicken burger to your recipe book
5. Tuna salad
This combination of protein, fibre, and healthy fats is super-satiating and will help keep your appetite in check over the long haul, says registered dietitian Cara Harbstreet.
Mix one can or packet of tuna with half an avocado, plus seasonings like garlic or chilli powder to taste.
Spoon onto a whole-wheat wrap and top with salad greens.
6. Veggie burger
There’s tons of protein and fibre-rich carbs in veggie burgers (mostly from soy beans or other beans), says Dr Hritz.
The protein and fibre will keep you full, and the carbs will give you an energy boost, curbing your appetite until dinner.
Cook a veggie burger and top with one slice of low-fat cheese, mushrooms, and tomato on a whole-grain bun.
Read more: Craving chips? This is how to make your own vegetable crisps and satisfy your junk food cravings
7. Fish tacos
Fish provides a good amount of protein to keep you full and metabolism-boosting omega-3 fatty acids (especially albacore tuna or salmon), says Dr Hritz.
Plus, the cabbage, avocado and whole-wheat tortillas provide low-kilojoule fibre.
Layer a whole-wheat tortilla with a palm-sized portion of fish (sautéed and shredded), half a chopped avocado, and shredded red cabbage.
8. Burrito bowl
This easy creation is full of flavour and contains more than 20g of protein, keeping you full (and satisfied) throughout the afternoon, says New York-based registered dietitian Emily Braaten.
Start with a base of 1/2 cup of brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes or lots of greens.
Top with a half can of black beans mixed with taco seasoning, salsa and an avocado slice or dollop of plain Greek yoghurt.
Read more: 6 ‘healthy’ foods you should cut back on if you want to lose weight
9. Quinoa salad
This salad is easy to take on the go, doesn’t require heating and is packed with weight-loss promoting nutrients, says registered dietitian McKenzie Flinchum. The quinoa is a great protein source and full of fibre, while the pistachios are low in kilojoules and contain heart-healthy fats.
As for the reduced fat feta cheese: It boosts the protein content of the meal without the fat and kilojoules of other cheeses, which further contributes to the feeling of satiety, says Flinchum.
To make two servings, cook 1/2 cup of quinoa and let it cool. Mix in 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, 1/4 cup reduced fat feta cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries, one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, two teaspoons of olive oil, and one tablespoon of lemon zest.
10. Spicy shrimp and black bean wrap
The whole-wheat wrap provides fibre, the shrimp is a source of lean protein, and the black beans add to the fibre and protein quotas, says Flinchum.
The hummus adds flavour, but heart-healthy fats help keep your blood sugar in check, quashing cravings before they start. On top of all that, adding spring mixed greens is an easy way to add volume and fibre to a meal without adding many kilojoules, she says.
Spread one tablespoon of hummus over the bottom of a whole-wheat wrap. Add 60g of cooked shrimp (roughly five or six shrimps) and 1/3 cup black beans. Top with spring mix and one to two tablespoons of salsa.
Read more: 6 food combinations that are insanely good for you
11. Peanut butter cup smoothie
Having a smoothie – and taking a short break from solid foods – encourages your metabolism to burn off stored fat, says registered dietitian, Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center.
The high protein content feeds your muscles and prevents muscle loss, which contributes to a slower metabolism and higher body fat.
Blend one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, one banana, one cup of spinach, three tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, two tablespoons of peanut butter, and one serving of protein powder. Blend until smooth, adding water or ice to achieve your desired consistency.
12. Greek yoghurt salad
The chicken and yoghurt contain protein, while the almonds contain protein and healthy fats. That keeps your stomach full and your blood sugar in check, says registered dietitian, Ashvini Mashru, author of Small Steps to Slim.
The water content and fibre from the celery, apple and grapes adds to the satiety factor by filling you up with fewer kilojoules.
To make three servings, dice one poached boneless, skinless chicken breast and place in a large bowl. Mix in two tablespoons of non-fat Greek yoghurt until the chicken is evenly coated.
Add two or three tablespoons each of diced celery, apple and grapes, along with two tablespoons of slivered almonds.
Read more: Eat this high-calorie food at least once a week to stay lean
13. Mason jar salad
“This lunch packs a heavy punch of fibre to help you feel full and curb cravings,” says registered dietitian Taylor D’Anna.
Layer your favourite salad components in a jar and pour in your dressing of choice.
Add firmer veggies to the bottom of the jar, like tomatoes, cucumber or peppers.
Then add your greens. Opt for a mix of kale, spinach and romaine for a flavourful and vitamin-rich mix.
14. Garbage bowl
Don’t let the name fool you. This is a delicious way to morph your leftovers into a brand new dish, says D’Anna. Just make sure to include a combination of lean protein, fibre and healthy fats for weight-loss success.
Start by adding a base, such as quinoa or brown rice (fibre). Next, add grilled chicken (lean protein), tofu, or even hummus (protein and healthy fats).
Choose a colourful addition of veggies, such as peppers, onion, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli (for more fibre).
Lastly, season to taste.
This article was originally published on www.menshealth.com
Image credit: iStock