We all like the idea of eating a healthy lunch every day, but with time constraints in the morning and sometimes the night before, packing a nutritious lunch isn’t always a priority.
And if you’re used grabbing unhealthy lunches or eating the same leftovers, nutrition experts say the key to a healthier lunch is planning ahead.
“To ensure your lunch is healthy, you have to understand what a healthy lunch looks like, and then be committed to providing it for yourself on a regular basis,” says Andy De Santis, a registered dietitian based in Toronto.
“Meal prepping is one option that may seem daunting to some, but cooking a healthy dinner and bringing leftovers works just as well.”
READ MORE: Healthy lunch options for kids
What the experts eat
For Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen, keeping your lunches simple can help those with time constraints.
In the video above, Sharp shows us how to make white bean avocado toast loaded with cannellini beans, hemp hearts and avocado.
“Avocado is rich in heart-healthy mono and saturated fats and vitamin E and fibre.”
She also recommends a curried chicken salad with green apples, curry powder and Greek yogurt.
“I love using Greek yogurt because it’s adding a ton of protein, and very little if any fat,” she tells Global News.
WATCH: How to make curried chicken salad
Sharp recommends grilling chicken (or whatever protein you love) over the weekend and using it for soup, salads and sandwiches throughout the week.
De Santis says eating out is tempting, but takeout generally tastes good due to salt, sauces and oils.
His lunches are often a breakdown of fruits or vegetables, a whole grain or starchy veggie and protein.
De Santis says he usually eats a mix of sandwiches with whole grain bread and low-sodium turkey slices or leftovers with quinoa or rice with tofu or trout. And when he does eat out (at places like Subway or Chipotle Mexican Grill) he makes sure the ingredients are healthy and he has an apple for dessert.
For registered dietitian Anar Allidina, her go-to lunch options include leftovers, soups or chilis and salads. And for anyone who gets bored with salads, Allidina says there are multiple ways to keep things interesting.
READ MORE: How to pack a healthy lunch
Make a base on a Sunday, for example, of greens, peppers, mushrooms, and other veggies you like, and top it with different proteins.
“One day you can add 1/2 cup of canned beans, or a half can of tuna, or some hard boiled eggs or leftover chicken. Switching up your protein choices to your salads keeps gives you variety so you are less likely to get bored.”
She also recommends making a pot of soup or chili in the beginning of a week and freezing it to enjoy throughout the week.
Why healthy lunches are key
And while breakfast is dubbed the most important meal of the day, experts say lunch can dictate how you feel during the workday.
De Santis says it is common for people to chase their hunger all day, as a result of poor snacking and no meal planning. “They eat whatever is in front of them or around, which usually doesn’t end up being a particularly healthy choice,” he says.
“They go home absolutely starving and the night ends up being characterized by heavy eating and less than ideal snack choices.”
He adds when you are sitting down for lunch, you have the choice to make it a healthy one.
“Being well fuelled throughout the day can help with mental focus and clarity.”
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