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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Learning a new Lunch Routine

Taking lunch to work could be one of the simplest ways to trim calories, improve your nutrient intake and even save money.  When we eat out or grab a quick takeout meal, we often eat large portions and we end up eating the extras like french fries, a bag of chips or a cookie since these items routinely come with typical take-out lunch meals. When you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients and therefore, can improve the nutritonal quality of your diet. 

To keep lunch delicious, varied and easy, use these tips:

  • Plan ahead:  Make a list of the lunch meals that you enjoy eating and stock your kitchen with the necessary ingredients.  See below for an example! 
  • Keep convenience items on hand:  It’s okay to eat canned soups or frozen meals once in awhile!  So, keep these items on hand in case you need an ultra convenient lunch meal.  Just remember to add some fresh fruit or an extra side of vegetables to these items so you have enough to eat!  A great item to keep in your freezer (or the freezer at work) are frozen vegetables that can be microwaved in the bag that they come in.  Bird’s Eye Steamfresh or Pictsweet Steamers are two brand name examples of these types of frozen vegetables.  Some brands even have pre-measured single-serve portions!
  • Cook in bulk:  Sandwiches are not the only lunch option!  Leftovers can easily be eaten for lunch! Make larger poritons of food at dinner and on the weekends.  Pack single portions into tupperware and grab one of these containers out of the refrigerator or freezer as you leave for work each morning.   If you have adequate freezer space at the office, store a few containers at work for those days when packing lunch didn’t happen. 
  • Balance your lunch:  Your lunch meal should include some lean or low-fat protien along with some carbohydrate. 
  • Mix it up:  Don’t let yourself get bored with the lunches that you pack as this can send you right back to the take-out menu.  Mix things up!  If you love sandwiches, use all different types of whole-grain breads like pitas and wraps.  Vary your protein chocies by choosing different types of low-fat cheese, hard boiled eggs, tuna fish, lean meats and even hummus spread.  Add tasty toppings like red or green peppers, fresh basil, sprouts, sliced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and avocado slices.

Here is a shopping list, along with meals that can be prepared with the items on the shopping list.  Use this to get you started with your new lunch routine!  If you aren’t ready to pack lunch everyday of the week, start by choosing 1-2 specific days of the week that you will pack your lunch. 
Shopping List:
Whole wheat bread/pita/tortillas
1-2 bags of Romaine lettuce
A few tomatoes
2 cucumbers
1 bag of baby carrots
1 Red or Green Pepper
A container of low-fat feta cheese (or your favorie low-fat shredded cheese)
Some apples
A few oranges
A few pears
1-2 cans of chunk light tuna (canned in water)
1-2 can of salmon
1-2 cans of low sodium beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.)
1 prepared grilled chicken or turkey
2 cans of low-sodium, broth-based soup (ex. Chunky vegetable soup)
Olive oil based salad dressing

With this list of foods, you can prepare the following meals:

  • A whole wheat pita with lettuce and grilled chicken/turkey.  Add some olive oil based dressing and have some baby carrots and an apple on the side
  • Salmon (canned) lettuce wraps with light sesame Asian dressing and an orange
  • A whole wheat pita with tuna (mixed with olive oil and vinegar) and topped with tomatoes and cucumbers with an apple
  • Canned vegetable soup with grilled chicken on a bed of romaine with sliced pears and light vinaigrette.
  • Salad greens with canned salmon, tomato, cucumber, and baby carrots with an orange  on the side
  • Whole-wheat tortilla wrap with hummus, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and feta cheese.  Eat with a glass of low-fat or skim milk.
  • Whole wheat pita stuffed with canned beans, salsa (or fresh toamtoes), red pepper, lettuce and shredded cheese.  Have a pear for dessert  
  • A green salad with canned chunk light tuna, carrot strips, pepper slices, tomatos, beans, apple slices, shredded cheese and chopped walnuts.  Top with olive oil based dressing.

Check out this month’s recipe link for an additional tasty lunch recipe!

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