I am the oldest of three children in my family and always find myself pleasantly surprised when all of us have reached an age where our places in life start to overlap. With a 6 year age gap between me and the youngest sibling, it is a welcome revelation to recognize that we have hit common ground.
This past weekend my youngest sister came home and we were talking about the challenge of maintaining healthy eating habits as a single working woman. She graduated college only 6 months ago and doesn't quite yet have a strong skill set for cooking at home or prepping lunches to go. In fact, her latest healthy eating habit is to order a 'Subway Foot Long' and eat half of it for lunch and the other half for dinner. At the risk of sounding like an overbearing parent, I told her that while her intentions were good the reality is that lunch meat is full of preservatives and the makeup of a sandwich isn't actually that good for our digestive systems. Intrigued to learn more about healthy lunch alternatives, my brother started to chime in and ask questions about what he could either order as take-out or prepare ahead of time to prevent him from the inevitable 3 PM food coma that follows some of his heartier lunches.
I happen to have a real love of food and nutrition so we started brainstorming about some different foods and preparation tips to carry into the following work week. Now, admittedly, I am no expert in this field! However, as we continue to discuss health and wellness during this Spring season I feel inclined to share with you some of my favorite tidbits to help you navigate the grocery store and give your lunch bag a face lift. My hope is that you can take the information below and feel more energized throughout the day!
Breakfast: It's true what they say, "Breakfast is your most important meal of the day!"
- · Did you know that grapefruit is high in fiber and low in calories? It offers a ton of vitamins and is even said to 'kick start' your metabolism in the morning. A great choice for breakfast.
- · Chia Seeds were a staple in the diet of the ancient Mayans. They are full of Omega-3 and can give you a natural energy boost. You can buy them at most grocery stores and they taste great mixed with some Greek yogurt.
- · Don't be afraid of the breakfast shake! Mix some fruit (bananas and blueberries work best) with some mint and lemon or lime and then throw in your favorite green (kale or spinach) for a fantastic power breakfast!
Lunch: Packing your lunch is a great way to save some cash and have more control over portion sizes. It's hard to shop for one person so try and pick some recipes that will overlap ingredients!
- · Chicken salad is often a popular lunchtime recipe. Want to try a healthier alternative? Swap out the mayonnaise for non-fat Greek yogurt and use a whole wheat sprouted wrap instead of sliced break.
- · Tuna fish is your friend. It's full of protein and Omega-3. I love to create a tuna salad made with Olive Oil, capers, fresh tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Put it over some greens and you have a delicious, and satisfying, salad mix. Another heartier option is to mix the tuna with some hummus and then add some olives, basil, and chickpeas. A little bit of olive oil will create a smoother texture. Again, put this on some spinach or kale and you have yourself a power lunch!
- · Poaching is actually a pretty easy cooking method once you look up the technique. I love to poach a filet of salmon the night before, let it cool, and then place it in the fridge for lunch the next day. You can take your chilled salmon and place it on a bed of greens with fresh tomatoes, Greek yogurt with dill, and maybe some sliced avocado on the side. This is also a great option for a light and healthy dinner!
Dinner: Cooking for one is especially tough for dinner! Planning a weekly menu ahead of time will allow you to try and overlap the ingredients, which can cut down on cost and spoiled food at the end of the week.
- · Roasting is your friend for those that like to multitask when they get home. You can take almost any vegetable (onions, brussels sprouts, squash, cauliflower) and mix it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe another herb or spice mix to add additional flavor (cumin on butternut squash is a personal favorite) then place the tossed mixture in a baking dish for 30-45 minutes and it will cook a ton of flavor into your dish while you have time to do some laundry or catch up on emails.
- · Many nutritional experts recommend eating a vegetarian diet once a week. It will allow your system to cleanse and ease the digestion tract as most vegetarian dishes are much easier to break down than meat dishes. Try something with lentils to keep it hearty.
- · Pasta is a quick and easy dinner for most working professionals since it can keep in the box and cooks quickly. I read a tip once that I absolutely love about healthy alternatives to your favorite pasta dishes. Take all of the ingredients that you would normally use to make a hearty pasta dish and swap out the noodles with sautéed spinach! If you come home from work simply starving and think that this is not going to satisfy then try and go 50/50 with whole wheat pasta and the spinach. Another great healthy alternative is to use Soba noodles. They taste like pasta, but are typically 100% buckwheat.
Making small differences in your eating habits can lead to pretty significant changes! I am always weary of prepackaged foods and the cooking that can go on at a lot of restaurants (hello salt and butter!). Take the time to do some homework and learn more about the food we eat -- you might be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to implement the 'small tweaks'!