When making a change to your diet, lunch is often a source of difficulty. Most of us eat whatever we can grab at our desks or order out with co-workers; neither of these situations is great when you are trying to eat healthier. Whether you decide to eat out or bring in lunch from home, there are several healthy and easily accessible options to make the transition to a low glycemic index (GI) diet a little easier.
Soups are a great option for lunch – not only can you find soup on most take-out menus, but you can easily make a big pot of soup on the weekend and freeze individual portions to save for later. I like to freeze soup in one cup servings in separate bags to make thawing and reheating easier – all you have to do is pull out one bag in the morning. Soups are also easily reheated; simply stick in a microwave safe dish until warmed.
Lentil, vegetable, minestrone (use whole wheat pasta), chicken (again, whole wheat pasta or brown rice) and pea soup are all particularly good options. You’ll want to avoid cream based soups; while milk may not have a high GI, cream and whole milk are high in fat and shouldn’t be eaten on a regular basis. This is especially true in women with PCOS who have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
Salads, depending on what is put in them, are a very healthy choice. Start with a nutrient dense lettuce, like a spring mix or spinach, and pile on your veggies of choice. Again, while iceberg lettuce doesn’t have a high GI, there is very little nutritional benefit to eating iceberg. You’ll get many more vitamins, minerals and nutrients swapping in spinach or other dark green lettuce instead. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots are great toppings for any salad. You’ll want to stay away from the shredded cheeses, bacon bits and croutons, which are again also high in fat. Feel free to added chopped fruit (like oranges, grapefruit or berries), grilled chicken, nuts and beans or legumes for added protein, crunch and sweetness.
Salad dressing is also important to consider when making (or ordering a salad). Stick with a low-fat dressing, or a simple mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress your salads, instead of a bottled high fat, high sugar dressing.
Easily made at home and brought to work or found at local delis, sandwiches provide a lot of low glycemic index options. You’ll need to swap out the rolls or white bread for 100% whole wheat or sprouted bread. Try ham, which is a very lean meat, or turkey and cheese (only 1 slice), or tuna or egg salad. Feel free to load up your sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables if available. Swap out the bag of chips for cut fruit or veggies, a cup of soup or a side salad.
Cooking at home:
Prepping your lunch at home ahead of time is a great alternative to ordering out at the office. Not only will you have a healthier meal, but you’ll save lots of cash as well. In addition to bringing portions of leftovers from last night’s dinner, you can also cook up a few chicken breasts (grilled, or sautéed in a minimal amount of oil) to be used during the week. Add to some frozen vegetables and soy sauce for a quick stir-fry, add some sauce and low-fat cheese for a basic chicken Parmesan, or add to chopped celery and nuts and some light mayonnaise for a delicious chicken salad. Whether you decide to eat out or cook from home, planning your meals is a must. Take a few minutes each evening to prepare your lunch and get it packed for the next day. That way, if you are running late the next morning, lunch is ready to go and you aren’t forced to dine on a vending machine lunch.