14 Lunch Habits That Help You Lose Weight
Looking to eat healthier at lunchtime? Your best bet for a low-sugar lunch is to either bring your lunch from home or quickly whip up something in the kitchen. But what would be considered a healthy lunch, and what are some healthy lunch habits you can set to lose weight? Below we listed some of our tried-and-true healthy lunch habits to lose weight that you can rely on when the midday meal rolls around. And for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Choose a good bread.
Don't let the seemingly "good" bread fool you—the grocery store shelves are full of unhealthy breads masking to be healthy. "Wheat" breads, "multi-grain" breads, "7/9/12 grain" breads—they all offer the promise of whole-grain goodness, but often the reality is so much less than what's advertised. Many restaurants (such as Panera) make their "whole wheat" bread with mostly white flour.
Instead, look for the words "100% whole grain" when selecting an armature for your sandwich. And make sure there is no added sugar.
Here are the 10 Healthiest Breads for Weight Loss.
Load up on vegetables.
Breakfast is fruit time. Dinner is, often, starch time. Make lunch vegetable time—opt for a salad, pile that sandwich high with produce, or look for other ways to get greens into your midday meal. Here are 12 Surprising Vegetables That Become Healthier When They're Cooked.
Pair protein, fiber, and healthy fat.
Lunch has a job, and that job is to tide you over until dinner without your getting so ravenously hungry that you stop for a slice of pepperoni pizza on your way home. Protein, fiber, and healthy fat are the three hunger quenchers to look for: a salad with olive oil and vinegar (none of that fat-free stuff) and a protein source like turkey or nuts will help keep your belly from rumbling.
Don't skip over wraps.
Those paper-thin wraps that seem so much healthier than bread are almost always loaded with calories, thanks to the fat that's needed to make them pliable—a large wrap can be the carb and calorie equivalent of four or five slices of bread.
Make an upside-down salad.
This genius idea was pioneered by Jason Lawless, once the executive chef at White Street restaurant in Tribeca. To build a mason jar salad that you can bring from home without it getting soggy, put the dressing at the bottom of a mason jar, and then add protein (like chicken, cheese, salmon chunks, or turkey slices). After that, add your larger veggies (such as tomatoes or peppers), and then top with greens. Seal the jar and, when you're ready to eat, simply turn it upside down on a plate.
Snack after lunch, not before.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that mid-morning snackers tend to eat more throughout the day than afternoon snackers. Researchers found that dieters with mid-morning munchies lost an average of 7% of their total body weight while those who did not snack before lunch lost more than 11% of their body weight. That's a difference of nearly 6.5 pounds for a 160-pound woman with a weight-loss goal. Moreover, afternoon snacking was associated with a slightly higher intake of fruits and vegetables.
Stick to your favorite foods.
There's nothing wrong with settling on a handful of go-to lunches and eating the same nutritious thing every day. A 2015 study at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University looked at the diets of 6,814 people and found that the more diverse a person's diet, the more likely she was to experience weight gain. In fact, those who ate the widest range of foods showed a 120% greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who had the least diversity. In other words, people who have the best success at weight loss pick a set number of foods and tend to stick to them.
Beware of celebrity specials.
Signature sandwiches or those named after sports or movie stars are typically loaded with more cheap cheese than a celebrity memoir. Whenever you can, build your own sandwich so you can control the nutritional contents—like one of these 25 Healthy Sandwich Recipes Under 500 Calories.
Custom-build your greens.
Many ready-to-eat salads at sandwich or convenience shops are comprised of low-quality meats basking in oil and resting atop a field of wilted iceberg lettuce. Instead, customize your salad with high-quality greens like kale, spinach, or romaine lettuce; plenty of colorful vegetables; and high-quality proteins like nuts and grilled chicken. Or make one of these 35+ Healthy Salad Recipes for Weight Loss.
Watch the salt.
One recent British study found that for every additional 1,000 milligrams of sodium you eat a day, your risk of obesity spikes by 25%. Yet keeping your sodium intake under the maximum daily allotment of 2,300 milligrams can be challenging when every single burger at a lunch spot like Chili's clocks in at more than 3,200 milligrams.
Don't let the dressing make you fat.
There's not a traditional salad dressing recipe in the whole world that calls for sugar as part of the mix. But the vast majority of commercially available dressings—from the bottles you buy at the supermarket to the stuff on offer at your local restaurant—are loaded with it. Consider packing your own homemade version, or cut the normal amount of dressing in half to cut down on the added sugars. Instead, make one of these 10 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes.
Keep it simple.
If you are hitting a burger joint, most fast-food restaurants will actually offer lower-calorie fare than their sit-down counterparts. But as a rule, burgers with shorter and more simple names are better choices than those with protracted names. Upgrading from a bacon cheeseburger to an A.1. Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger at Burger King, for example, will cost you an additional 520 calories.
Choose cold sandwiches.
When you're ordering a sandwich, that is. Thanks to sauces, melted cheese, and lots of greasy meat, hot sandwiches are usually higher in fat and calories than cold sandwiches.
Have breakfast for lunch.
As I surveyed the restaurant landscape, I found a lot of places—from McDonald's to IHOP—that offered nothing on their lunch menus that didn't have as many added sugars. The good news: many places now offer breakfast all day long. If you can't find anything on the menu that fits, don't be shy about ordering up an omelet or one of the recommended breakfasts from our list of 91+ Best Healthy Breakfast Recipes.