We’ve all been cooking more meals at home lately. And maybe the Pinterest-inspired home cooking novelty has worn off! If so, you’re not alone. Ever wonder if there is an easy formula for a healthy meal? There actually is! In honor of heart health month, I will be sharing all of my tricks to make a quick and simple heart-healthy lunch. And at the end we will be putting it all together into my RD-approved formula that you can use for any meal.
Spending more time at home is creating a different eating environment for the whole day, but in particular for lunch. What can make this new lunchtime environment such a challenge is that the fridge and cabinets (with our favorite goodies) are just a few steps away. Now, if you are like me, then you have noticed two things happen. #1: My refrigerator door calls out to me every 10 minutes, telling me to open it because there must be something new to see that wasn’t there 10 minutes ago. This can lead me to snack throughout the day and grab what is front and center in the fridge. In turn, I am eating too much and not making the best choices. #2: Being at home, I find myself thinking that I can make myself lunch whenever I want, so I don’t plan out my meal or prep it. What happens on these days is that I will keep putting it off and eventually when I am famished, I will give in and eat too much of whatever I can quickly throw together. Sound familiar? So here’s what I have done to make sure I eat a healthy meal every lunch.
- Make an individually portioned lunch in a to-go container:
- Prepare your at-home lunch the same way as if you were taking your lunch out the door.
- Batched meals can not only save you time but help you keep your portion sizes in check. Make sure you take the extra minute to portion it out into your favorite to-go container.
- Make photo-worthy dishes from DIY frozen meals:
- Frozen leftovers are the easiest meal to prepare, but store-bought frozen meals aren’t nutritious, fresh, or pretty. For instance, homemade chili isn’t typically an Instagrammable meal, but it is the perfect recipe for easy leftovers. So since we eat with our eyes first, here is my trick to make any meal photo-worthy and look delicious: Add or top with three different colors of fresh ingredients. For example, top the chili with cilantro (green), plain Greek yogurt (white), and yellow bell pepper. The simple trick of adding three different colors will make any meal photo-worthy.
- Don’t have anything ready to go? Make a layered lunch bowl:
- Start with 2 fist-sized portions of frozen or raw vegetables in a bowl (cooking down to be about 1–2 fists): Season to taste and steam until tender.
- For seasoning: Try adding fresh and whole-food-based flavorings that help limit your salt. One of my favorite combinations is coconut aminos, garlic, ginger, and a little honey.
- Top with a palm-sized portion of packaged wild-caught tuna, tofu, cooked chicken breast, legumes, or any leftover lean protein. Remember, choosing lean proteins and eating some vegetarian meals reduces your saturated fat intake, which is a win for your heart.
- Looking for crunch? Add finely chopped raw veggies like bell peppers or cabbage or nuts like almonds, peanuts, or walnuts.
- Finish your flavors off with fresh herbs/spices and an oil and acid: Try pairing cilantro, lime juice, black pepper, avocado, and sesame oil.
- Your heart-healthy fats will be your fats with mostly monounsaturated fat, like olive or avocado oils.
- Want something sweet? Go for a side of fruit, yogurt, and granola, or individually portioned dark chocolate. The fruit and granola boost your soluble fiber intake, which supports healthy cholesterol, and dark chocolate is high in antioxidants.
- Sit down to eat at a regular mealtime without distractions:
- Your brain’s clock and your body thrive on routine, so make sure that you are eating at a regular time each day. Set a timer or alarm for the time you plan to eat lunch. This will help you resist the temptation of mindlessly checking what’s in the fridge.
- During the meal, put your phone, media, news sources, and work away to sit down to a comfortable, calm, and focused meal. Enjoy the meal and a mindful moment to taste each individual ingredient and your flavor combinations.
So as I promised, here is my tried-and-true healthy lunch formula:
A = Portion your meal into an individual-sized container.
B = Portion out 1–2 fist’s worth of cooked veggies and 1 palm-sized portion of lean protein, then add fresh and whole-food flavors and a healthy oil.
C = Eat your meal when calm, focused, and mindful.
A + B + C = Healthy meal for every lunch or any meal.
It may not seem like rocket science, but if you follow each step, you will be surprised at how easy a healthy meal can be.
Happy “at-home” lunching!
Sarah is the Shaklee Pure Performance Team dietitian/nutritionist. She is also a two-time competitor for the USA in the Summer Games, participating in the 10-meter Air Rifle event in 2012 and 2016. Her experience as an elite athlete and her status as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Licensed Nutritionist (LN), make her perfectly suited to consult with Shaklee athletes on their nutritional needs. Sarah graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas with a BS in Nutrition in 2013, and then earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Healthcare Management. She specializes in weight loss, improved sport performance, diabetes prevention, heart health, healthy aging, smoking cessation, and performance goals. Her hobbies include church ministries, mountaineering, physical fitness, and gardening.