Lunch: Midday secret to success

March 19, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

It's no wonder that Americans rely on fast food more at lunch than at any other time of day. Hectic schedules and work pressures have made the lunch hour a thing of the past for many people. We rush through the drive-in - and then try to combine dashboard dining with long to-do lists.

Lunch is a tasty time to harness the power of nutrition. What foods make a power lunch? A cup of bean soup and a crisp green salad or roast beef on whole wheat with a fruit salad are both power choices. In the fast food lane, you can choose a small burger, small fries and a carton of milk or juice. Power lunches are possible everywhere. Suggestions for power lunches include:

  • High-energy carbohydrates, especially whole grains, are essential for a power lunch. The goal is to get the energy you need - without going overboard on amounts. Stick with a slice or two of bread, a small roll or a handful of crackers.

  • One key to weight control is to enjoy high-quality protein every time you eat. Protein helps build and maintain muscle. It also provides long-lasting satisfaction. Go for lean meat, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy, like cheese and milk.

  • Lunch is the right time to load up on veggies - to get your daily dose of disease-fighting, anti-aging phytochemicals (plant nutrients). Veggies or fruit: Go for bright colors - orange carrots, green broccoli, red tomatoes - or black beans.

  • For optimal health and beauty (think skin, hair and eyes), experts suggest 5 to 9 servings of produce a day. Sweet fruit makes a delicious dessert at lunch. Enjoy a fruit salad, a piece of fresh fruit, a bowl of canned fruit or a handful of dried fruit.

Brown bags or insulated to-go boxes are lunchtime bonanzas. Packing a meal from home saves money and time (no more waiting in drive-thrus). It's also the way to pack a serious nutrition punch into your lunch. For a real time-saver, make extra at dinner - and pack the planned leftovers for the next day. Stock your drawers and cupboards with lunch choices. Supermarkets offer super easy options for work or home, like freeze-dried bean soups, single-serve fruit cups and trail mix.


Skipping lunch can be a weight-management disaster. If you miss a mid-day meal, you will probably eat too much later. Lunch skippers tend to hit the vending machines and candy jars all afternoon. Or they snack on hundreds of calories while fixing dinner. Make noontime nutrition a priority: Plan to eat before you start on errands or work. Protect at least 15 to 20 minutes for food - and you'll feel better all afternoon.

Enjoy a lunch today - and every day. For optimal health and fitness, combine your favorite power lunch with a power walk - and feel great for the rest of the day. Enjoy all the benefits of a healthy lunch. Nutrition and fitness are only two aspects of health. It's also important to give yourself a break - and to connect with friends and family.

Lynn F. Little is extension educator with Family & Consumer Sciences of the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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