Back to School for Grown-ups
If you loved: GOBBLING MOM’S BROWN BAG LUNCHES
Now try: PACKING YOUR OWN LUNCH
Even before celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had a say in school meals, our parents knew how to make us eager for lunch. “Lunches were made with TLC, included new foods, were fun to share and kept us full,” says Sue Moores, R.D., a St. Paul, Minn.-based dietitian. “Stick with those same tenets, and they’ll keep you from ditching your lunch in the office fridge and heading to your favorite fast-food place on your lunch break.”
When packing your midday meal, include an interesting mix of shapes, textures, flavors and temperatures—and introduce at least one new food, like a seasonal fruit, dried wasabi peas or even a dark chocolate truffle. “The goal is to hit high flavor points that stimulate the tongue and brain, so you won’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied,” says Moores, citing crunchy, whole-wheat bread topped with smooth spicy hummus as an example. Also, get your brain and belly anxious for lunch by curbing your midmorning snack. “If you need a nosh, have something at least two hours before lunch and limit what you eat to two food groups,” Moores says, suggesting dairy and fruit (like Greek yogurt with strawberries), or a fiber-rich carb and vegetable (like whole-grain crackers dipped in guacamole).
To make a meal, Moores recommends filling your plate with 50 percent vegetables (or a mix of vegetables and fruits), 25 percent protein and 25 percent whole grains. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners recommend warming soups loaded with lean, nourishing meats to help your body adjust to the dip in temperature and also help bolster your immune system, preventing colds and flu. It turns out lunch is also ideal for a coffee kick: A new Brazilian study shows that women who drank at least one cup with lunch were a third less likely to develop type II diabetes over several years than noncoffee drinkers. Just be sure to sip before 1 p.m. for a good night’s sleep, as caffeine stays in your body for up to 12 hours.
Since the American Dietetic Association says 70 percent of us brown bag it at our desks two to three days a week—and a 2011 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that eating at your computer makes you prone to overconsumption—make time to have your lunch with a few work pals every now and then. Storing lunch in the latest BPA-free stainless steel tiffins, wood or stainless steel bento boxes and reusable insulated lunch bags keeps food fresh. If you don’t have a fridge at work, freeze your drink, fruit and bread the night before and add an ice pack. Never let perishables sit out for more than two hours at room temperature, and after two days in the fridge, toss any leftovers—they’ll be full of bacteria and a potential source for food-borne illnesses.