If you've been losing weight and feeling tons better thanks to the Atkins Nutritional Approach™, you know burgers with the bun, fries, pizzas and tacos are off limits. In fact, these fast food staples may well be the reason you've gained pounds and lost energy in the past. Sure, lunch used to be as simple as a quick trip to the drive-thru, a fast-food feast at your desk and then the mid-afternoon processed-carb coma. Or maybe you brown bagged it: A can of soda, two pieces of white bread, a few slices of deli meat and cheese, a glob of mayo or mustard, and a more air-than-potato bag of chips. Just because you've come to your senses and started a healthier eating regimen doesn't mean you have to bag the brown-bag lunch or forgo all fast food. Gobble up these top 10 lunch suggestions, and you won’t feel deprived.
1. Classic Salads! Enjoy classic lunch salads like tuna salad, chicken salad and egg salad on a bed of mixed greens with chopped cucumber and grape tomatoes, or as a sandwich filling between leaves of romaine lettuce. One of the best resources for a healthy, well-balanced lunch remains the salad bar. But before you hit the bar, beware of salad dressings that can drown your diet in carbs.
2. Spicy Quesadillas! Once you get to OWL, fill a low-carb tortilla with grilled chicken or roasted turkey, sliced bell pepper and onions and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Add spice by sprinkling with a little cumin and chili powder.
3. Superior Fillings! Get creative by experimenting with out-of-the-ordinary fillings, like avocado slices, canned salmon, sprouts, grilled tofu and unexpected veggies like Portobello mushrooms and jicama. Use vegetable wrappings or place in lettuce leaves with other veggies and protein.
4. Satisfying Roll-ups! You don’t need low-carb bread to make a satisfying mid-day meal. Roll deli meats, like smoked turkey, roast beef, salami and ham around your favorite sliced cheese, whether it’s Swiss or Provolone. For crunch, wrap both around a dill pickle spear, or fold in a roasted red pepper.
5. Soup Things Up! Enjoy a chicken or turkey with vegetable soup, a few pieces of cheese, and a side salad. In later phases, try hearty bean soups.
6. Caesar Salad, Cobb Salad, Chef Salad! Any salad that contains proteins (cheese, meat and low-carb dressing) is a nutritious and satisfying option.
7. Breakfast for Lunch! An omelet loaded with your favorite vegetables, some shredded cheese or meat can make a deliciously different lunch.
8. Burger = Hold the Bun! You can make a quick run for your favorite fast food restaurant. Order a bunless burger and a side salad.
9. Asian Adventure! Pick up a bowl of miso soup and a few pieces of sashimi for a globe-trotting lunch experience. If you’re going Japanese, fresh fish is an excellent option. (However, pass on the sushi rolls made with rice.)
10. Steak, salmon: Dinner for Lunch! Go ahead and treat yourself to a steak, a chicken breast or a wonderful piece of fish with a side of veggies for lunch—they’re not just for dinner. It’s a great way to beat lunchtime boredom.
By keeping a small cooler packed with all your staples, plus convenient snacks like Atkins Advantage Bars and Shakes, you're always prepared for the worst case scenarios, like having no time to grab a sit-down meal. Coupled with a piece of cheese, fruit or a handful of nuts when you get to OWL, your snacks will provide the boost you need. It’s always smart to think ahead, so when you’re leaving your house in the morning, consider your lunchtime options. Making a plan will prevent indecision at the eleventh hour and desperate, less-than-stellar choices.
Eating three meals a day is a must—and feel free to enjoy low-carb snacks between meals. Doing so maintains your blood sugar levels and keeps you on an even keel so you don’t suffer energy dips. And remember, Atkins is not just about “all the meat you can eat.” Vegetables should be a key, fiber-rich component to most of your meals. Use the previous tips to ensure that your meals and snacks are Atkins-friendly.
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What are your favorite lunchtime options? I’d love to hear! Please share your thoughts with the Atkins Community and also let me know what you’d like to hear about in the future.