What to Eat and What to Avoid at Lunch

Construct a carb-friendly sandwich. If you’re at a deli, choose the grainy whole-wheat or the fresh sourdough bread. Portion size

Construct a carb-friendly sandwich. If you’re at a deli, choose the grainy whole-wheat or the fresh sourdough bread. Portion size will be key here: By choosing bread that comes in smaller slices, you can really cut back on calories and carbs. If the bread you want comes in large rolls or hefty slices, ask the person at the counter to wrap half of the sandwich in plastic before putting it in the bag; now you have lunch for two days instead of one. The right way to construct that sandwich includes plenty of vegetables, such as tomatoes and dark green, leafy lettuce. Also think pickles (if you’re not watching your salt intake); because they contain vinegar, they will help lower the glycemic load of your meal. Mustard is a better choice for a condiment than mayonnaise, but if a sandwich seems dry without mayo, just request that they spread it thinly.

Don’t be fooled by wraps. They may look like a healthy alternative to a sandwich, but tortillas can be stuffed with a startling amount of meat and cheese. And the tortilla itself may be thin but it delivers up to 350 calories and just a couple of grams of fiber compared to the 140 calories and 4 grams of fiber you get from two slices of whole-wheat or oat bran bread. Better to stick with the sandwich or, if you choose a wrap, eat just half today and save half for tomorrow.

Go with the grain. Grain salads, that is. Tabbouleh, for instance, is incredibly easy to put together the night before. This Middle-Eastern salad is made with bulgur, chopped parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice.

Treat yourself to pizza. For fast and easy good carb choices, a slice (not two) of cheese or vegetarian thin-crust pizza is a surprisingly good option. The glycemic load is low, and the cheese will help fill you up. If you can find a place that offers whole-wheat or cornmeal crust, your pizza will leave you even more satisfied.

Lean on leftovers. One of the fastest, easiest, and most satisfying ways to enjoy a healthy lunch is to eat a healthy dinner—the leftovers, that is. Meals like vegetarian chili or chicken stir-fry make excellent lunches the next day.

Avoid the steam table. These are the hot foods sitting under sneeze shields at delis. Leaving aside the murky origins of this food (how many days has the macaroni and cheese been there, anyway?), the other problem with the choices on the table is that they’ve been cooking for hours. Not only does the prolonged heat degrade the nutrients and break down the fiber in the food, it makes your meal so soft that it’s nearly predigested. Your gut will have to do very little work in converting the food to glucose, and that means your blood sugar will rise rapidly. Hit the cold salad fixings instead.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest