About That Lunch

The Will to Choose

Eat this, not that.  That’s how I saw nutrition in the beginning—just make better choices.  Now I see it’s more.  Good nutrition is a cultural shift, a new paradigm, a brave new world that rejects Food Inc’s heavily advertised processed foods.  It’s a return to cooking the traditional foods of our ancestors, though with more choices.  It’s about conscious choices rather than drifting with the fads of the day.

The growth in choice is the big change.  I walked through the produce section of the local grocery store and counted over one hundred different fruits and vegetables.  In the bulk section of the local health food store there are another hundred choices, ranging from whole grains to seeds, nuts and legumes. 

An incredible variety of healthy foods can be made from these two hundred or so natural and inexpensive ingredients.  All you need is a menu, shopping list, a basic kitchen, and some recipes.  Welcome to the food reformation.

The Four Meals

If you take a step back, there are four meal types: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  We’ve been addressing these meals, one by one in our Healthy Changes:

  • HC #4 advocated eating breakfast, with more grams of fiber than sugar in your cereal.  Breakfast is the easiest meal to make healthy and a good place to start your food reformation.  Sometimes I think the double whammy of hot drinks like coffee, banned by the Word of Wisdom, was how they boosted the use of sugar on one hand and became a substitute for a breakfast of real food on the other.  Eat real food, like our Breakfast Compote with fruit.
  • HC #8 provided a way to control impulse snacking:  Enjoy a healthy mix of snacks by making a daily snack plate.  We talked about this in the post, The Joy of Snacking, and readers shared ideas in the post titled, The Snack Plate
  • HC #17 advised eating dinner as a family.  We shared ideas in the post titled, Family Dinner.  Dinner is about more than the food; the dinner table is where people become families.  The post gave 10 benefits for your family from dining together.
  • HC #30 is this weeks subject and it addresses the overlooked meal, lunch.


Many working people combine eating out with brown bagging, though there are more creative options now than the brown bag of my youth.  In my working years I tried to eat healthy but was totally unaware of what to eat and what to avoid.  Example:  a common lunch was a hamburger with fries and a soft drink in the company cafeteria.  In retrospect, that was pretty bad.

Lunch Choices

Your lunch options are both reduced and enhanced by past Healthy Changes:

  • HC #1 slashed sugary drinks to one (12 oz.) serving per week.
  • HC #2 outlawed deep fat fried foods.
  • HC #6 laid the groundwork for increasing vegetable intake to five servings daily.  To make this USDA goal, you need at least one veggie at lunch.
  • HCs #3 and #10 called for more fiber than sugar in cereal and bread products.  These five healthy changes pretty much destroy the typical fast food menu.
  • HC #12 suggested eating a green salad most days and lunch is a good time to start.
  • HC #15 recommended including foods with omega-3 fat in each meal.
  • HC #25 advised eating foods rich in vitamin K-2, like Gouda cheese, liver (or liverwurst), as well as eggs and meat from pastured animals.

Eating Out?

The Healthy Changes severely limit the menu options of most fast food joints, but not completely: 

Wendy’s serves surprisingly good green salads.  The tuna-on-wheat at the Subway provides whole grains plus omega-3 fats, and you can load it with vegetables (but skip the bag of chips). 

A few casual fast food restaurants feature healthy options:

Chipotle’s Mexican Grill features burritos and tacos made with organic rather than CAFCO meat, which means it’s pasture fed with restricted antibiotic use.  Their burrito has been criticized for its 1000+ calories but you can order it in a bowl, replacing the flour tortilla and white rice with more beans and veggies. 

Panera offers plenty of bad food but there are also healthy salad, soup and sandwich combinations available.  Panera reportedly teams up with Chipotle in buying healthy meat.

Brown Bagging?

Take the time to prepare a lunch from whole ingredients, rather than packaged processed foods.  Use the Healthy Changes to guide your food selections.  This is a great way to use leftovers. 

Smart moms borrow a good idea from the Japanese with bento boxes, which allows a variety of small servings, including fruits and vegetables.  For ideas see here and here.

Reader Rill has a blog titled Bree’s Lunch Box that offers wholesome, affordable lunch ideas.  Rill gets the food reformation; she’s a voice for healthier and more creative lunch choices.

School Lunch

It’s summer now but September will be here in a minute.  For ideas on school lunches, check last year’s blog  The Good Lunch and look over the reader suggestions.


Please comment:  Share your best lunch ideas, the favorite lunch treats that leave you feeling happy for what you just ate.

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for linking me! Lunch can be one of those difficult meals to plan. It's hard to get past sandwiches. That's what got me started on bento-style lunch boxes.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRill

Lunch is my most neglected meal so thanks for covering. I got some great ideas and loved Rill's blog. Excited to spice up the kids' school lunches with the bento box idea.

July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLC

I've been eating PB and Honey on Whole Wheat or multigrain bread since I was in college most lunches of the week. I used to have chips and cookies as a side, but have now switched to fresh fruit, carrots, or yogurt. Thanks for your great insights.

July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDRF

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