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How To Choose Healthy Lunchtime Convenience Foods

If you're on the go, lunchtime is a time for grabbing the first thing you can think of. But, consider these healthy alternatives to convenience foods that are typically high in fat, salt, sugar, and additives you need not add to your lunchtime menu.

Choose Wisely With Lunchtime Convenience Foods

You all know the routine we’ve developed with quick, easy meals. You grab a sandwich, a cup of soup, or a hot dog, or a quick salad and off you go. No time to think about it – just grab and go during lunchtime. Relying on the same old convenience foods to satisfy our hunger is something we don't think twice about, really.

The price we pay for these diet choices is a dramatic and often unhealthy increase in sugar, salt, and high fat content for our lunches. By 3:00, we’re often just as hungry as before, and feel worse for the bargain, and our bodies endure health risks we don’t even consider. So, how do we break this convenience food habit? Simple. Find alternative choices for convenience foods that are just as quick but better for us. Let’s compare some choices and find substitutes for lunchtime convenience foods.

Bread vs English Muffins

Bread is a staple of the American diet, but even “healthy” multi-grain breads can be loaded with fats, sugars, and high cholesterol content. Looking for a low-fat, hearty bread with no cholesterol, no trans fat, and no high fructose corn syrup? Say hello to English muffins. These sturdy cousins of the bread family stand up nicely and toast well. They’re also the perfect choice for compact sandwiches with a little different flavor.

Mayonnaise vs Yellow Mustard

A little dab of mustard does wonders for flavoring and moistening sandwiches. Prepackaged mayonnaise, in particular, is loaded with fat, sugar, and salt. If mustard is a little too sharp for your taste buds, mix it with a bit of yogurt, hummus, or sour cream first, then spread on your favorite sandwiches.

Lunch Meat vs Tuna

Lunch meat sometimes contains high amounts of sugar, salt, and additives like nitrates that are just plain unhealthy. It doesn’t even matter if it’s prepackaged or cut fresh at the deli. You can avoid the whole problem by switching to a much healthier can of tuna, particularly one packed in water instead of oil. Mix drained white tuna with cucumber and chopped onion, then spread on a toasted English muffin. For a little finesse, you can top it with a slice of low fat Mozzarella cheese for a quick, healthy and delicious lunchtime meal.

Childhood Hot Dog vs New Age Hot Dog

Hot dogs – your first thought is unhealthy. Well, not necessarily. If your lunchtime plan includes a tasty hot dog, you can lose the guilt factor by choosing one of the healthier creations available now. Turkey and vegetable hot dogs are free of many of the additives found in traditional beef dogs. Choosing these alternative meats means you can once again enjoy the taste of summer for a less costly health risk.

Buns vs Tortillas

Lunch meals contain some of the more common convenience foods that make up the traditional sandwich – things like pastrami, salami, corned beef, for instance. They also contain lots of breads, buns, to be exact. What good is eating a hot dog without a bun, you might ask? It’s just not the same, or is it?

How about wrapping that tasty hot dog in a toasted tortilla for a new, healthy twist on an old favorite? It doesn’t take much time to warm up or toast a tortilla, and these days you have options there too – tomato, spinach, wheat, corn, or flour varieties. Put your tortilla preference in a dry skillet and heat quickly on both sides. Then lay on the hot dog, add some sensible condiments, and wrap it up for a tasty treat. Using tortillas as a substitute for bread or buns is becoming more common today, even in “fast food” restaurants. Take any sandwich you like and you can find a tortilla that suits the flavor for a much better carb choice.

Salads Gone Bad vs Good Greens

Salads have a wide variety of ingredients – some, as you know, better than others. If you’re interested in healthy salads, a bag of mixed greens is a much better choice than iceberg lettuce, which simply has no nutritional value.

“But, there must be crunch with my salad,” you say. OK, but are prepackaged croutons really the best choice? Mmmm…no. Try instead the crunch goodness of sunflower seeds or chopped nuts in your next salad. You’ll want to use natural, unsalted seeds or nuts too, since you get more crunch for your lunch without packing on extra fat calories.

How ‘bout a little cheese with that salad? Choose shredded Mozzarella made from skim milk.

So, healthy ingredients in your salad – check. Now, don't go drowning that salad with unhealthy dressings, ones loaded with…you guessed it; fat, sugar, and salt. A quick whisk of a couple good ingredients, and you'll have made a healthier alternative in just a few minutes.

You’ve just zipped through a healthy salad and avoided beating up your body with more bad that good. Congratulations. No need to throw out your good intentions for eating healthy salads by choosing unhealthy ingredients.

Open One vs Open Two

There’s nothing more convenient than opening a can of soup for lunch. If, however, that can’s list of ingredients is longer than the hand you hold it in, you may be getting into more than you bargained for.

In this case, you could open two cans instead of one – maybe a can of clear broth, then a can of black beans or navy beans. Or, a can of broth and a bag of mixed veggies? Simmer, stir, and enjoy. You've got a hot, healthy lunch option that’s ready in minutes, and all it took was one extra can on the opener.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you reach for the refrigerator or head for the pantry at lunch. Sure, quick meals are important now, but finding something fast shouldn’t have such undesirable consequences for your health. Stock your kitchen with healthier options, and enjoy some familiar with more sensible levels of satisfaction.

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