The take away restaurant is quickly replacing the kitchen as the source of our meals, and lunch has taken the biggest hit. But the burger and fries you buy for lunch do more than sap your afternoon energy, they can also drain your wallet. This year, make a resolution to improve your physical health as well as your fiscal fitness with just a few simple changes. In fact, it’s easier than you might think to cut your lunch costs in half while cutting calories by up to 75%. With lunch prices averaging between R 30 and R 40, it’s easy to spend as much as R 200 a week and R 800 a month—per person. Ditching the combo meals and packing your own lunch not only cuts your food costs in half, it can cut your calories by up to 75%.
Think outside the Lunch Box
For many women, the idea of packing a lunch conjures up images of flattened sandwiches and warm milk, but the possibilities are nearly endless and don’t require as much prep time as you might think. Here are some quick and easy ideas that are sure to satisfy.
Simple and Satisfying
Some veggies or a piece of fruit along with some hi-bran Pro-vita or other nutritional biscuits, can make a simple, quick, and satisfying meal.
All it takes is 15 minutes to make up to a week’s worth of lunches and dinners. Start with a head of your favorite lettuce, ½ medium red cabbage, 2–3 carrots, green (or other color) peppers, and scallions. Put the lettuce in a bowl, throw the rest in the food processor, toss together, and then put handfuls of the mixture into separate plastic containers or baggies. Grab one in the morning, along with some cherry tomatoes, and you’re good to go. Add a tablespoon of shredded cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or beans to make a great meal or a great snack to beat the afternoon munchies. To mix it up, try adding them to pitas or rolling them up in whole wheat tortillas. Just remember to choose a low-calorie salad dressing.
Beat the peanut butter blues by focusing on flavor and texture. A great sandwich starts with great bread, so pick a great-tasting bread or roll, or even a tortilla or flat-bread. Punch up the flavor without adding condiments like mustard, balsamic vinegar, salsa, hot sauce, or chutney. Got meat? Use lean deli meats and watch the portion size. No meat? Consider low-fat cheese, sprouts, or cucumbers.
This is one of the most versatile of meals, and can range from homemade favorites to instant heat-and-serve varieties for time-crunched cravings. Just make sure to choose those that are lowest in fat and sodium.
Nothing has revolutionized lunch like the microwave, and there are now several brands that offer low-calorie fare from around the globe. And the best part? They are a much more affordable choice than their fast food counterparts. Look for meals with 300 calories or less and with the lowest fat content.
Eating 2–3 smaller meals and 2–3 snacks throughout the day can stave off hunger pangs. But make sure you pick smart snacks. Your best bet is always fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid boredom and choose foods with a variety of colors and textures. When it comes to veggies, you can even pick up a flavorful dip, but watch the calories — some dips can contain as many as a hamburger! For a truly tasty treat, create your own fruit cocktails by combining berries with peaches or bananas.