Healthy, easy lunches

Five nutritious meals that are so quick, you’ll find time for a midday walk


If you feel like you never have time to walk, try hoofing it on your lunch hour with a buddy. Having a set routine will help make it a habit, and it’s a great excuse to leave the office.

Start with a protein-filled snack mid-way through the morning: Susan Traxel, 34, of Toronto, likes rice cakes with nut butter. They give her the energy to power through 45 minutes on the treadmill at her nearby gym or through a noon-hour fitness class. She has lunch when she’s done. “I eat a late lunch in front of my computer when I get back: I like leftovers, soup or a nicoise salad,” says Traxel.

Follow her lead by heading out for 45 minutes, then grabbing one of these five quick lunches you can gobble up at your desk in under 15 minutes. They’re all healthy, so they’ll only add to the good you’ve done with your walk.

Brown bag bounty
Can’t face leftovers for one more night? Try a hearty chicken sandwich on whole-grain bread with cheese, lettuce and tomato. It’s the perfect choice when you’re hungry and in a hurry, says Jessica Begg, registered dietitian for Flourish Wellness + Nutrition in Vancouver. If chicken isn’t your thing, opt for a whole-wheat pita with hummus, a handful of your favourite vegetables, and your choice of protein (lean meat, egg or cheese). Or, if you have 15 minutes, throw together this quick and easy lentil salad, the go-to of Jennifer Houston, executive chef and co-owner of Fresh vegetarian restaurant in Toronto. “Rinse and drain canned lentils, toss them in a bowl with a bunch of chopped raw or cooked vegetables (whatever you have in the fridge is fine), and throw in some fresh herbs, almonds or walnuts, and sunflower seeds.” Top it all with homemade oil-and-vinegar dressing.

Frozen fare
No dietitian is going to recommend a frozen entree over a homemade meal, but some days, you take what’s in the freezer. There are actually some healthy versions that aren’t that bad: Look for meals that have approximately 300 calories, less than 500 mg of sodium and less than 8 grams of total fat, advises Begg. Her favourite is Healthy Choice Gourmet Steamers. “I like these because they are around 300 calories, are lower fat and lower sodium than the other options, and have a good amount of fibre.”

Cafeteria chow
If you haven’t managed to plan ahead, no need to panic: It is possible to find healthy food at the caf. Just avoid the usual suspects like fries, burgers and pizza, says Begg, and instead pick the entree that has the most vegetables, such as a pasta dish with veggies in it or a salad and sandwich combo. If you’re really at a loss, head to the soup section. Avoid cream-based ones, which contain added fat and sodium; instead, go for broth-based veggie options, like hearty vegetable or vegetable chili, says Tristaca Caldwell, dietitian and owner of Fueling with Food in Halifax. “They’re a great way to get your veggies in, and will fill you up with fewer calories.”