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MEDILL/Arshon Howard

Take-out lunches may not be as good for you as packing your own, dieticians say.


Packing health into your work lunch

by Arshon Howard
Apr 10, 2013


Eating lunch at work doesn’t have to cost people their health. Instead of eating out everyday, there are healthier alternatives people can use to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"There's no hard and fast answer to this, but I would say that bringing your lunch a few days a week can be a big bonus in terms of waist control and wallet control too," Long Island, N.Y. nutrition expert Karen Ansel said. “Considering the average American eats 30 percent of their meals out of the house, cutting down on restaurant food is an easy and money-saving way to cut calories as well as sodium, which can be very high in restaurant meals.”

Pack your own lunch

One of the best ways to ensure you’ll eat healthy is packing your own lunch. And one of the best lunches is a salad.

Creating the perfect salad is based on your own imagination, as there are endless possibilities, but having darker-colored greens such as spinach, romaine and lettuce have the biggest dose of important nutrients, but don’t fall victim to over drenching your salad with dressing.

“When eating a salad make sure that you use low-calorie dressings,” Oak Forest dietician Kelly Devine Rickert said. “There are also plenty of light salad dressings one can use as well to ensure healthiness.”

Avoid fatty foods

Eating out all the time can have a negative effect on your body over time depending upon the choices you make. When eating out, typically meals tend to be higher in calories, fat, sodium and sugar according to Vandana Sheth, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“There are some other good choices,” Ansel said. “Good choices include a vegetarian burrito bowl with brown rice, beans and a little guacamole, a salad with some grilled chicken and a small whole wheat roll, or a stir fry with brown rice, chicken and loads of veggies.”

Another alternative would be to pack a sandwich. A turkey sandwich on wheat bread with baked potato chips and a diet soda totals about 500 calories and about six grams of fat. A Big Mac, medium fries and a medium drink from McDonalds totals 1,169 calories and 52 grams of fat.

If one were to eat this same meal at McDonalds for a whole work week, you would consume a total of 5, 845 calories and 260 grams of fat, compared with 2,500 calories and 30 grams of fat if one were to eat a turkey sandwich for a whole work week.

Avoid the vending machine

Most people tend to binge eat throughout the day to maintain their hunger, as the vending machine becomes their main source of food.

The next time you go to the vending machine remember that anything out of a bag is not good for you,” said Ryan Monday, owner of Tri-Fitness in Chicago.

Candy bars are usually a good way to get a quick burst of energy and to stop the growling of your stomach, but they are usually high in calories and that is mostly from sugar. A Snickers bar contains 271 calories and 14 grams of fat, while a fruit and oat granola bar contains 111 calories and two grams of fat. Granola bars will do more for your body as they will give your body carbohydrates and oatmeal flavored granola bars will give you more energy due to the oatmeal. There are also other alternatives people can snack on at their desk without them heading to the vending machine.

“Some simple snack ideas include granola bars, crackers with nut butter, fresh fruit/dried fruit, home-made trail mix, single serve whole-grain crackers or cereal,” Sheth said.

Even though the urge of eating out is easy and convenient, these different alternatives may be beneficial overtime to living a long, healthy life.