A cold lunch doesn't have to be the same old boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With some creative ideas, or even using leftovers, you can have an enjoyable and healthy cold lunch. A well-balanced lunch contains protein, whole grains, fiber and fruits or vegetables. Pack your lunch for you health, waistline and wallet.
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Grilled chicken is a lean protein that can be made ahead of time and tastes better when eaten cold. When making chicken, the healthiest cut is skinless, white meat. You can add the chicken to a tossed salad or make a classic sandwich with whole-wheat bread, lettuce, tomato and fat-free mayonnaise. For extra flavor, try adding a touch of fat-free ranch dressing to the mayo. Mix cut-up pieces of chicken into left-over brown rice or quinoa, add your favorite veggies and top it with an olive oil vinaigrette.
Wraps are a fun and versatile alternative to a sandwich. Many wraps contain less calories than bread. Choose a whole-wheat tortilla for the wrap and you have your whole grains and fiber. Fill it with roasted vegetables, walnuts and a fat-free dressing. Experiment with combinations that meet all the nutrient requirements. A whole-wheat wrap made with peanut butter and fruit gives you whole grains, fiber and protein. Try fat-free cream cheese or cottage cheese with carrots, dried cranberries and raisins. Mix lean turkey or chicken with avocados, leaf lettuce, sunflower seeds and a fat-free spread.
Hummus is made from chickpeas mixed with olive oil, garlic and tahini, or sesame seed paste. This combination of ingredients provides protein, fiber and healthy unsaturated fats. For an easy meal that needs just a little prep, pack a container of hummus, some cut raw veggies and whole-wheat toasted or baked pita chips. Dip your vegetables and chips in the hummus for a healthy and delicious lunch. Another good way to use hummus is as a spread on a wrap or sandwich.
A pita is another healthy alternative to bread. Pitas accommodate almost any filling and they're a great lunch on-the-go because the ingredients won't fall out of the pocket. Trying filling a whole-wheat pita with sliced cucumbers, zucchini, carrots and tomatoes and then top it with low-fat dressing. Spread hummus on the wrap and top it with a slice of fat-free cheese, mushrooms and spinach. You can also go sweet and mix vanilla yogurt with walnuts and berries or other fruits. If you're packing your lunch, carry dressings and yogurt separately and add them when you're ready to eat.