Carbohydrates are your body's chief energy source, and lunchtime is when you need energy to keep a midday slump from coming on. When choosing a good carbohydrate source, it's important to select complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, that your body breaks down more slowly than refined carbohydrates like candy or sugary foods. Complex sources also give you a way to incorporate healthful fiber, vitamins and minerals into your daily diet.
Sandwiches and Wraps
The staple of a lunchtime menu, sandwiches can be a way to incorporate lean proteins like deli chicken and turkey with low-fat cheese, veggies and carbohydrate sources. If you love the convenience of a sandwich for lunch, use either whole-wheat bread or try a sandwich wrap using a whole-wheat tortilla. In addition to lean protein sources, the old standby of peanut butter and jelly also is an option that incorporates whole grains and protein for lunch.
Vegetables are carbohydrates, too. While the carbohydrate levels are not as significant as whole-grain breads, you can incorporate vegetables like spinach, green lettuce, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and grape tomatoes into a nutrient-packed salad. Creating a salad helps you to incorporate a number of vitamins into your daily diet. As an added bonus, the vegetables are low in fat and calories, meaning they won't add to your waistline.
Brown Rice or Whole-Wheat Pasta
If you love pasta, but are concerned about eating refined carbohydrates, try preparing a cup of whole-wheat pasta instead. The pasta gives you a serving size of whole grains and you can prepare it with olive oil and chopped vegetables like bell peppers for your lunch or top it with marinara sauce and a lean protein source. Brown rice is another complex carbohydrate choice. You can pair it with vegetables and lean protein like broccoli and a small chicken breast or mix it up as a stir-fry. Other grain sources high in protein and rich in B-vitamins include spelt, bulgur and quinoa, which can be side servings.
Fruits are a carbohydrate source you can incorporate into your lunch choices as well. Packing an apple, banana, grapes or strawberries with your lunch can serve as a dessert after a healthful lunch. If you don't enjoy fruit on its own, pack it with a yogurt fruit dip.
- "Taste of Home"; What's a "Good" Carbohydrate Meal?; Peggy Woodward, R.D.
- CBS News; The Good Carbohydrates; Polly Leider; February 2009
- HelpGuide.org; Nutrition for Women: Eating Right to Look and Feel Better; Melinda Smith, M.A., et al.; January 2011
- "Cooking Light": 22 Healthy Lunch Ideas
- "Fitness": Quick Lunch Recipes