What 5 Healthy 500-Calorie Lunches Look Like

Danielle Omar
by Danielle Omar
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What 5 Healthy 500-Calorie Lunches Look Like

Breakfast gets all the credit for being the most important meal of the day, but let’s not forget about the meal that keeps you going after breakfast wears off: lunch! Lunch is your body’s midday energy source, fueling your afternoon so you don’t end up starving long before dinnertime or crashing before your 3 p.m. meeting.

When it comes to lunch, most of us reach for sandwiches. They’re portable, easy to eat and come in a wide variety. They can also become calorie bombs with the bread, cheese, add-ons and condiments. If you want to grab a sandwich, but keep the calories in check, here are a few tips:

GO EASY ON THE CONDIMENTS

A packet of mayo or a few squirts of Thousand Island dressing can easily tack on around 100 calories. Stick to low-cal condiments like mustard, salsa or hot sauce and swap creamy, plain Greek yogurt for mayo whenever possible.

LOAD UP ON VEGGIES

Rather than piling your sandwich with meat and cheese, stack it with high-fiber veggies to sneak in nutrients, a little crunch and added flavor.  

WATCH THE BREAD

Bread may be the cornerstone of a good sandwich, but I love using collard greens in place of wraps for an extra dose of veggies. Using collards or lettuce in place of bread means you can enjoy more fillings for the same (or less) calories. It’s also a way to enjoy sandwiches on a lower-carb diet. If you’re a sandwich purist and bread is your jam, opt for fiber-rich, 100% whole-wheat varieties to keep you full longer. (And stay away from the footlong subs!)

Here’s some inspiration for your next brown bag lunch:

Ingredients

5 ounce can albacore tuna, drained
2 tablespoons 2% Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 cup spinach
1 small tomato, sliced
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
1 large whole-wheat wrap

Directions

Combine the tuna, yogurt and mustard in a small bowl and mix with fork. Place the spinach, avocado and carrots in the center of the wrap and top with tuna salad mixture. Roll the wrap and slice in half. Eat immediately or store for up to one day.

Ingredients

For the burger:
1 whole-wheat burger bun
4 ounces lean ground turkey
1.5 ounce part-skim fresh mozzarella
1 small tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons basil leaves
For the salad:
1 cup lettuce
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

Directions

For the burger, place a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Shape turkey into a patty about 1/2-inch thick and place in pan, cooking 5 minutes on each side. Place patty on bun and top with mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves.

For the salad, combine lettuce, cucumber and onion in a medium bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients

1 large whole-wheat tortilla
1/3 cup canned black beans, drained
3 ounces cooked, pulled chicken
1/4 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons salsa
1/2 cup cooked peppers and onions
1/4 cup lettuce, shredded
1 small tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons light shredded Mexican cheese

Directions

Heat the beans, chicken, peppers and onions in the microwave for 1 minute. Heat the tortilla according to package directions. Place the heated ingredients in the center of the tortilla. Top with remaining cold ingredients.. Roll the tortilla and serve immediately or store for up to one day.

Ingredients

1 whole-wheat sandwich roll
3 ounces cooked, pulled chicken
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
1/4 cup cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup lettuce
Cilantro, basil, mint to taste

Directions

Toast or broil the sandwich roll until brown around the edges. Spread mayonnaise and sriracha evenly across the roll. Starting with the pulled chicken, place remaining ingredients in the roll. Finish with cilantro, basil and mint to taste. Fold closed and serve immediately or store for up to one day.

Nutrition: Calories: 467; Total Fat: 10g; Carbohydrate: 63g; Dietary Fiber: 9g; Protein: 30g 

Ingredients

3 large collard green leaves
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 cup cucumbers, sliced
1 small tomato, sliced
1/3 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup lettuce
1 1/4 cups canned low-sodium black bean soup

Directions

Place 1/3 of the brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, tomato, avocado and lettuce into each collard green leaf. Fold closed and serve immediately with a side of heated black bean soup.

Nutrition: Calories: 497; Total Fat: 13g; Carbohydrates: 88g; Dietary Fiber: 19g; Protein: 16g

About the Author

Danielle Omar
Danielle Omar

Danielle is an Integrative Dietitian, culinary nutritionist, author, and expert consultant, frequently lending her love of creating to some of the country’s most highly recognized food and nutrition media outlets. She’s a regularly featured blogger, an expert consultant, and founder of foodconfidence.com, where she inspires men and women on their journey to become their healthiest self. Join her free Fearless Cooking challenge here. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook

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