Many people struggle daily to find healthy and quick meals for lunch and dinner. A salad and a piece of fruit may be healthy, but it's a pretty boring daily routine. The healthy plate guidelines (half vegetables, a quarter starch, a quarter protein, plus a serving of fruit and dairy) provide a great plan to help you eat a balanced and filling meal without gaining weight. And if done correctly, you can turn forbidden foods into everyday meals.
Pasta has been given a bad reputation, mainly because it is usually consumed in large portions with little or no nutritious sides. For a healthier version, combine 1/2 cup of cooked angel hair pasta (if you actually measure it, you're likely to get more than what you would estimate it to be), with a vegetable pasta sauce. Make your sauce with four ounces of cooked turkey breast, one-half to three-quarter cup of low-calorie (around 35 to 60 calories per serving) pasta sauce, and loads of vegetables like spinach, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and anything else you might like to add. Add a glass of milk and a fruit on the side and you'll have an antioxidant and fiber rich meal sure to leave you satisfied.
Tip: Make extra at dinner for an easy, no fuss lunch prep for the next day. Pack your pasta and sauce separately to allow the sauce ingredients to further blend and prevent the pasta from having a soggy texture.
Yes, pizza can actually be eaten on a regular basis if prepared healthfully. Start with a six inch whole wheat pita pocket. Next add one to two tablespoons of a low calorie spaghetti or pizza sauce before putting on loads of vegetables like spinach, onions, garlic, mushrooms, etc. Top your pizza with one-third cup of reduced fat cheese (like light mozzarella or goat cheese) and 10 slices of turkey pepperoni, which typically has 70 percent less fat than the regular. Bake your pizza in the oven (or toaster oven) on 350 for 10 minutes. Add a glass of milk or a light yogurt and a fruit and you've got a filling and balanced meal.
Tip: If you don't have any type of oven available at lunch, make a cold pizza sandwich inside of the pita bread instead of on top.
Mexican food is often thought of as greasy and fattening, but with a few substitutions, you'll find that these dishes can be quite good for you. First you want to start with a healthy base-if you're going to make tacos, use a whole wheat tortilla. If making nachos or tostadas, start with a baked corn tostada-not fried. From here you can add beans (choose the kind with minimal or no fat), romaine lettuce, lean meat (chicken, beef, or turkey), tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, and any other vegetables you might like before topping it with a small amount of reduced fat cheese. Add a fruit and a dairy source and you've got a complete and healthy meal.
Tip: Use plain fat free Greek yogurt (a dairy source) instead of sour cream, it tastes exactly the same so you won't miss the extra calories and fat.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.