Lunches that shrink your waistline and save cash too

EatingWell's BBQ Chicken SandwichEatingWell's BBQ Chicken SandwichIt's depressing, but true: the American lunch "hour" has shrunk to just 25 minutes, according to a recent study. With less time than ever it's all too easy to turn to fast food or the vending machine when you're away from home.

Forget take-out for lunch and think take-in: bringing your own food to school or work or anytime you're on the go is a good way to make sure you get a healthy midday snack or meal that won't cost you extra cash.

Packing a power lunch doesn't have to be complicated either. Here's an easy idea:For a nutritious midday meal, have a green salad topped with sunflower seeds and marinated tofu, followed by a cup of low-fat yogurt mixed with berries for dessert. Tofu, yogurt and sunflower seeds all provide good amounts of magnesium, a mineral that helps keep bones strong.

Tasty and healthy, these 5 EatingWell recipes emphasize lots of delicious fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein to fuel you for the rest of your day so you won't feel deprived. Plus, they can be taken anywhere you go. Reinvigorate your lunch-your body will thank you.

Zesty Bean Dip & Chips

1. Zesty Bean Dip & Chips: Stirring salsa into versatile canned refried beans makes a quick and healthy bean dip. It also works well as a sandwich spread with your favorite vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese.

Shrimp Cobb Salad

2. Shrimp Cobb Salad: Cooked peeled shrimp is perfect for fast and healthy meals-here we use it in place of chicken in our simplified Cobb Salad.

Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip

3. Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip: Stir lemon pepper into cottage cheese for an easy, yummy vegetable dip. We like carrots and snow peas, but any crunchy vegetables you have on hand will do.

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich

4. Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich: Sliced strawberries and reduced-fat cream cheese come together in a sandwich for this lunchbox treat.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

5. BBQ Chicken Sandwich: Toss leftover cooked chicken with barbecue sauce and crunchy carrots for a quick and healthy lunch. (Recipe follows)

Active time: 10 minutes | Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
2 teaspoons light ranch dressing
1 small whole-wheat sandwich bun
1 leaf romaine lettuce

Directions

Combine chicken, carrots and barbecue sauce in a bowl. Spread ranch dressing on the bun. Top with the chicken mixture and lettuce.

Makes 1 serving

Per serving: 323 calories; 8 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 62 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein; 4 g fiber; 729 mg sodium; 456 potassium.

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (100% daily value), Selenium (56% dv).

2 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings

Exchanges: 2 1/2 starch, 3 very lean meat, 1 1/2 fruit

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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