5 Lunch Options You Thought Were Healthy But Aren’t

Ensuring you eat a healthy lunch can be tricky. You’re often caught up at work and too busy to step out. Yet even if you do take the time to choose a “healthy” option, it may not actually be so nutritious. Here’s what you should know before you choose your lunch tomorrow:

The salad bar

With so many offerings, a salad bar offers both healthy and unhealthy ingredients. Basically, just because you’re eating a salad doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Also, since you have all the options right in front of you, sometimes the fried chicken you’d generally avoid ordering ends up looking really appetizing when you’re compiling your lunch.

Make-it-Healthy Tip: Choose wisely

Avoid temptation by sticking to your usual healthy go-to’s. Use veggies to add variety, and choose lean meats, such as grilled chicken and turkey. Also, beware of dressings; instead of a heavy cream dressing, lighten up with a vinaigrette . Adding avocado can also give you a bit of that creamy consistency without the added unhealthy fats.

Frozen “health” meals

Not only are these meals laden with sodium, they also don’t tend to be that balanced. Many are carb-heavy and don’t provide well-rounded nutrients. Plus, they’re not always budget-friendly.

Make-it-healthy tip: Make your own

We get it, sometimes a frozen meal is what works on a busy day. But consider planning ahead and making your own using plastic containers. Your meal will not only be healthier, it’ll also be tastier. Stews, pastas and anything with some sauce make good options because they’ll dry out less in the freezer and have an appetizing consistency once defrosted.

Smoothie

When you’re looking for something quick, a smoothie can be great option. But as with salads, it depends on what ingredients you choose. If you’re loading yours up with peanut butter, for example, you might end up with a high-calorie meal that isn’t all that filling. And as for fillers, the mix-ins, milk choice and nutritional supplements all make a big difference.

Make-it-healthy tip: Aim for produce and protein

In order to keep your lunch smoothie healthy and satisfying, aiming for a fruit-based (not chocolate or peanut butter) option with added protein. Think berries, bananas, mangos—any will do—and add protein with soy or almond milk and potentially some added protein powder, depending on what’s available.

Sandwiches and wraps

Here, it’s really about watching your portions. Oftentimes, pre-made deli counter sandwiches consist of two or three portions. Plus, depending on the bread used, you may end up with way more carbohydrates than necessary in a single meal. Also, when you’re in a hurry and viewing food through a glass case, it’s easy to just go with the option that looks most visually appealing, instead of taking into account whether you actually need the entire item.

Make-it-healthy tip: Mix it up

Instead of getting a whole sandwich, order half and pair it with a side salad. This will give you some added fiber, plus you probably won’t miss the second half anyway. Try splitting it with a friend or saving some for later—this will keep you from feeling like you need to finish something when you don’t.

Soup

It might sound like a light, healthy option but many soups are anything but. Often, cheesy or cream-based soups are very heavy and can leave you feeling a little sick and sluggish afterward. The sodium is also something to watch out for (check the nutrition facts, if available).

Make-it-healthy tipAvoid cream bases

Whenever possible, choose a light base, such as broth or veggies, such as split pea. Swap the roll on the side for a salad if you can.

Jake Goodrich is an avid sports nut and unapologetic fan of Steve Winwood’s '80s albums.