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Healthy Lessons in Lunch Menu

Martha Stewart Living, September 2006

A healthy diet may begin with a good breakfast, but the real test comes at lunchtime. "In many ways, lunch is the most important meal of the day," says Elaine Magee, a registered dietitian in the San Francisco Bay Area. "It provides energy to get us through the afternoon, when we're often at our most active," she says. Yet the midday meal is the one we rarely plan, the one we often choose in haste.

"If you don't think about lunch until you're ravenous, you'll be tempted to grab the first thing you find," says John La Puma, M.D., medical director of the Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight. Such choices frequently include fast foods, convenience snacks, and sweets that are high in trans or saturated fats, sodium, or refined carbohydrates.

A more enticing alternative: Make your own meal, to have at home or pack for work. The lunch recipes on the following pages combine flavorful produce with an array of other nutritious ingredients, such as beans, tofu, and whole grains. Sample the recipes, and instead of searching for lunch, you'll be savoring it.

Mindful at Midday
Made with a whole-grain roll, a sensible portion of cheddar, and quick pickles, this sandwich fits into a good diet rather than undermining it.

Do You Know?
A takeout lunch of grilled cheese and a side of french fries can exceed the daily dietary allowance of saturated fat, which raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Cheddar Sandwiches With Quick Pickles and Honey-Mustard Spread
Crisp Tofu With Crudites and Sesame-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Chicken Wraps With Mango, Basil, and Mint
White Bean Salad With Spicy Roasted Tomatoes and Broccoli