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Brown-Bag Lunches That Make the Grade

Get lunch in the bag -- in a hurry

Beyond The Sandwich continued...

You can finish your lean pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes the next day, stuff leftover broccoli in a pita with some low-fat cheese and heat it at lunchtime, or put the extra salmon filet or chicken breast over a bed of greens.

"Salad, to me, is just one of the best ways to eat up leftover food," Zelman says. And salad toppings aren't limited to meat; try leftover broccoli, green beans, or orzo pasta.

Speaking of pasta, "tortellini with pesto makes a good cold lunch the next day," says Magee.

Another staple for Magee is a bean and cheese burrito. You can use leftover beans or canned ones for a quick start, and add some grilled veggies to round out the meal. "You get protein from the beans and cheese, lots of fiber and some carbohydrates."

If you have a craving for tuna or chicken salad, says Magee, make it with balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil instead of mayonnaise, then have it with some whole-grain crackers or over greens. Throw in an apple or some grapes, and you've got a delicious and nutritious lunch.

When your fridge is empty and you're at a loss for creativity, Magee says, there's always frozen dinners. Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Weight Watchers, among others, offer healthful entrees -- some of which taste pretty good.

"Read the label to make sure they're not too high in sodium," Magee says. And because these entrees can be too low in calories to make a meal, Magee suggests supplementing them with a piece of fruit and some low-fat yogurt.

Be Prepared

As with all healthful eating, the key to packing good lunches is to shop wisely and plan ahead, say experts. Stock up on fruit and on vegetables that can be eaten raw, such as peppers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and celery. As soon as you get home from the store, clean and chop them so you can just grab and go in the morning. For a super-quick lunch, just eat the veggies with store-bought hummus or low-fat cottage cheese.

Magee says she doesn't believe in deprivation, so if you've got a sweet tooth, satisfy it. But don't eat an entire pint of ice cream or box of cookies. First, try eating a sweet piece of watermelon or a nectarine. If that doesn't do the trick, try low-fat frozen yogurt, a Fig Newton, or a ginger snap.

"Freeze a juice box" with 100% juice and eat it like a popsicle, suggests Zelman, or wait until it thaws and drink it with lunch instead of a soda.

To help keep you away from the sodas and coffee (which can dehydrate you and help make you hungrier) be sure you've always got water on hand. Freezing bottled water is a great way to keep cold water at your desk at all times (and a frozen bottle can help keep the rest of your lunch cold until noon).

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