What to Eat: Lunch Out

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but lunch often presents the biggest challenge when you’re working on losing or maintaining your weight.

Even if you’re simply trying to make healthier eating choices, lunch out at a café or restaurant can be stressful. Here are some quick tips to make navigating the world of sandwiches and soups simpler and healthier.

“Traditional” Basics

If you’re a sucker for a great sandwich, wrap, or burger, ask if you can replace the bread, tortilla, or bun with a lettuce wrap instead. Some lunch spots may even offer a low-carb wrap or a “naked” option—usually meaning your sandwich comes on a bed of lettuce. And if must be said: skip the fries or potato chips. Ask to sub with a veggies or a salad—or forgo the side altogether, and always ask for sauces on the side.

If you love warm, comforting soups, skip anything with “hearty,” “bisque,” or “cream/creamy/cream of” in the title. Legume-based soups like split pea, black-eyed pea, or black bean are high in fiber and plant-based protein, as well as thick and filling—without added flour or heavy cream. For the lowest carb option, look for vegetable soup (no noodles or potatoes), or meat chili. But watch out for “stews,” as they commonly include flour or cornstarch as thickeners.

Salads are often our go-to selection for a “healthy” lunch, but beware! Not all salads are healthy. Always ask for your dressing on the side, skip the croutons or fried wonton strips, and pay attention to other calorie-dense toppings like seeds, nuts, or cheeses. Simple is best when it comes to salad: start with mixed greens or Romaine lettuce, add a lean protein like chicken or grilled fish, and top with veggies. And opt for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and vinegar, a squeeze or lemon, and some salt and pepper to dress your salad.

Beyond Traditional

Lunch can be both healthy and fun! You may be surprised by the variety of options you can find.

Regardless of the restaurant’s cuisine, stick to some guidelines will help you find a filling, healthy option. One quick and easy way to cut the carbs from any meal is to skip starchy side offerings like white rice, potatoes, or corn. Along the same lines, avoid bread, wraps, and tortillas.

Look for protein-based plates with salad, grilled or steamed vegetables, or beans as sides. You can also order your main dish à la carte, but most restaurants are happy to substitute salad or veggies (sometimes with a nominal upcharge).

General Lunch Tips Conclusion

No matter your preference or the restaurant, keep these tips in mind when eating lunch out:

  • If your portion is going to be larger than you need to eat for lunch, ask for a to-go box when you order and pack half your meal away before you even take that first bite.
  • Avoid unnecessary calories hiding in condiments like ketchup, sour cream, “sauce,” and salad dressings—always ask for sauce or dressing to be served on the side.

Happy lunching!

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