Much as you might love the idea a leisurely midday meal, lunch tends to be a purpose-driven affair: Your mission is to eat something easy, quick, and nourishing that will deliver the energy you need to make it through the day. Problem is, plenty of common lunches do the exact opposite. And they are loaded with a ridiculous amount of calories, dangerous fats, or weird preservatives, to boot. Here are 7 you’ve probably resorted to at some point or another—and why you should steer clear from now on. (Repeat after us: No more dieting ever. Instead, learn how to eat clean—with zero deprivation!—and watch the pounds drop off)
You know that feeling you get after eating a big bowl of linguine primavera or fettuccine Alfredo? You’re full and happy—and thanks to all those refined carbs, ready to curl up and go to sleep. This is great if your boss is OK with you taking a 2-hour nap after lunch. But if she’d rather you remain awake while you’re at your desk, you might want to pass on the noontime noodles.
Last night’s takeout
Yes, you feel bad about wasting perfectly good leftovers. But that gloppy sauce that your chicken or broccoli is swimming in is loaded with sugar, so you get the same nap-inducing effect as pasta. Plus, you don’t want to be that person whose microwaved meal stinks up the entire office kitchen, do you?
A burger and fries
Cruising into the drive-through is quick and convenient, sure. But most of those combo meals are ginormous, and will eat up most of your calorie budget for the day. Scarier still? All that unhealthy fat. At best, the beef, cheese, and special sauce will pack a saturated fat punch. At worst, your fast food meal could also serve up a side of artery-clogging trans fats.
A pre-made sandwich from the convenience store
Turkey and cheese on whole wheat might seem harmless—until you take a look at the ingredients list. Most premade sandwiches are designed to sit in those refrigerated cases for days, so they’re pumped up with weird preservatives. Plus, you can’t control the amount of fatty extras that go in, like mayo or cheese.
Broth-based vegetable soups are filling, low in calories, and loaded with nutrients. But they’ve got practically zero protein, which means that your simple bowl of minestrone probably won’t hold you over for very long. And when your stomach starts rumbling again in an hour, all you’ll want to do is make a beeline for that vending machine. If you want to have veggie soup for lunch, pick one with lean protein like chicken or turkey, and add some complex carbs—like an apple or a small whole grain roll.
A garden salad
A bowl of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and croutons isn’t lunch. At least, not main by itself. Just like vegetable soup, plain garden salads are too low in protein to sustain you through dinnertime. At the very least, you need some protein (like chickpeas or salmon) and healthy fat (like nuts, seeds, or avocado) in order for this to count as a legitimate meal.
Your coworker’s birthday cake
The temptation to save calories by skipping your actual lunch so you can indulge in that frosted confection is real. It’s also a terrible idea. You know that cake offers zero nutrition. Even worse, all that sugar and white flour will cause your blood sugar to spike and crash. Which means at 3 o’clock, you’ll find yourself craving another slice?