Throughout the fall, I’ll be picking up on the dozen “fall change” targets listed in the recent Eat Sanely newsletter (see just below).  The first idea?  Bringing your own lunch to work.  If you’re not in the habit of doing so, prepare for calorie reduction, better nutrition, and possibly even less grazing later on.  All from this one habit shift.

People who successfully make this change report things like:  “I don’t go to the food court every day anymore”, “I end up with more energy and don’t get as hungry in the afternoon”, “It’s easier to eat more vegetables”, “It keeps me out of the conference room, where the big spread always tempts me”.

What to bring?  Coincidentally, the New York Times “Flexitarian” columnist, Mark Bittman, recently published “Thinking Inside the Bag” on this very topic.  His ideas emphasize the delicious and satisfying.  They include nice, fresh ingredients.  You can do even less, though, in the way of prep.   Consider these routine alterations:

Before grocery shopping, think of what you’d like to bring for lunches during the week.  Put those items on your list.  Some things, like individual servings of fruits or nuts, can go into small containers once you’re home from the store.  If you have dinner leftovers, they can fill small containers for work as well.  Now you’ll have handy items to throw in your bag as you leave each day.

Assemble other items each weeknight for the following morning, or put them together just before you leave–whichever works best for you.  If you prepare children’s lunch and snack bags each evening, prepare your own then, too.   The more advance preparation—in terms of dividing out portions, or cooking—the easier it will be to solidify this habit for yourself.

While nutritionally not as satisfying as other kinds of prepared foods, I know long-term successful dieters who bring a frozen dinner (such as a Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine or Amy’s) each day.  They appreciate not having to think about the issue at all.  Quick, easy, calorie-controlled no matter what.

Women’s magazines, cooking and diet magazines often publish easy nutritious snack and lunch ideas.  Search them for inspiration.  Here are a few to start with:

Snacks for your bag:
apple or banana or pear with ½ tab nut butter
-¼ c. hummus with carrot sticks
-rolled up piece of deli turkey
-3 wholegrain crackers with ½ oz. cheese
– hard-boiled egg
– 15 almonds or walnuts
-celery sticks with 1 tab light cream cheese
-½ baked sweet potato sprinkled with parmesan cheese or sesame seeds
-dried apricot or fig with 4 walnuts
 -protein shake (under 200 calories)

Light and easy lunches:
container of lettuce and/or spinach leaves topped with tuna, chicken, hard boiled egg, chick peas, cottage cheese, or tofu
-leftover main dish from previous dinner
-leftover homemade soup
– wholegrain wrap (or ½) with greens, tomato, and 1 oz cheese or 1-3 oz. turkey
– wholegrain wrap (or ½) with greens and hummus
-½ c. fat free or lowfat refried beans with 1 oz cheese, tomato and pepper
-tomato or pepper half stuffed with cottage cheese and chives
-1 c. plain yogurt with berries and/or banana added and 1 tab crushed walnut on top
-3 fresh mozzarella cheese rounds (1/4” thick) with tomato slices and basil leaves
-frozen burrito, fruit

 Finally, you may find these resources helpful:
–  Cook Once and Eat All Week
–  Chapter 5 (“Practicalities”) in the Eat Sanely workbook
Fall Resolution:  Eat Sanely  
-Blog Archive:  Cooking and More