Healthy and Quick Lunches for Athletes

Use these tips to make nutritious mid-day meals that fuel busy runners and are edible on-the-run.

Lunch is often an overlooked meal, especially if you are a busy runner with work commitments, family obligations, and a bajillion other priorities. Many people shove something in as quickly as possible between training sessions, extra work, or feeding the kids. But putting a little thought into your mid-day meals can make you a better runner. A well-balanced lunch fuels quality afternoon and night-time runs, helps morning runners recover, and provides much-needed nutrients and minerals.

If you often find yourself stuffing your face with whatever is lying around for lunch, or skipping lunch altogether, you are not only affecting your training goals, but are also setting yourself up for a mid-afternoon slump. Taking a few quick minutes to plan your meals the night before can make all the difference at lunchtime the next day.

Here are some fast and simple lunch ideas that provide you the nutrition that you need to support your training goals with minimal preparation.

Build a better sandwich:

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Start with your base of whole grain bread, tortillas, bagel thins or a pita. Make sure that you are always choosing whole grains, as opposed to multi-grain or white bread, as these will stick with you longer.

Next, add some protein to the mix. Lunch meats are easy and a great source of protein, but many are packed with sodium and preservatives. Look for natural and organic lunch meats that have less of the unhealthy additives that you do not need such as Applegate Organic and Natural Meats Cold Cuts.

If you are a vegetarian, try organic peanut butter or another nut butter, or hummus on your bread. MaraNatha No-Stir Natural Peanut Butter is a great option and does not separate into oil and sludge like other organic and natural nut butters do.

Top your sandwich any way you like, with veggies such as spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, red onions and more. If eating a peanut butter sandwich, try topping with thinly sliced banana, crushed fresh strawberries or apple slices.

Fast Tip: Try preparing your sandwich the night before while you are prepping dinner at the same time. This cuts down on food prep times and a sandwich is easy to throw together while you are waiting for dinner to heat up! Simply leave off any condiments (like dressings or mustard) and bring these with you in a small container to add when you are ready to eat. This helps you avoid gross soggy bread!

To round out your sandwich lunch, add a piece of whole fruit, like an orange or pear, some cut-up fresh veggies, and/or a cup of organic Greek yogurt.

Make salad a complete meal:

Build your salad any way you want, but try to make it the night before to save precious time in the morning. Add any chopped veggies you like, then up the protein factor by tossing on some tasty organic canned beans, hard boiled eggs, tofu, tuna, grilled chicken or any meat left over from dinner. Add nuts or seeds, such as walnuts or almonds, and avocado or extra virgin olive oil for satiating healthy fats that promote absorption of nutrients from the vegetables. Try adding pre-cooked whole grains (think: brown rice, quinoa), serving with whole grain crackers, or adding sweet potatoes to your salad to round out the meal with high-quality carbohydrates.

Fast Tip: Bring salad dressing in a separate small container to avoid soggy lettuce at lunch time. Also, try alternatives to store-bought salad dressing, such as fresh-made salsa or a simple drizzle of olive oil with a dash of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Chose soup for convenience:

Soup lovers will find that if you do not have time to make your own homemade soup, there are many great options at your grocery store that are low in sodium and calories and have an ideal mix of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. The key? Selecting a soup that has as few additives and preservatives as possible, which don’t provide any nutritional bang for the buck. Amy’s makes some tasty soups that are simple to heat and eat on the run. Some even taste good  chilled, such as veggie lentil soup served over rice.

Fast Tip: If your office does not provide a can opener, take a minute to open your soup at home and pour into a container to take to work, or bring a can opener to leave at your desk. There’s nothing worse than having a sealed can of soup for lunch that you can’t open!

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