How to Pack a Better Lunch

Option A is having a chef custom-make it every day, but if that’s not practical, we also have some advice that is

With fast-food joints on nearly every corner of our “hurry-up” streets, it’s difficult to not be lured by a drive-through quickie, especially with all those e-mails to answer and phone calls to make back at the office. However, according to a recent survey sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, almost two-thirds of Americans are changing the way they consume food, thanks to our present economy, with 72 percent of us now packing our own lunches.

But the survey didn’t define what types of lunches these Americans were packing. It could be those salty, preservative-filled microwaveable meals, or just eating out of a cracker box during the noon hour. Jason Craig, project manager and lead VIP host at the Palms, wanted to avoid those traps. “I’m always so busy with my daily schedule that I don’t have time to pack a lunch,” he says. “I try to eat healthy, so it’s especially hard when people in your office eat takeout and pizza.”

Such dilemmas eased when Craig found chef Josh Green of Dream Culinary Group (271-1791), who, along with business partner Dan Molitor, provides custom meals for busy Las Vegans.

The contents of a Dream lunch depend on an individual’s weight and lifestyle.

“Obviously a UFC fighter is going to have a different lunch than an office manager,” Green says. But generally he steers his clients away from bad fats and excessive carbs and gets them to stick with balanced meals of whole-grain foods, vegetables and proteins (so hunger doesn’t flare up and create bad temptations).

The chef delivers three lunches and dinners to Jason on Mondays and another two of each on Thursdays. This five-lunch-and-dinner plan costs $100 (for 10 meals in all) and includes a pick of salads, wraps or entrées, such as berry salad, turkey avocado wrap or grilled salmon filet.

But not everyone can afford this kind of treatment. So Holly L. Brewer, a local registered dietitian for 17 years, understands why people resort to microwaveable meals.

“These choices are not ideal since most are high in sodium, preservatives and additives,” she says. “But these frozen meals are a vast improvement over takeout or delivery and, when picking the right ones, can be quite healthy as well.” Korey Goodwin, a sports performance specialist, recommends a more old-fashioned alternative: packing a healthful lunch that begins with a sandwich (see sidebar). He also suggests putting a snack in your lunch pail.

“An apple is a good source of fiber and also helps lower cholesterol,” says Goodwin, who suggests a Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith. “And an orange is a great source of vitamin C. Both fruits keep energy levels consistent without getting that huge falloff most people experience around 2 p.m.”

You should also pack a “meal replacement,” such as a Bora Bora bar or a Larabar as a late-afternoon meal, he says, so when you drive home you can eat something quick and will be less likely to stop off at your favorite fast-food restaurant.

Goodwin’s final tip may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked by us desert-dwellers: Pack a liter of water in your lunch. This will help you achieve the four-liter-a-day ideal.

“Dehydration decreases mental clarity and optimal performance,” he says. “So make sure you stay hydrated, and the best source of hydration is water.”

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