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How to Pack Lunch for Weight Loss

By Jessica Bruso

Pack your lunch and you may have an easier time cutting calories and losing weight, since this allows you more control over the ingredients in your lunch than ordering out at your favorite restaurant. But it can take some practice to pack a lunch that is both filling and low in calories.

Start With a Soup or Salad

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating foods that are low in energy density, or calories per gram, to help limit your calorie intake while still eating enough to feel full. These foods, such as broth-based soups or salads, take up a lot of space in your stomach, so you eat less of foods that are higher in calories later in your meal. You'll need to eat 500 fewer calories each day to lose a pound a week, so stocking up on salad greens and soups is a good idea. If you're not full, you're more likely to give in to cravings and eat too many calories to lose weight. Just make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses.

Increase Fiber With Whole Grains

Swap out your white bread and white rice for 100-percent whole-grain bread and brown or wild rice. Using whole grains will help you increase the amount of fiber in your lunch, and eating more fiber will make you less likely to gain weight or body fat, according to a study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in January 2009. Fiber also slows the movement of food through your digestive tract, helping you feel full for longer and eat less later in the day.

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Add Protein

Include at least one source of lean protein, such as fish, skinless chicken breast or beans, in your lunch. Protein is more filling than either fat or carbohydrates, according to an article published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in May 2008. Avoid high-fat and high-sodium protein options and very processed luncheon meats like salami in favor of roasted and sliced lean deli meats when you make sandwiches.

Include Lots of Fruits and Veggies

You'll be able to lower the overall energy density of your lunch if you include lots of fruits and vegetables. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, bell pepper or other vegetables to your sandwiches in place of some of the high-fat cheese or lunch meat. Eat fruit for a sweet ending to your meal instead of cookies or candies. Instead of chips, munch on carrots with hummus or top a small baked potato with salsa for a nutritious side that isn't too high in calories.

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