5 Ways Your Lunch Is Making You Fat

What you're adding to your salad and spreading on your sandwich could be causing unwanted weight gain.

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You may think you’re making smart afternoon meal choices, but some so-called “healthy” lunches could be contributing to unwanted weight gain. Adding too many ingredients to your salad or choosing the wrong sandwich wrap can throw off your daily calorie counts.

You can still enjoy your lunchtime favorites, just make smarter choices. Start by avoiding these calorie bombs, and discover effortless ways to pack your lunch without packing on pounds.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

Sugar-laden energy bars

2 / 6 Sugar-laden energy bars

A busy schedule can make finding time to prep and pack a well-balanced lunch a real struggle. Grabbing an energy bar on your way out the door may be doing your body a disservice. Packaged bars are often high in fat and loaded with quick-burning sugars, like brown rice syrup or other additives. Many bars, despite their deceivingly small package, pack a high-calorie punch. One two-ounce bar by a popular brand contains almost 200 calories, but some contain even more.    

Instead, make your own granola using toasted oats, almonds, chia seeds and ground cinnamon. This snack is easy to take on-the-go snack and pairs well with non-fat plain Greek yogurt. This quick and easy afternoon option is full of fiber and protein and won't tack inches on your waistline. For a touch of sweetness add a few berries or nibble an apple on the side.

Carb-heavy sandwich wraps

3 / 6 Carb-heavy sandwich wraps

You may be surprised to know that many brands of sandwich wraps contain more fat, calories and sodium than two slices of whole grain bread. A typical sandwich wrap contains more than 200 calories, five grams of fat and a whopping 580 milligrams of sodium. Don’t be fooled by the whole wheat and spinach wrap options; they’re often just as bad for your waistline.

You don’t have to swear off sandwiches as a lunchtime option. Instead opt for whole grain bread, with about 70 calories a slice, or lettuce wraps, which contain fewer than five calories per leaf. If a wrap is what you’re really craving, munch away, but choose a smaller wraps and check the caloric content. You can also lighten the load by swapping calorie-dense fillings for tons of sliced veggies.

Calorie-dense avocado

4 / 6 Calorie-dense avocado

Avocados are high in antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats, making them a great addition to yours salads, sandwiches, smoothies and more. If you’re looking to lose weight however, the fat and calorie content of this green fruit might not be best for whittling your waist.

In moderation, avocados are super healthy, but it can be easy to overindulge. A proper serving is smaller than you think—about one-fifth of a medium fruit. One avocado contains more than 300 calories, so eating much more than the recommended serving can add hundreds to your daily intake.

Mix your mashed avocado with diced onion and tomato, which add volume to your dip or spread, without adding too many calories. 

Unhealthy salad additions

5 / 6 Unhealthy salad additions

Eating a salad for lunch is an easy way to get your daily dose of veggies, but if you’re topping your greens with high-fat and high-calorie ingredients, it may not be so healthy after all. Salad saboteurs like cheese, bacon and croutons are high in saturated fats, which can increase your risk for high blood cholesterol.

High cholesterol levels can up your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death among American adults. Not to mention, these ingredients are jam packed with calories—almost 60 in a half-cup serving of croutons and 41 in a single slice of pork bacon. 

To build a better salad, opt for crisp, dark greens topped with nutrient-dense veggies like broccoli, carrots and Brussels sprouts. Next, toss in three ounces of lean protein, like chicken breast, garbanzo beans or tofu. Ditch the creamy salad dressings, too, and try making your own vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, thyme and black pepper.

High-calorie tuna salad

6 / 6 High-calorie tuna salad

Chunk light tuna is high in protein and omega-3s, so it tops the list of healthy lunchtime options—that is until you smother it in mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is notoriously high in fat, and easy to overdo.

Most tuna salads contain far more mayonnaise than the recommended serving of one teaspoon. Even a tablespoon contains more fat and calories than you should be adding to your afternoon meal—100 calories and 11 grams of fat.  

Lose the excess fat by keeping your tuna salad simple: put plain tuna over a bed of lettuce or mix it with plain non-fat Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and contains good-for-your-gut probiotics. 

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