Billings Clinic
Especially For:

Lunch On-The-Go

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

If you are a follower of nutrition news, you’ve probably heard the buzz about the new USDA graphic at Introduced on June 2nd by First Lady Michelle Obama, along with the US Surgeon General and Secretary of Agriculture, the new graphic seeks to make healthful easting more user-friendly for busy American families.

Here’s good news for Montanans: ChooseMyPlate is completely compatible with the delicious, nutritious advice that Eat Right Montana has been serving up for years in the Healthy Families newsletter. Check out Eat Right Montana and ChooseMyPlate for more easy tips on healthy living!

Want a lunch that packs a nutrient punch? A balanced middle-of-the-day meal starts with the same smart choices shown on ChooseMyPlate: lean proteins, whole grains, colorful fruits, vibrant vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. This could be a tuna sandwich (light mayo) on whole wheat with sliced tomato, plus a sliced pear and fat-free milk. Try a cup of black bean soup and a whole-wheat quesadilla (using part-skim mozzarella cheese and fresh salsa), with a side of sweet strawberries.


The benefits of a balanced lunch are worth the time and effort for adults, kids, and families. According to research, how you eat may be just as important as what you eat. Eating slowly and listening to your internal signals of fullness may help prevent afternoon tummy aches - and help you maintain a healthy weight at the same time.

  • Lunch at work: In a time-crunched, budget-conscious world, brown bagging it may be best. Take a break from work while you eat - and go for a walk afterward.
  • Lunch at fast food: Although it’s possible to overdo calories, fat, and sugar, smart choices are now available in most chains. Choose milk and fruit in kid-size meals.
  • Lunch at a restaurant: More and more restaurants will also feature nutrition info on menus. Most chains already provide nutrition analyses on their websites.


  • Always start small: Most serving sizes in the U.S. are two to three times what most adults need. By choosing a cup of soup or half a sandwich, you’ll usually get plenty of food and you may save money too. Kid-size burgers are actually great for adults too.
  • Share, share, share: This is another easy way to control your food budget and avoid wasting food at the same. For a satisfying and cost-conscious lunch, share a sandwich or an entrée salad with a couple of sides (maybe a small order of fries).
  • Rethink your drink: A large soft drink or fancy coffee concoction can quickly add several hundred extra calories to your day. Smart choices for refreshing mealtime beverages include fat-free milk (regular or chocolate), unsweetened tea, and ice water.


Take time to sit and enjoy your lunch. Put down your work and enjoy a calming conversation with a friend or coworker. When you savor your lunch and listen to your stomach, it is easier to stop when you are satisfied.

Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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