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Gentlemen, start your engines with a decent lunch


I've been having a lot of trouble with men lately. Too many of them tell me they're so busy making money that they just don't have time to eat lunch.

If that kept them all healthy, wealthy and wise, I wouldn't worry. Unfortunately their complaints arise from feeling tired, irritable and stressed-out. They're also gaining the kind of weight that leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and back pain.

The downward spiral is clearly visible. Skipping lunch means running on empty all afternoon. The low fuel supply masquerades as stress or fatigue. By dinner time, starvation accelerates speed eating past the "full" and "stop" signs. Then comes the couch crash, when excess dinner fuel ends up parked just above the belt.

Too bad, because a little lunch could break the cycle, make the afternoon more productive, reduce stress, improve dinnertime control and lead to healthier body weight.

After mending their ways, guys who've reverted to a 15-minute noontime body break have been amazed by how much better they feel for the rest of the day. And it's really easy to do.

Pack one of these lunches:

Peanut butter on raisin bread, raw baby carrots, pint of lowfat milk.

Lean ham and reduced fat cheese on rye bread, can of tomato juice.

Leftover pizza, fresh fruit.

Cold chicken, dinner roll, whole tomato, rice pudding.

Pita filled with leftover salad and tuna, two plums, carton of yogurt.

Canned black bean soup, cheese slice rolled in tortilla, vegetable juice.

Two lowfat granola bars, box of raisins, pint of chocolate milk.

Hummus, whole grain crackers, fruit juice.

Frozen dinner, roll, fruit.

Packing lunch, of course, means planning ahead (which takes about 15 minutes) and doing a little shopping (about half an hour if you choose the store's quiet time). The first time is the hardest and takes the longest. But most men quickly catch on to keeping supplies on hand.

Buy several three-packs of juice or shelf-stable UHT milk, a couple of packages of very low-fat lunch meats, some reduced-fat cheese, a jar of peanut butter and some grab-and-go pre-cut vegetables from the produce department.

Shop once a month for a variety of soups to store at the office.

Buy a different kind of bread each week. Alternate a whole grain bread week with a pita week, a bagel week and an English muffin week. In no time, you'll have body-fueling down to a quick routine that saves more time than it spends.

If you're really not into lunch packing, there are a couple of easy ways to buy healthful meals every day or just in a pinch.

Have lunch delivered:

Turkey, lettuce, tomato on Kaiser roll, cole slaw, fruit juice.

Small cheese and vegetable pizza, bottled water.

Hot and sour soup, moo goo gai pan, steamed white rice.

Cheese enchilada, rice, pineapple juice.

Drive through for fast food:

McDonald's: chef salad, light dressing, strawberry shake.

Boston Market: chicken sandwich (no sauce or cheese), barbecue baked beans, iced tea.

Wendy's: 9-ounce chili on plain baked potato, garden salad, fat-free dressing, juice.

Roy's: roast beef sandwich, potato salad, side salad, fat-free dressing, orange juice.

Hardee's: hot ham and cheese sandwich, side salad, fat-free dressing.

Burger King: BK broiler, side salad, fat-free dressing, chocolate frozen yogurt.

Clearly, some of those foods look like the bad guys you've been warned away from. The trick to eating out is to tap into each fast food shop's nutrition information. They all have it, but many hide it. So feel free to ask.

Take a quick scan down the "total fat" column and choose the foods you like best that add up to 700 calories and 15 grams or less of fat. Almost everyone offers a side salad and nonfat dressing, a handy way to add some veggies to your day.

Fueling up at lunchtime will make your day.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 9/17/96

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