Cooking School

5 cost-saving lunches

©iStockphoto.com/Jill Chen Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Jill Chen Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

5 cost-saving lunches

The food court at high noon always has a line that stretches out from the burger outlet. Expensive and fattening describe most of what's on the menu. Why is it that people travel to the food court every day, line up and then spend big chunks of money for something that blasts your daily fat intake right out of the water? The answer? It takes too much time, it's too much trouble and too complicated to pack your own lunches.

To entice you out of the food court toward your own healthy lunch, we've come up with a plan. We calculate the time it takes to get to the food court and stand in line, plus the cost and nutritional value, of the food court item. We then compare this to the time it takes to make lunch from scratch, the cost of ingredients and the nutritional value along with the nutritional bonuses that come with making lunch at home.

All of the recipes are quick and easy to make for four servings. You can enjoy some for dinner and take the remainder for lunch the next day, or pack lunches for the whole family or to share with friends.

1. Ginger Sesame Noodle Salad
Deep-frying is the reason to skip egg rolls, chicken balls, wings and ribs. Instead, satisfy your yearning for Chinese food with this salad full of flavourful noodles and crunchy vegetables. Precooked Chinese noodles are often used in this type of salad but because these noodles are coated in oil to prevent them from sticking together, their fat content is high. We use any long pasta or Chinese wheat noodles.

Deep-Fried Egg Rolls or Chicken Balls:
Trip to food court: 15 minutes
Cost: $2.58 for two egg rolls plus $6.99 for an order of chicken balls
Fat: Two egg rolls, 18 g
Calories: Two egg rolls, 314
Sodium: None listed

VS

Ginger Sesame Noodle Salad:
Time to make: 20 minutes
Cost: $2.70
Fat: 13 g
Calories: 506
Sodium: 1,340 mg
Bonus: Almost two Canada's Food Guide serving of vegetables


2. Deli Beef and Vegetable Sandwich "Burger"

A double burger loaded with cheese and sauce not only gives you more than half of your daily 51 g of protein but also clocks up half of your day's 63 g of fat. Reduce both the fat and protein with this sandwich of deli roast beef, a lower-fat sauce and lots of fresh vegetable toppings.

Double Cheese Burger:
Trip to food court: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.99
Fat: 34 g
Calories: 590
Sodium: 1,070 mg

VS

Deli Beef and Vegetable Sandwich "Burger":
Time to make: 10 minutes
Cost: $2.38
Fat: 7 g
Calories: 274
Sodium: 1,040 mg
Bonuses: Fibre from whole wheat bun, plus one Canada's Food Guide serving of vegetables.

Page 1 of 3 -- Find fried chicken, taco salad and pizza alternatives on page 2

3. Chicken Pitas with Tahini Sauce
Two pieces of fried chicken take up more than 40 g of an adult woman's limit of 63 g of fat per day. Sodium goes through the roof at more than 2,000 mg (the recommended daily limit is 3,500 to 4,500 mg). To our healthy alternative, we've added parsley, which is more than a pretty garnish; it's high in folate and vitamins A and C. We suggest broiling enough chicken to have for supper and to pack leftovers for lunch.

Fried Chicken (2 pieces):
Trip to food court: 15 minutes
Cost: $2.99
Fat: 44 g
Calories: 730
Sodium: 2,205 mg

VS

Chicken Pitas with Tahini Sauce:
Time to make: 10 minutes
Cost: $2.31
Fat: 13 g
Calories: 381
Sodium: 457 mg
Bonuses: Fibre from whole wheat pita; one Canada's Food Guide serving of vegetables; vitamins A and C and folate from parsley; vitamin A and lycopene from tomatoes.


4. Black Bean and Lime Chili Salad
When you add up the grams of fat in a taco salad of chili, fried tortilla bowl, full-fat cheese and sour cream, it comes to about 50 g. Our version features light Monterey Jack cheese, which is flavourful with 43 per cent less fat than the regular. And this salad is so delicious that you won't even miss the sour cream.

Taco Salad:
Trip to food court: 15 minutes
Cost: $5.99
Fat: 51 g
Calories: 830
Sodium: 1,760 mg

VS

Black Bean and Lime Chili Salad:
Time to make: 10 minutes
Cost: $2.50
Fat: 14 g
Calories: 400
Sodium: 1,110 mg
Bonuses: One-half of day's fibre intake; almost two Canada's Food Guide servings of vegetables.


5. Vegetable Pizza
Delicious and colourful, this is what pizza should taste and look like. Using small amounts of two cheeses -- feta for flavour and mozzarella for stretchiness -- gives satisfaction without excessive fat.

Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza:
Trip to food court: 15 minutes
Cost: $2.99 per slice
Fat: 14 g per slice
Calories: 280 per slice
Sodium: 600 mg per slice

VS

Vegetable Pizza:
Time to make: 20 minutes
Cost: $1.11 per slice
Fat: 5 g per slice
Calories: 158 per slice
Sodium: 400 mg per slice
Bonus: 2 slices (one-quarter of the pizza) provide one Canada's Food Guide serving of vegetables.

Page 2 of 3 -- Discover quick lunch ideas inspired from the contents of your fridge and pantry on page 3

Emergency shelf lunches
• Canned items such as sardines, tuna, salmon and smoked oysters are perfect to keep on hand to pack with whole-grain melba toast and crackers or to add to container of salad.

• Fresh vegetables and prepared salad dressings are great for quick veggies and dip or salad.

Baked tortilla chips and salsa make a quick crunchy part of a lunch. Add a sprinkle of shredded light cheese and some crunchy vegetable sticks.

• Flavourful cheeses, such as Jarlsberg, Gouda, Havarti or old Cheddar, pair with an assortment of Scandinavian crisp bread, crackers or rye crisps.

• Dried fruit, granola and yogurt are a tasty end to a meal.

• Apples, pears or grapes pair with cheese and crackers or nut butter and crisp bread.

Page 3 of 3

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Cooking School

5 cost-saving lunches

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