Aah, lunch used to be such an easy meal to throw together, then scarf down between meetings or chauffeuring the kids from school to band rehearsal or soccer practice.

If you've been losing weight and feeling much better thanks to a low-carb approach, you know fries, pizzas and tacos are off-limits. In fact, these fast food staples may well be the reason you've gained pounds and lost energy. You won't let the lunchtime doldrums get you down once you fill up on this good advice on creating a healthy mid-day meal: Just because you've come to your senses and sought a healthier eating regimen doesn't mean you have to bag the brown-bag lunch.

There are plenty of healthy choices that fit nicely into your new low-carb lifestyle. Thanks to the introduction of tasty low-carb breads and tortillas, it's gotten easier to expand your lunch menu from tuna or chicken salad and celery sticks. It's important to note that even with low-carb breads and tortillas, you still have to watch your daily carb count.

Whether it's a meaty salad at your favorite burger joint or a low-carb entree at your favorite bar and grill, most restaurants are now catering to the people who have scrapped their low-fat, calorie-counting approach for an eating plan that'll fill them up without filling them out.

Go ahead... order up that cheeseburger, but skip the bun and fries. Or if you opt for chicken wings, make sure the wings aren't breaded and that the sauce isn't sugar-laden. Balance either one with a side salad. For you loyal low-carb followers who can't do without your beloved bread, B.Y.O.B (bring your own bread... low-carb of course).

One of the best resources for a healthy, well-balanced lunch remains the salad bar. It's a great way to control what and how much you eat. You can fill up on chicken salad, tuna salad, turkey salad and an array of fresh-cooked high-fiber vegetables. But beware of salad dressings that can drown your diet in carbs. There are still some eateries where you'll be hard-pressed to find an appropriate low-carb lunch. Between pastas and pizzas, the local Italian restaurant can be a high-carb haven. Your best out is to settle for a salad or even a grilled chicken breast with a side of veggies. Remember, those pound-packing pastas aren't going to win you any weight-loss awards.

To avoid getting yourself in a pickle (if you're wondering, dill is OK, sweet is not) plan your selections in advance. If you keep the protein on hand, along with low-carb bread or tortillas, you'll be less likely to scramble when the lunch bell rings. Stash some staples in the office fridge and keep convenient snacks in your desk or glove compartment, and you'll always be prepared for the worst-case scenarios, like having no time to grab a sit-down meal. Coupled with a piece of cheese, fruit or a handful of nuts, your snacks will provide the boost you need.

With a wide array of choices and a little pre-planning in the morning, you'll see that savoring a low-carb lunch is easier than ever. Eating three meals a day is a must -- and feel free to enjoy low-carb snacks between meals. Doing so maintains your blood sugar levels and keeps you on an even keel so you don't suffer energy dips.

Gobble up these top 10 lunch suggestions and you'll be the most envied eater at work.

1. Chicken salad, tuna salad, turkey salad: Enjoy these classics on a bed of lettuce with other fresh veggies or between two slices of low-carb bread.

2. Quesadillas: Wrap low-carb tortillas around meats, vegetables and cheese.

3. Sandwiches: Stuff a low-carb tortilla or low-carb pita bread with avocado slices, chicken, sprouts and other veggies and protein

4. Leftovers: Leftovers are great for both lunch and dinner. If you make a roast chicken the night before, you can use the meat as a base for either a salad or sandwich.

5. Ready-to-drink low-carb shakes or handy nutrition bars: Supplement low-carb energy bars and shakes with a piece of cheese or fresh vegetables.

6. Caesar salad, Cobb salad, chef's salad: Any salad that contains some protein, such as cheese, hard-boiled eggs, poultry, tofu or meat, drizzled with low-carb dressing is a healthy option.

7. Omelets: If you haven't had eggs for breakfast, an omelet loaded with meat and vegetables makes a satisfying lunch.

8. Burger... no bun: You can make a quick run for your favorite fast food restaurant. Order a bunless burger and a side salad.

9. Miso soup and sashimi: If you're going Japanese, sashimi is an excellent selection. However, pass on the sushi rolls, as they are made with white rice.

10. Steak, lobster... dinner for lunch: Treat yourself! A juicy steak or a steamed lobster tail with a side of veggies is more than suitable and a great way to beat lunchtime boredom.

There are plenty of healthy choices that fit nicely into your new low-carb lifestyle. Thanks to the introduction of tasty low-carb breads and tortillas, it's gotten easier to expand your lunch menu from tuna or chicken salad and celery sticks.

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