By the time lunch rolls around, if you are slaving away at work, school or with the kids, dining on fast food or some type of “lean” or “low-fat” microwavable food may seem like the most convenient choice.

Going to a fast-food restaurant is not necessarily the worst food choice – many national restaurant chains have their nutrition facts posted at the counter and many publish nutrition facts online for you to download. Do a little research before you head to the drive-thru and choose the fast foods with the healthiest profiles.

“Lean” microwavable foods offer convenience as well as a label that makes you think healthy, but they are typically very high in sodium. While the calories and fat content tend to be lower with foods like Lean Cuisine and Lean Pockets, one serving may contain up to 30 percent or more of the recommended daily sodium intake of 2400 milligrams – in one meal.

Marci K Campbell, PhD, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests looking for microwavable meals higher in protein and with less than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving. She cautions, “If the product contains less than 10 grams of protein it probably won’t fill you up or feel like a meal.”

Sometimes the lunch convenience factor is more important than choosing the healthiest option – which would be to take the time to make a lunch that is healthy – but requesting nutrition facts from your favorite restaurants and reading nutrition labels are a great strategy for healthy midday eating.

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