Updated: March 02, 2016

lunchtimeWho knew “healthy” stuff like salads and yogurt parfaits could be so darn fattening? It was news to Healths staffers! See how we learned to lighten up our lunches without sacrificing one bit of flavor.

We put our own lunches under the microscope and discovered just how easy it is to get unwanted calories and fat. Then we turned to our in-house diet expert, Senior Food and Nutrition Editor Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, for simple—and tasty—solutions.

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  • 1. Jackie Froeber / Editorial Assistant
    Her lunch: Cobb salad with ranch dressing
    The damage: 850 calories, 63 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 1,902 mg sodium

    Salads seem like a great option, but this one is a calorie-and-fat bomb. It comes with chicken or turkey, bacon, avocado, cheese, and dressing. Yikes! Not only is it much higher in calories and fat than youd want in a lunch (nearly two meals worth), but it contains almost 80% of your daily sodium limit.

    The fix: To cut 350 calories (not to mention 26 grams of fat and 1,260 milligrams of sodium), Jackie should order her Cobb without bacon and cheese. If she leaves off half the dressing (she wont miss it, we promise), shell trim another 65 calories and 7.5 grams of fat.

    Joseph DeLeo

    Jackie should also ask for some extra yummies—another half-cup of tomatoes, cucumber slices, broccoli, or cauliflower, plus an extra half-cup of apple slices or grapes; all are low-cal bites with lots of satisfying bulk. What about all that creamy avocado? She should keep it: the heart-healthy “good” fats are worth the calories.

    The new bottom line: 475 calories, 29.5 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 496 mg sodium
    Jackie saves: 375 calories and 33.5 g fat!

    Next Page: Yogurt parfait with granola [ pagebreak ]

    Joseph DeLeo

    2. Susan Hall / Assistant Editor
    Her lunch: Takeout yogurt parfait with honey, dried cranberries, and granola, followed by a couple of handfuls of granola an hour later
    The damage: 635 calories, 21 g fat, 53 g sugar, 15.5 g protein, 5.5 g fiber

    At first glance, Susans lunch seems like a good choice: yogurt is rich in calcium and protein, and a little granola and dried fruit are fine as toppers. But even though the parfait has less than 300 calories, it doesnt fill her up, so shes reaching for more food just an hour later. Whats more, those two innocent handfuls of granola add up to 345 calories—more than in her original lunch! Together, her lunch and snack make a fattening, unsatisfying combo.

    The fix: Susan can save calories—and cash—by making a delicious parfait that has more hunger-satisfying protein and fiber than the store-bought variety. To make it, combine 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt and 1 teaspoon honey; layer mixture with 1 cup fresh berries, apples, or pears. Add a tasty crunch without all the sugar, by topping the parfait with 11 whole almonds instead of granola. Susan can amp up the feel-full factor of her lunch even more if she also eats 1/4 cup hummus with about 5 pita chips and 1 cup sliced veggies for dipping. Total calories? A mere 464—and a healthy combo lunch thatll carry her through to dinner.

    The new bottom line: 464 calories, 16.4 g fat, 27 g sugar, 31 g protein, 10 g fiber
    Susan saves: 171 calories, 4.6 g fat, and 26 g sugar!

    Next Page: Tuna wrap [ pagebreak ]

    Joseph DeLeo

    3. Daisy Chan / Contributing Editor
    Her lunch: Tuna in a spinach wrap with provolone
    The damage: 709 calories, 38 g fat, 5.4g fiber

    Daisy may think shes ahead of the calorie curve with a wrap instead of a sandwich, but the wrap is actually more fattening than two slices of bread. The wrap alone serves up well over a third of the calories in her lunch. Plus, most so-called veggie wraps are artificially flavored and colored—and contain no vegetables at all. Check the ingredient list if you can; in general, if the color is superbright, its not the real deal.

    The fix: Daisy should make a homemade sandwich with a whole-grain, high-fiber wrap. (Try La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious: each one balances 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fat with an impressive 12 grams of fiber.) She can save even more calories by skipping the mayo and mixing her tuna Mediterranean-style, adding 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon capers, juice from half a lemon, and salt and pepper, to taste. Not only will she add mega taste, but with the flavorful capers she can leave off the cheese and not even miss it—saving nearly 200 calories and 15 grams of fat in the bargain. And to make her wrap even better, Daisy should add extra veggies like baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, and shredded carrots.

    The new bottom line: 298 calories, 9.1 g fat, 15.9 g fiber
    Daisy saves: 411 calories and 28.9 g fat!