Lunch Ideas for a Low Glycemic Index Diet

Woman eating healthy salad at restaurant
LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

What's on your menu for lunch today? If you're like most people, you'll most likely grab something quick or bring the same old lunch staple you eat all the time. Whether you decide to eat out or bring in lunch from home, there are several healthy and easily accessible options to make the transition to a low glycemic index (GI) diet a little easier.

Soups

Soups are a great option for lunch. Not only can you find soup on most take-out menus, but you can easily make a big pot of soup on the weekend and freeze individual portions to save for later.

Try freezing soup in one-cup servings in separate bags to make thawing and reheating easier. All you have to do is pull out one bag in the morning and at lunch time, stick it in a microwave-safe dish until it's warmed.

Lentil, vegetable, minestrone, chicken with whole wheat pasta or brown rice, and pea soup are all particularly good low GI options. You’ll want to avoid cream-based soups due to their high caloric and saturated fat amounts. This is especially true if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) since you have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

Salads

Salads, depending on what you put in them, are a very healthy choice. Start with a nutrient dense lettuce, like a spring mix or spinach, and pile on your veggies of choice. While iceberg lettuce doesn’t have a high GI, there's very little nutritional benefit to eating it. You’ll get many more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by substituting spinach or other dark green lettuce instead.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots are great toppings for any salad. You’ll want to limit cheese, bacon bits, and croutons, which are high in fat. Feel free to add chopped fruit, like oranges, grapefruit, apples, or berries, grilled chicken, nuts and beans or legumes for added protein, crunch, and sweetness.

Salad dressing is also important to consider when you're making or ordering a salad. Stick with a simple mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress your salads instead of a bottled high fat, high sugar dressing. Or, even better, you can easily make your own dressing with fresh ingredients like lemon, garlic, and oranges. Need ideas? Check out the PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook

Sandwiches

Easily made at home and brought to work or found at local delis, sandwiches provide a lot of low glycemic index options. You’ll need to swap out the rolls or white bread for 100% whole wheat or sprouted bread. Try cheese and ham, which is a very lean meat, or turkey and cheese, or tuna or egg salad. Feel free to load up your sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, if available. Instead of a bag of chips, opt for cut fruit or veggies, a cup of soup, or a side salad. Make the traditional peanut butter and jelly a little healthier by using fresh cut up fruit like cherries or strawberries in place of jelly. 

Dinner Leftovers

Prepping your lunch at home ahead of time is a great alternative to ordering out at the office. Not only will you have a healthier meal, but you’ll save lots of cash as well.

 In addition to bringing portions of leftovers from last night’s dinner (make double the recipe for extra servings during the week), you can also cook up a few chicken breasts, grilled or sautéd in a minimal amount of oil, to be used during the week. Add the chicken to some frozen vegetables and soy sauce for a quick stir-fry, or use some sauce and low-fat cheese for a basic chicken Parmesan, or add it to chopped celery and nuts and some light mayonnaise for a delicious chicken salad.

Plan Ahead

Whether you decide to eat out or cook at home, planning your meals is a must. Take a few minutes each evening to prepare your healthy lunch and get it packed for the next day.

That way, if you're running late the next morning, lunch is ready to go and you aren’t forced to dine on something unhealthy. If you plan to eat out, research food menus at your local restaurants so you know what to expect when you get there.