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Lunch may not be the most important meal of the day, but when you spend eight-plus hours a day in the office, it’s certainly not unimportant. And yet, we often find ourselves reaching for whatever’s most convenient—which generally doesn’t coincide with nutritious and filling. For some much-needed guidance, we chatted with Dr. Nadja Pinnavaia, Ph.D., CEO and founder of Plantable, a plant-based meal service and wellness platform. Read on to find out which menu items offer the most nutritional bang for your buck (hint: It’s not always a salad), plus tips on ordering anywhere else.

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Mulberry & Vine: Vegan Chickpea Shakshuka

“This dish covers all the bases with protein-packed chickpeas plus vitamin-rich veggies and greens,” says Pinnavaia. “Cumin, coriander, chili powder and paprika work miracles when combined with vegetables, helping our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals more efficiently. The best part, however, is that unlike many lighter salad options, this dish is bound to be a bit more filling and grounding. You’ll stay full longer, and be better equipped to keep sugar cravings at bay.”

Bluestone Lane: Avocado Toast

“Although your sweet tooth might tempt you to go for the granola cup or a muesli bar, it may be best to think twice about a sweet snack. Spiking your blood-sugar levels in the middle of the day won’t provide you with the long-lasting energy you need,” Pinnavaia warns. “Try opting for the avocado toast with cherry tomatoes instead. A heaping dose of healthy omega-3s in avocado form is both nutritious and delicious, and they use multigrain Balthazar bread, which is baked fresh daily and minimally processed.”

PRET-A-MANGER: MEDITERRANEAN MEZZE SALAD

“Pret has some exceptional salad options. The Mediterranean Mezze Salad is our favorite, as it seems to outshine the rest in flavor and nutritional value,” says Pinnavaia. “While falafel and beet hummus are absolutely delicious, the pickled cabbage and carrots will provide your daily serving of fermented foods to maintain a healthy gut. The lemon shallot dressing is wholesome, with a base of sunflower and olive oils that are both loaded with vitamin E.”

Le Pain Quotidien: Lentil Avocado Salad

“Health-conscious lunchgoers may be enticed by the Avocado Superseeds Salad, but the Lentil Avocado Salad or Lebanese Mezze are ultimately healthier options. Although the blueberry/avocado pairing in the Superseeds salad is intriguing, combining fruit with veggies and grains should be avoided when possible,” Pinnavaia explains. “Because fruits are digested more quickly than starch and protein-based foods, they should ideally be eaten alone to avoid digestive discomfort.”

Tips for making healthy choices on the go

1. Keep it simple with dressings.
“When it comes to sauces and dressings, less is more. Olive oil, lemon squeezes and basic vinaigrettes are the way to go. Make sure you’re looking at the ingredients in your dressings to ensure they’re not loaded with too much sugar or salt.”

2. Focus on healthy fat and fiber combos.
“As a guideline, start with a healthy fat as a key component of your meal. Avocado, nuts andseeds, and olives are all great sources. Many plant-derived nutrients aren’t absorbed by the body at maximum efficiency unless they’re aided with healthy fats.”

3. Avoid the soy.
“Aim for options that aren’t soy-based, like tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. Although these products can make for yummy meat substitutes, too much soy in a diet can offset hormonal balance.”

4. Don’t overestimate smoothies.
“No matter how wholesome the ingredients of your smoothie are, they’re lacking the fiber that comes from the foods in their whole forms. This fiber, along with the enzymes released during the chewing process, are key players in healthy digestion, so a smoothie won’t always give you the most bang for your buck.”

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