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  Dine smart

Let's talk lunch

It might take a little extra work, a dash of creativity and a bit of planning but it pays off big. Packing a lunch can help keep you from packing on the pounds.

The typical restaurant or takeout meal has double the calories of a meal you'd make yourself and they can be loaded with sodium and preservatives. Of course, you can always use the yumPower app to find better-for-you choices, but the best choice might just be making your own lunch. Plus if you're playing chef, substitutions are always allowed. You get to decide exactly what you want to eat.

But brown bagging doesn't just impact your waistline – it can really help out your wallet too. Assuming the average lunch costs $9, a habit of eating out costs about $2,340 a year. Compare that with the typical price of packing your own lunch – just $3 a day. Are you wondering what to make yet?

Let's start with the simple stuff: leftovers. You've already made it, so it's easy peasy. And you don't necessarily have to go for what you ate last night. Most meat and chicken dishes will last two to three days in the fridge; pasta, grains, and rice stay good for up to five; and soups and stews can last a whole week.

Speaking of meals so good you'd eat them twice, restaurant dinners work too. If you ask for a to-go container at the beginning of your next meal out, you'll keep yourself from overeating and have lunch for the next day too.

For other simple options, remember the three S's: soups, sandwiches and salads. All three are good but salads are the best. They'll help you get vegetables and protein and can perfectly complement those small frozen meals that always seem to be on sale. Salads are satisfying, tasty and won't leave you wanting a nap at 2 o'clock. For best results, go for dark greens and try to avoid creamy dressings.

Get started with this good-for-you salad. And remember, leftovers and salads are seriously just the beginning. Find many more lunch ideas at