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Here's how to cut carbs for healthier lunches

Licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long reveals the essential element required to lose weight and keep it off
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Dear Nutritionist,

I’ve been reading that you suggest getting rid of the grains. I’m also reading about that in other places, such as with the keto diet that is now blowing up and I see it everywhere. I want to be as healthy as I can be, but I carry extra weight from a pregnancy. Am I right in thinking low carb will help me lose that weight? If so, what do I do for lunch where I usually have a sandwich or a wrap?


Dear Unwrapped,

That’s a really great question! I struggled with getting rid of the grains in my diet for a long time. Since rice is my drug of choice, it wasn’t easy! But now I’ve learned about substitutes and it’s much less hassle.

Yes, I feel low carb is the best for long-term, healthy weight loss and I counsel people on how to do it safely, as it’s a bit of a learning curve. But there are actually many diets that can work for weight loss.

If you want to have a diet that maintains weight loss AND isn’t too restrictive AND allows you as much as you want to eat AND will give you better brain health, less inflammation, less risk of metabolic disease, healthier teeth and bones, and better ovaries (or sperm) to make healthier babies, you want a paleo diet.

But there is a secret to doing it right. And it is essential in every success story I’ve seen and so often overlooked.

Are you ready for it?

The key is this: you need a menu plan, with 10 new meals you love.

Most people who succeed, no matter the diet they’ve chosen, have a solid menu that gives them healthy new meals to replace their old meals.

Why 10? Think about it. Usually people have a repertory of about 10 go-to meals. Some are pizza, KD, cereal, pasta, ready-made chicken and fries, hamburger, or a sandwich. Whatever it is for you, I think your success depends on finding 10 similar (or equally likeable) healthy substitutes for those meals that you know exactly how to prepare.

Over time you can then add to those meals and grow your repertory. But to start, I think that is a great number to keep you on track. So actually, your question is the BEST dieting question. Telling people what not to eat is foolish and ineffective, in my opinion. Let me give you an example to demonstrate this. Don’t think about a red squirrel. What did you just think about?


The words "Don’t eat sugar and bread" gets translated the same way. No sugar, no bread. No sugar, no bread. All day you walk around going, “No sugar, no bread.” But you still don’t know what in the hell you actually can eat. I ask you, how can anyone succeed on that model?

So your question gets right to the issue. What can one prepare easily for lunches if they are used to sandwiches and they want to avoid grains? Here are some suggestions to give you momentum: 

Collard Green Wraps

This is where you use a collard green leaf to wrap your filler in. Raw is best in my opinion, but some people steam them lightly. My favourite is egg salad with pickled red pepper mayo. Or turkey with brie and cranberry sage mayo. Or chicken salad with celery and cilantro mayo with swiss and fresh mango. These are just a few suggestions.

Mason Jar Salads

This is where you take your favourite flavours and put them on in layers in a jar to take to work. I use a big mason jar. I like kale, but spinach or other greens will do. The secret with kale is to chop it small, and massage a bit of olive oil into it with sea salt and let it sit for 5 minutes before using it. This really transforms it to be less woody! Here are four of my favourite versions: 

  • Toasted pumpkin seed, unripened goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette with chicken breast over endive
  • Taco salad over kale with avocado cream mayo. You put the meat, cheese, tomatoes, onion, olives, and peppers in a bowl over the kale and drizzle with the dressing
  • Pizza kale salad of salami or pepperoni (high quality) with cheese and your favourite pizza sauce olive oil dressing drizzled over it
  • Cobb salad

Healthy Teriyaki Bowl

This is where you take your favourite sauteed veggies and meat, and cut it up Japanese style. You know how they do in the take-out place where they slice the meat really fine and add teriyaki sauce? You just saute the meat or seafood in a little water or oil, then add the finely diced veg and bean sprouts. Sliced cabbage is a great part of this also and so healthy for you! Then you put it atop a bunch of rinsed shirataki noodles and hit it with a small bit of sugar-free teriyaki sauce. I make mine at home but you can get it from low carb canada, as well. The shirataki noodles are sure to become a huge hit with the paleo crowd because they look and taste like noodles but have zero carbs!

Zucchini Noodle Bowl

You can also make any pasta sauce you like if it’s low carb and sugar free, with any meat or veg you like, and eat it over zucchini noodles. You can do pesto chicken, spinach and chorizo with garlic olive oil glaze, or you can do a paleo white sauce with mushroom and shrimp. You can even do bolognese.

Be as creative as you like, and make sure you eat enough at meals to not be hungry until dinner! I know it goes against the grain (couldn’t help myself), but snacking is not healthy or necessary when you’re eating healthy meals! Believe it or not, neither is breakfast! But we’ll save that for another day!

Nonie Nutritionista

Nonie De Long is a registered orthomolecular nutritionist with a clinic in Bradford West Gwillimbury, where she offers holistic, integrative health care for physical and mental-health issues.