Child Health, Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness, Your Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Take Time for Lunch. Your Heart Will Thank You

Everyone looks forward to lunch. It’s a great way to break up the day and refuel for the afternoon. But what you and your kids have for lunch – and where you get it – is an important part of developing and maintaining a heart-healthy diet.

Why Take Your Lunch?

“Packing a lunch for work or school provides a number of benefits over take-out meals or opting for the school lunch,” says Michelle Musselwhite, RD, LDN, registered dietitian with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiac Rehab Program. “This makes controlling things like portion size and calories much easier.” • You know what’s in it: “Preparing your own lunches at home lets you control the ingredients and avoid the hidden calories, sodium, sugars and fat that come in many restaurant or fast-food lunches,” says Musselwhite. • You save money: On average, people in the United States are currently going out to lunch twice a week, spending $10 each time; that’s still nearly $1,000 annually. The average cost of a brown-bag lunch is just around $4 each day and even less for kids’ lunches. Think of what you can buy with all that extra cash! • You save time at work: Going through a drive through can take nearly 30 out of your lunch hour. Packing a lunch means you can use that extra time to read a book, socialize with coworkers, or catch up on those emails in your inbox.

Lunch “Swaps”

Now that you’ve decided to pack lunches every day, the next step is to make sure they’re healthy ones. “There are many pre-packed convenience foods available easily and cheaply, but these are often loaded with sodium, sugar and additives,” says Musselwhite. “The best bet is to opt for fresh ingredients to ensure you’re packing a nutritious and heart-healthy lunch for everyone.” Here are some heart-healthy lunch swaps to keep in mind: Choose This: Instead of This: Whole-grain bread > White bread Grilled chicken strips > Deli meat Low-fat chocolate pudding > Cookies Fruit-flavored water > Juice boxes Fresh fruit > Fruit cups Home-cooked whole-wheat pasta > Pre-packaged pasta in cans Rice cakes > Salty crackers or snacks Mustard > Mayonnaise Carrot sticks > Potato chips Granola bar > Candy bar

Grown-Up Lunch Box Ideas

Tired of the same old leftovers? Try some of these for a new take on the brown-bag lunch: • Spinach salad with cranberries and blue cheese crumbles, dried bananas, whole-wheat crackers • Slow cooker chicken soft tacos, one whole apple, almonds • Turkey pita sandwich, fresh fruit, pasta salad (try light Italian dressing) • Salmon Caesar Salad (recipe below), blueberries, sliced avocado • Hummus, carrots and celery for dipping, cubes of watermelon and pineapple, pita chips • Grilled chicken wrap with lettuce and tomato, side of steamed broccoli, fat-free yogurt

Salmon Caesar Salad (makes 4 servings – you can adjust for a single lunch serving) Ingredients

4 skinless salmon fillets (1 lb.) 1/3 cup light creamy Caesar dressing, divided 8 cups torn romaine lettuce 1 cup seasoned croutons 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese Directions Heat oven to 375ºF. Place salmon in single layer in 8 or 9-inch square baking dish; brush with 2 Tbsp. dressing. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Toss the lettuce with croutons and the remaining dressing; place in four serving containers. Top with fish and cheese.

Kids’ Lunches

Kids need variety at lunch, as well. Instead of sending bologna to school – again – try some of these kid-friendly, heart-healthy lunches: • Whole-wheat cracker “stacks” with turkey and Swiss cheese; orange and grape salad • Sliced hard-boiled egg, rolled turkey slices, watermelon stars (use a cookie cutter for the shapes) • Avocado/lettuce/tomato sandwich on whole wheat, plain popcorn, apple sauce • Salmon pita pockets with lettuce, tomato and cheese; red and green pepper slices; fish crackers • “Polka-Dot Sandwich” (recipe below), string cheese, shelled edamame • Hummus pita “pizza” with veggies, blueberries, low-fat yogurt Polka-Dot Sandwich (makes 1 sandwich) Ingredients 2 slices whole-wheat bread 2 Tbsp. light strawberry cream cheese spread 9 slices banana (about 1/2 a medium banana) 1 Tbsp. raisins Directions Spread the bread with the cream cheese spread. Top one of the bread slices with bananas in three rows of three slices each. Sprinkle the other bread slice with raisins; press gently into the cream cheese to secure. Close the sandwich; serve.   A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.