If one of your health goals is to improve your heart, select heart-healthy foods when you pack your lunch. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States [source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. As a result, you can find hundreds of well-researched articles on heart-healthy foods on the Web, and in books and magazines. You can find hundreds of heart-healthy recipes, too.
Like weight-loss lunches, heart-healthy lunches include less fat and usually, more fiber. Unlike weight-loss lunches, though, heart-healthy lunches also include ingredients that target improving your circulatory system. This includes whole grains and foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the amount of plaque in your arteries from bad cholesterol.
If you're preparing food to pack for lunch, look for ways to adjust your recipes to cut back on bad cholesterol and saturated fats. You can also substitute ingredients for heart-healthy alternatives, such as whole grain pastas in pasta dishes. The following list includes some heart-healthy foods you might include in your lunch plans along with some lunch ideas to consider:
- Salmon -- Grill and chop salmon in advance, then pack the salmon and some seasoned pasta to mix together for lunch.
- Tuna -- Grab a can of tuna (packed in water), salad greens (including heart-healthy spinach), some apple slices and a light red-wine vinaigrette. When you're ready for lunch, toss them together for a tasty salad.
- Almonds and walnuts -- Pack a small snack bag of sliced almonds or chopped walnuts to add to pudding, yogurt or salad.
- Brown rice -- Pack a microwavable brown rice pouch and a sandwich bag with some pre-chopped heart-healthy veggies like broccoli, carrots and red bell peppers. Heat the rice and veggies, then stir them together for a filling vegetarian dish.
- Sweet potato -- Microwave a sweet potato in a sandwich bag, then add pineapple bits from a commercial serving-size cup.
- Black or kidney beans -- Cook and cool the beans, then toss them with a light Italian dressing. Pack this to eat as a cold side dish or salad topping.
- Flaxseed -- Look for prepared foods such as breads and chips that feature flaxseed, and incorporate those in a healthy sandwich or chip-and-dip combo.
- Dark chocolate -- Buy a bag of individually wrapped bite-sized dark chocolates, and drop two or three into a snack bag to pack with your lunch.
For more information on healthy eating, visit the links on the next page.