These simple, heart healthy lunch ideas are perfect for those who want to enjoy a quick, heart-healthy meal. These delicious lunches will leave you feeling full and energized; they’re also effortless to make ahead of time!
A lunch can be a very healthy meal if you get it right. Lunch is usually lighter than dinner, making it a great opportunity to include more cheap heart healthy meals and less or no high-fat foods. After all, most people eat lunch at their desks or in the car. This article will teach you healthy Eating on a Budget as well as list for you the benefits of heart healthy diet.
Whether you’re eating at home or taking lunch to go, these easy recipes come together fast and keep you fueled for a busy day.
Greek-style chicken sandwiches
The fresh taste of lemon elevates this chicken sandwich to a whole new level.
Avocado tomato feta salad
Have this salad on its own or add some canned tuna or salmon, grilled chicken or steak for a heartier meal.
Pork stir-fry with black bean sauce
Flavoured with garlic, ginger and black bean sauce, this Chinese dish is good with rice noodles, whole wheat noodles or steamed brown rice.
Turkey and bean rice wraps
Easily a new family favourite to enjoy for lunches or dinner. Pack the turkey and bean mixture separately and wrap your lunch on site with the lettuce.
Thai beef salad rolls
These rolls pull together quickly and are filled with fresh and delicious vegetables, making for a balanced meal.
Heart-Healthy Lunches at Home
We can’t get enough of this recipe. It is especially great for using up leftover courgettes and peppers. Enjoy! Each portion provided at least 2 of your 5-a-day.
While at work it can be tempting to reach for a sweet snack around lunchtime, there are plenty of easy lunch alternatives that can benefit your heart. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont, offers the following tips to help you plan your heart-healthy workday lunch.
Packing Your Lunch
Wake up 15 minutes early to pack your lunch. Johnson recommends the following heart-healthy choices:
- Low-sodium canned tuna or low-sodium canned salmon (try it in a salad or on a sandwich with whole-wheat bread)
- Low-fat string cheese
- Fresh fruits
- Non-fat yogurt
- Veggie sticks
- Whole-grain breakfast cereal, such as the American Heart Association’s recipe for Overnight No-Cook Banana Oatmeal
For salad dressings, Johnson suggests you keep it natural with ingredients such as canola oil, olive oil or grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar. She is also a fan of breakfast options for lunch. “One of my favorites is whole grain breakfast cereal with skim milk or non-fat yogurt topped with fresh fruit. I love cereal for lunch.”
When heading out to a restaurant for lunch, Johnson says to watch out for three things:
- Sweetened beverages
- High-calorie salad toppings (e.g. bacon, croutons, packaged or pre-made dressings)
- Unhealthy sandwiches (e.g. those made with deli meat due to excess sodium)
“Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages,” suggests Johnson. “And, although salads can seem healthy, you need to watch out for high-calorie extras like croutons, bits of bacon and fatty cheeses.”
Instead, she recommends:
- Water or skim milk to drink
- Salads with vegetables and natural dressing (try asking for olive oil and vinegar)
- Tuna or vegetarian sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread
Be aware of your portion size, too. Johnson suggests cutting meals in half before you begin eating.
“Just ask for a takeout box when your meal is delivered and put half away for the next day,” she recommends. “That will help fight your tendency to over eat.”
Heart-healthy meals in less than 30 minutes
Looking for some quick meal inspiration? Look no further. We present some of the best Heart Matters recipes you can make in 30 minutes or less.
1. Spaghetti with sardines and cherry tomatoes
Easy to make and low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, this recipe is another great way to incorporate fish into your diet – perfect for a weeknight meal. Throw it together in just 10 minutes and enjoy this easy, warming and healthy dish.
2. Beetroot hummus
Beetroot hummus is low in sugar, salt and saturated fat and takes just ten minutes to make. It is the perfect dip to accompany vegetables and pittas as part of a quick and healthy meal. It makes a great packed lunch too.
3. Stir-fried ginger beef with peppers
This dish is low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, making it a brilliant heart-healthy dish. Packed with vegetables as well as authentic fiery Asian flavours, this dish is a hot and spicy way to get your five-a-day.
4. Sizzling prawn fajitas
This is another great heart-healthy dish. Throw it together in just 25 minutes and enjoy a lively dinner packed with fresh vegetables, low-fat prawns and sumptuous sizzling spices.
5. Jewelled couscous salad
Jewelled couscous salad is a wonderfully fresh and exotic addition to anyone’s dinner table. The dish serves six, so it’s great for feeding the family – or have leftovers as a packed lunch the next day. It could be embellished with grilled chicken or beetroot hummus to add some low-fat protein.
6. Raitha with cucumber
Raitha with cucumber (kheera) takes just minutes to prepare and is a great accompaniment to salad and bread for a light lunch. Combining spices with low-fat yoghurt and cucumber, it’s healthy and perfect accompaniment to Indian dishes.
7. Salmon pate
If you have leftover poached salmon in the fridge, give this delicious pate a try. Served with bread or crackers, it makes for a perfect and healthy appetiser to share with loved ones.
8. Spiced okra
Spiced okra (bhindi or bhinda) is the perfect curry dish for those wanting to cut their salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat intake. Using fresh ingredients and a beautiful mix of Indian spices, you can enjoy a Friday night curry without the guilt. Why not add a raitha to the meal to enhance the flavours?
9. Grilled mackerel with mustard sauce
Although this dish is high in fat and high in saturated fat, the type of fats found in oily fish are not harmful to your heart, and eating fish (oily or white) is a nutritious choice which can form part of the Mediterranean diet. Add some cooked vegetables on the side and bon appetit!
10. Red plum compote
Red plum compote is a versatile desert which can be enjoyed hot with rice pudding as a winter warmer or with low-fat yoghurt as a summer cooler. Choose naturally sweet fresh ripe plums to keep added sugar content down.
Healthy Eating on a Budget
It’s a myth that eating healthy has to cost big bucks. “You can spend much the same as you do now and wind up with a heart-healthier diet,” says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine in the cardiology division at Johns Hopkins and director of Clinical and Research Physiology. It comes down to making smarter choices. Here are some ideas for eating better without spending more.
“From a health perspective certain foods are less desirable than others at a similar price,” Stewart says. For example, different varieties of milk cost roughly the same, but skim milk and 1 percent milk provide less saturated fat than 2 percent milk or whole milk. The same is true with yogurt. Some yogurts, although labeled “low fat,” are high in calories and sugar, he says, so by comparing the Nutrition Facts data on the labels, you can make a healthier choice that’s low in both fat and sugar without spending more.
Skip processed foods in boxes and bags.
Whole foods tend to cost less than processed varieties, while sparing you the added sodium and sugar that can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart damage, according to Stewart.
Shop mostly from the outer aisles of your market. That’s where fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish and meat tend to be displayed.
In the middle aisles, look for heart-healthy canned tuna, salmon and sardines; frozen unprocessed fish fillets; and dried or canned beans (rinse them before you cook to lower sodium content). Add beans to meat dishes so you won’t need as much meat—this simple step will lower the cost and your saturated fat intake.
Look down too: Often the priciest items are shelved at eye level, while cheaper store brands are placed lower.
Pick what’s in season.
When produce is plentiful, it tends to cost less, Stewart says. So corn is a better buy in summer, while apples are a bargain in fall and winter, for example. The United States Department of Agriculture provides a season-by-season list of fruits and vegetables.
Consider canned or frozen produce and beans.
Stewart says they can pack as many nutrients as fresh produce, and at a good price. Look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
You’ll be less tempted by junk food and impulse buys—like those fragrant bakery items and the handy snacks at the cash register.
Cook more meals at home.
Johns Hopkins research shows that people who cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less often.
In your quest to eat healthy foods, it will become clear that organic foods can cost prohibitively more than nonorganics. If you are able, prioritize organic purchases to include those with skin being consumed — for example, spinach, berries and apples, says dietitian Kathleen Johnson. But what’s most important is that you consume lots of fruits and vegetables, period.
BENEFITS OF HEART HEALTHY DIET
There are many benefits of consuming a diet with your heart in mind. Here are some of them:
1. LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
Eating a heart-healthy diet can benefit your blood pressure, blood sugars, and triglycerides. If you’re concerned about high blood pressure, or if you have a condition that causes blood sugar swings, such as diabetes, then changing your diet to be more heart-healthy could improve those issues as well.
For patients with high blood pressure, the Ross Bridge Medical Center team often recommends the DASH plan, which stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.” The DASH diet focuses on the following:
- Limiting sodium intake
- Limiting saturated fats
- Reducing sugar intake
- Consuming more foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are nutrients that actively help regulate blood pressure
2. REDUCE YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Cholesterol can clog your arteries, which deliver blood from your heart to the other tissues in your body. This, in turn, can lead to a heart attack. Heart attacks occur in the United States about every 40 seconds. Fortunately, eating a heart-healthy diet can help lower cholesterol levels.
Dietary strategies include decreasing consumption of saturated and trans fats, which are often found in processed foods, red meat, and dairy. These fats should be replaced with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, sunflower oil, avocados, and nuts.
And, consuming more fiber, such as that found in oats, legumes, flaxseed, apples, and citrus fruits, can also help lower your cholesterol levels.
3. REDUCE YOUR WAISTLINE
Taking the steps needed to protect your heart, such as eating a healthy diet and getting active for at least 150 minutes of medium-intensity activity every week, can also affect your waistline. By eating right and exercising, you can improve your heart health and enjoy a more trim figure.
4. INCREASE YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
Having a healthy heart can also help you have more energy. And foods that can help keep your heart healthy, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, lean meat, fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can give your heart the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs and help keep you energized at the same time.
5. INCREASE YOUR LONGEVITY
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in both men and women worldwide. Furthermore, heart disease is the cause of one in every four deaths in the United States.
So, if you can improve your heart health by making changes to your dietary choices, you can potentially increase your longevity and extend your lifespan.