By Amanda Grayson - Contributor

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Celebrate National Healthy Lunch Day by munching on superfoods

September 19, 2017

It seems we’re frequently reminded of the importance of a healthy breakfast, but what about lunch? The American Diabetes Association is highlighting the mid-day meal with National Healthy Lunch Day™ today.

“Lunch is something people tend to rush through and not really make conscious choices about. They’re just trying to eat something quick so they can get back to their desk or back to work,” says Samantha Osterhaus, a registered and licensed dietitian who supports wellness initiatives for Blue Cross employee cafeterias.

In recognition of National Healthy Lunch Day, we asked Osterhaus about kicking lunch up a notch with superfoods.

Why eat superfoods?

“Superfoods are foods that provide health benefits beyond their basic nutrient content. They’re what we call nutrient dense. Nutrient dense foods have a higher content of vitamins and minerals per calorie,” Osterhaus explains.

For example, because a sweet potato has a lot more beta carotene and vitamin A than a white potato for the same amount of calories, it’s considered more nutrient dense.

“You really want to choose foods that are higher in nutrient density over those that aren’t because you’re going to get more bang for your buck. You’re going to get more benefit for what you’re putting into your body,” Osterhaus says.

As you’d expect, choosing foods that have more vitamins and minerals and fewer calories can be especially helpful for people who are trying to maintain or lose weight.

Superfoods on the lunch menu

Slipping superfoods into your lunch each day might not be as hard as you think. Osterhaus suggests aiming for lots of color.

“The more color, the better because all of the color compounds in foods are tied up with different vitamins and minerals that give them their color.”

That means loading up on fruits and vegetables such as oranges, blueberries, leafy greens and ripe tomatoes.

You’ll want to shop seasonally because that’s when produce will taste its best.

Hand fruit—like bananas, apples and oranges— is quick and easy to throw in your lunch. Osterhaus also recommends chopping up raw veggies at the beginning of the week and bringing some with you each day.

Mushrooms, beans and legumes are simple and familiar foods packed with fiber and protein that can easily be mixed in soup or chili.

“I like to make a big batch of grain, whether its quinoa or farro, and then add different vegetables and proteins into it with different dressings throughout the week. You can  use many of the same products but get some different flavors,” notes Osterhaus.

Sprinkling a tablespoon of chia seeds or nuts to your yogurt or salad is another lunch idea.

Chia seeds and nuts are superfoods rich in omega 3, an unsaturated fat that is really great for heart health and can help reduce other disease risk.”

Because omega 3 is a fat, foods with it will help you be fuller for longer, too.

To a healthier day

Simply put, superfoods can make your lunch a whole lot healthier, which is what this day is all about.

“Breakfast is important, but I would say lunch is just as important. It’s hard to be productive if you’re hungry and not fueled properly.”

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