Lunch Ideas for Work: Heart-Healthy Options

business woman eating lunch at her desk while working

While working it can be tempting to reach for an unhealthy choice at lunchtime, especially in between meetings or on the go. But there are plenty of easy lunch alternatives that can benefit your heart.

Packing Your Lunch

Try to get in the habit of waking up 15 minutes early to pack your lunch. Throughout the week try to include a mix of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fat-free/low-fat dairy. Some great options include:

  • Low-sodium turkey, skinless chicken, canned tuna or canned salmon (try it in a salad or on a sandwich with whole-wheat bread).
  • Unsalted seeds and nuts.
  • Whole-grain or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Easy-to-eat fruit like berries, grapes, or sliced apples or pears.
  • Veggie sticks.
  • Low-fat string cheese.
  • Fat-free yogurt.

You can also mix traditional meal foods by having breakfast for lunch. Whole-grain breakfast cereal and eggs are good options. Or try the American Heart Association’s recipe for Overnight No-Cook Banana Oatmeal

Eating Out

Of course there will be days you might need to buy lunch. Or perhaps you're having a lunch meeting with co-workers or clients. When eating out, watch for these things:

  1. Sweetened beverages.
  2. High-calorie salad toppings such as bacon and croutons. Ask for salad dressing on the side.
  3. Unhealthy sandwiches such as those made with deli meat due to excess sodium and full-fat cheeses).

Instead consider:

  1. Water, unsweetened iced tea or fat-free milk. Try flavoring your water by adding fruits and fresh herbs.
  2. Salads with healthy toppings like vegetables, lentils, beans and edamame. For salad dressings, keep it simple with ingredients such as canola oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar. For extra flavor, add some dried herbs like oregano or Italian seasoning blend. 
  3. Low-sodium tuna or vegetarian sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread.

Be aware of your portion size, too. Restaurant portions are often large and more than a healthy serving. Consider asking for a take-out box and saving half of your meal for the next day. Or share a meal with a dining partner.

Eating healthy doesn't have to be difficult. But it is vital for long-term health. Adapt the tips above based on your dietary needs and food preferences.