Best Worst Lunch:
Best and Worst Lunch Meals for Your Health
Dr. Ben Kim
January 7th, 2008 marked the beginning of an era of healthy eating for high school
students in Quebec, Canada. The provincial government in Quebec implemented new
food regulations that prohibit high school students from having access to soft
drinks, diet products, sugary beverages, and deep-fried foods on school grounds.
strict junk food policy for high schools also requires that lunches include at
least one vegetable; French fries don't count, of course.
policy makers acknowledge that their new junk food policy may not promote positive
attitudes toward making healthy food choices, they believe that it's a step in
the right direction. Since food choices are often driven by our sense of smell,
the hope is that not having junk foods within reach of students' olfactory bulbs
will lead to them making healthier food choices over the long term.
Nikkel, chair of the Canadian Council for Student Nutrition, had this to say about
Quebec's new junk food policy:
tempting foods is an excellent way to reduce how much of it children and teenagers
actually eat — but promoting healthy habits is a complex challenge.
best healthy eating programs for schools are student-driven, which involve children
and teenagers in menu-planning and budgeting.
parents also have a huge role to play in setting a good example about healthy
foods, as most children bring their lunch to school."
a little planning, you and your family can consistently enjoy delicious lunch
meals that are nutritious, inexpensive, and easy to put together. Here are some
examples of healthy lunch meals:
Hummus and vegetable sandwich.
a fresh batch of hummus using either of our two favorite hummus
make a hummus and vegetable sandwich, spread a generous dollop of hummus on your
favorite whole grain bread or pita, and pile fresh vegetables like cucumber slices,
romaine lettuce, and sliced red onions on top. Tomatoes are delicious in a hummus
sandwich, but if you prepare your sandwich in the morning, to keep your sandwich
fresh and your vegetables crisp, you may want to pack a tomato on the side and
eat it alongside your sandwich for lunch.
Large vegetable salad with sun-dried black olives and avocado.
a large container of field greens with a handful of sun-dried black olives (available
at most olive bars in grocery stores). Include any fresh vegetables that you enjoy,
like celery, cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, and sprouts.
pack a whole avocado that has been cut in half, but keep the two halves together
with the seed inside to keep the cut surfaces from browning. Wrap your cut avocado
to keep it together until you're ready to eat.
lunch time, enjoy your fresh vegetable salad with avocado on the side. Feel free
to add your favorite dressing to the mix for extra flavor. If you need more calories
than this salad provides, add chickpeas, or have a whole grain pita along with
the salad. Yet another way to increase the caloric value and nutritional density
of this salad is to add one or two hard-boiled eggs, another ingredient that you
can easily pack in your lunch bag.
If you eat out at lunch time, and you can't find a restaurant that specializes
in making healthy meals, look for a Greek-style fast food outlet; you'll almost
always find one in a food court in indoor malls.
all Greek-style fast food outlets serve fresh salad and rice, and most of them
offer hummus and falafels. Because falafels are deep-fried, it's best to ask for
extra hummus in place of the falafels. Ask for some tahini dressing for your rice
and salad for extra flavor and nutrients; sesame seeds (used to make tahini) are
rich in a variety of minerals, most notably, calcium.
any of the options listed above with a fresh piece of fruit - one that is in season,
a beverage, look for a juice bar that offers freshly pressed juices and blended
smoothies. If a fresh juice or smoothie is not within your budget, enjoy your
lunch with a refreshing bottle of water.
Meals to Avoid
Meals that include fried flesh meats.
flesh meats - including chicken, beef, pork (bacon), and fish - are typically
laced with chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
are a group of compounds that can form when flesh meats are cooked at high temperatures.
The three cooking methods that are known to produce the greatest amounts of HCAs
are those that involve high cooking temperatures: deep-frying, barbecuing, and
intake of HCAs can increase your risk of developing bladder, stomach, breast,
colo-rectal, and pancreatic cancers.
Meals that include French fries or potato chips.
when advertised as being free of trans fats, French fries and potato
chips are rich in acrylamide,
a carcinogen that is found in starchy foods that have been fried or
baked at high temperatures.
most vegetable oils that are used to make French fries and potato chips contain
a significant number of free radicals, as polyunsaturated fatty acids found in
vegetable oils are extremely unstable and prone to forming free radicals, especially
when they are exposed to heat. Regular exposure to excessive numbers of free radicals
can lead to repeated cellular damage and premature aging.
Meals that include fried pastries (like donuts).
French fries and potato chips, fried pastries are typically rich in acrylamide
and free radicals. The white flour that is used to make most pastries will fill
you up but leave you undernourished. Eating foods made with white flour on a regular
basis is a reliable method of developing diabetes and nutritional deficiencies,
particularly B vitamin deficiencies.
and coffee are beverage choices that you should avoid whenever possible. Soda
is rich in sugar (or an artificial
sweetener, such as aspartame) and phosphoric acid. Sugar and phosphoric acid
are terrible for your teeth and bones, while aspartame can damage your nervous
system. Coffee is typically rich in acrylamide, and has undesirable effects on
your cardiovascular system if consumed in excess.
there you have it - some of the best and worst food and beverage choices that
you can make for lunch or any other meal. Choose wisely, and enjoy the consequences
of your choices.
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