I am looking for some lunches for my mom. She is living with us and needs low fat and low salt foods.

Foods lower in fat and salt work perfectly when someone is following a heart healthy diet. Taking in too much salt (sodium) can cause fluid retention and may increase blood pressure. I recommend that people remove the salt shaker from the table and begin to watch for added salt when purchasing products from the grocery store. Canned soups, microwavable dinners, packaged rice, condiments (soy sauce, marinades, BBQ sauce) etc. all are notorious for containing high amounts of sodium. Manufacturers have begun making low salt versions of most of the before mentioned items; look for buzz words such as “low sodium” when trying to choose products lower in salt. Or, better yet, stick primarily to the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping to get products that are naturally lower in sodium. Items like lean meats, low fat dairy products (“low sodium” cheeses), and whole grain breads are good selections when following a low salt diet.

Fat is an essential part of the diet. It can help our body transport and utilize various vitamins, act as a reserve energy source in the body, and can add rich and savory flavor to foods. Not all fat is considered healthy, however, and I urge people to limit some types of fat in their diet. Saturated fats (found in red meats, whole dairy products, lard, butter) and trans fats (stick margarine, snack chips, doughnuts, products with “partially hydrogenated” on the label) may actually increase risk of heart disease by increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Healthier sources of fat would be monounsaturated fats (olive and canola oil, almonds) and omega-three fatty acids (salmon, tuna, spinach, flaxseeds). These can help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower triglycerides, thereby reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some lunch food options may not be ideal when following a heart healthy diet. Fast food restaurants tend have a lot of items that are high in fat and salt, such as French fries, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, etc. I would recommend that you keep items in your house that are already lower in fat and salt, and then make a list for your mom of healthy lunch options. Whole wheat pitas can be filled with a variety of beans (black, kidney, chick peas), hummus, romaine lettuce and drizzle with a little lemon juice for added flavor. Canned soups with the American Heart Association (AHA) “heart” symbol can be a good choice, as they are low in fat and salt. Pair the soup with a whole grain roll and some fruit for a well rounded lunch. If your mom desires a lighter lunch, have her place low fat yogurt in the blender and add fresh or frozen fruit, low sugar fruit juice (Healthy Balance or Cranberry Naturals) and ice for a delicious smoothie. Another option could be homemade pasta salad whole wheat pasta paired with cubed low sodium cheese, cut up broccoli, onions, peppers, beans, tomatoes and topped with low fat Italian dressing. Finally, if you are looking for very quick and easy, look for microwavable meals with the AHA heart on it. They are low in fat and salt. Also, microwavable vegetarian “burgers” such as black bean, spicy vegetable, Italian herb, are also low in fat and salt. Just grab a whole wheat bun and top with sliced tomato and lettuce and she will have a tasty but healthy lunch!!

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