United Hospital Center is joining with the American Diabetes Association to celebrate National Healthy Lunch Day today, Tuesday, November 15. The engagement day highlights the importance of good nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle and encourages and motivates people in the workplace to commit to eating a healthy lunch today and every day.

“There is tremendous confusion about what to eat, that is, what is healthful and what is not,” said Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator at UHC. “Often the food choices people make are full of calories, yet lack nutritional value, which contributes to rising rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related illnesses nationwide. National Healthy Lunch Day will help to inform and empower all of us to make better, healthy food choices.”

“Participating in National Healthy Lunch Day is easy, I have included some great suggestions that will certainly help you to improve the choices you make daily,” said Cook. “It is important to note that we eat 29 percent more food today than in 1970. For the average person, eating one meal away from home each week translates to approximately two additional pounds of body weight each year.”


Six Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch by Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator

One simple (and affordable) step to better health is to bring a good-for-you lunch from home. Here’s how: 

  1. On the weekend, decide what you will eat for lunch for the week and add it to your grocery list. That way, it’s quick and easy to grab healthy choices when you pack your lunch.
  2. Consider batch cooking on the weekend. Make a big pot of chili, soup, or a big bowl of whole-grain and veggie salad. These will keep for a few days in the fridge and can be eaten throughout the week for lunch.
  3. Take 5 minutes every night (or morning) to pack something healthy for the day.
  4. Use portable containers—such as a lunchbox, thermos, and various containers with tight-fitting lids—to pack and take your healthy lunch. Extra-small containers come in handy for single servings of peanut butter or salad dressings.
  5. Remember food safetyif you don’t have access to a refrigerator to store your lunch, insert a cold pack into the lunch box and be sure to choose foods that will stay fresh and yummy from the time you pack them until it’s time to eat lunch.
  6. For days you can’t pack lunch, keep some non-perishable healthy options at your desk, such as light tuna in water, whole wheat crackers, no-sugar-added canned fruit, popcorn, and nuts. 


Eight Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas by Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator 

Here’s how to put together good-for-you foods to make a satisfying and healthy lunch:

  1. Put a healthy spin on the traditional sandwich. Use 2 pieces of thin whole grain bread and include 2 ounces reduced-sodium lean turkey, hummus, spinach, bell pepper slices, and mustard. Add some carrot sticks and light ranch dressing on the side.
  2. Mix together some cooked quinoa, rinsed and drained canned white beans, chopped bell pepper, carrots and broccoli to make a whole grain and veggie salad. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
    Add a nectarine or some grapes on the side and a small handful of dry roasted almonds, if desired.
  3. Make a tuna salad with canned light tuna packed in water, light mayo, diced celery, lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper. Serve it over greens with an apple and peanut butter on the side.
  4. Build a quick yogurt parfait with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, diced no-sugar-added canned pineapple, and a sprinkle of pecans to top it off.
  5. Pack a cup of leftover chili or vegetable soup. Top it with some fresh tomatoes and nonfat plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
  6. Fill a whole wheat tortilla wrap with rotisserie chicken, hummus, and greens. For more veggie goodness, add roasted or fresh pepper strips.
  7. Pack a hard-boiled egg, a piece of fruit, a string cheese stick, and 5 whole wheat crackers. And bring as many carrot or celery sticks as you like!
  8. Throw together a salad with romaine lettuce or spinach and any other nonstarchy vegetables that you like. Top with some cottage cheese, a sprinkle of chopped nuts, and a tablespoon of light salad dressing.
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Ten Tips for Healthier Fast Food Choices by Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator

It is possible to make wise choices and eat a fairly healthy meal if you order carefully.

  1. Instead of French fries or onion rings, order healthy side items—vegetables and fruits such as salads, apple slices, and carrots.
  2. Select from the restaurant’s healthy menu, if available. Most chains have their menu online.
  3. Order the smallest sandwich on the menu.
  4. Ask for grilled chicken instead of fried chicken in sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
  5. Ask for sandwiches without mayonnaise, sauces, and cheese.
  6. Opt for low-fat or low-calorie sauces and dressings such as mustard, fat-free salad dressing, salsa, or barbecue sauce.
  7. Order a main course salad, but be careful. Sometimes salads with a lot of high-fat meats and cheese actually have more calories than a cheeseburger. When it comes to salad dressing, a little can go a long way, so use the smallest amount possible.
  8. Choose lean meats or veggies for subs; try the turkey or grilled chicken breast sub instead of a meatball sub.
  9. For subs, ask that some of the bread be scooped out before it’s assembled and pile on fresh veggies.
  10. Choose sugar-free drinks, such as water (best choice!), unsweetened tea, coffee, or diet soda.


Eight Lunchtime Tips for Eating Out by Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator

If you don’t have a cafeteria or time to bring a healthy lunch from home, follow these eat right tips:

  1. If you can, choose restaurants with healthier menu options and order those options.
  2. Try out a vegetarian option, such as a grilled vegetable Panini or wrap with fresh vegetables and hummus. Avoid vegetarian options that are overloaded with cheese (lots of calories and fat).
  3. Order a salad with the dressing on the side. Watch out for main dish salads with a lot of cheese or fried meats and toppings. Ask for less cheese and grilled meats.
  4. Opt for grilled meat, fish, and poultry rather than fried.
  5. Order the smallest sandwich. Skip anything called “double.” Go for the 6-inch sub rather than the foot-long option. Ask if whole wheat is an option for buns and bread.
  6. Opt for fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, or low-fat yogurt as side dishes.
  7. Order broth-based vegetable or bean soup rather than creamy soups.
  8. Choose sugar-free drinks, such as water (best choice!), unsweetened tea, coffee, or diet soda.
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Four Healthy Lunch Tips for Travelers by Patti Cook, RN, diabetes education coordinator

Nutritious eating on the go while getting from place A to place B can be a challenge. Here are tips for eating right at the airport and on the road:

  1. Planning ahead saves you time and money. Having snacks on hand will help keep temptation at bay during delays and layovers. Slip some of these security-friendly snacks into your carry-on …
  • Nuts
  • Apples or grapes
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Granola bar
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  1. Save money on drinks by bringing a reusable empty water bottle. Bottled water is more expensive in the airport. Fill up your water bottle at a drinking fountain (after you pass through security screening, if flying).
  1. Many airport eateries—both fast food and sit down restaurants—offer healthier choices these days. If your travels are long, do a bit of research online to see what’s available at your layover airport.
  1. Keep these healthful tips in mind when ordering at a restaurant:
  • Order the smallest sandwich, without cheese and sauces.
  • Request all sauces and dressings on the side, and don’t use the entire portion.
  • Choose a smaller-size lunch portion, if available.
  • Split the main dish if the servings are large.
  • Avoid fried meats and sides.
  • Ask for a salad or vegetables instead of fries.


“Since our founding more than 75 years ago, the American Diabetes Association has championed the importance of healthy lifestyle choices as an important way to manage and prevent diabetes,” said Alicia H. McAuliffe-Fogarty, PhD, CPsychol, Vice President, Lifestyle Management, American Diabetes Association. “Through National Healthy Lunch Day, the Association calls on all Americans, including people with diabetes, to commit to making a healthy lunch part of their daily routine, whether it’s bringing a healthy brown bag lunch or choosing wisely while eating out. We are pleased that UHC has joined our efforts. ”