• The 5 Worst Things You Can Eat for Lunch

    Thursday, June 13th, 2024

    by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

    It’s 11 a.m. and that healthy breakfast you ate seems like ages ago. Now your stomach is growling so loudly your coworkers can hear it.

    But lunch is almost here. What will you have?

    How about the daily special at your favorite hamburger place? Or a combo meal at your favorite delicatessen? Perhaps a few slices of pizza from the company cafeteria?

    Hold your horses. Keep in mind that lunch gives you fuel for the rest of your day, so making the right menu choice is vital.

    While the high-calorie, high-sodium lunches listed below may please your taste buds, they can also lead to heartburn, leave you bloated, and contribute to weight gain and increased disease risk over the long term.

    To make your lunch hour a healthy one, steer clear of the following 5 foods:

    Lunchtime Disaster #1: Burgers and Fries

    burgers-and-friesIf your favorite lunch meal contains the words “value meal” or “combo,” step away from the lunch counter. Did you know a typical double cheeseburger and large fries have more than 900 calories?

    “Supersize” it with a large soft drink, and you’ll top 1,200 calories. Moreover, consistently eating high-calorie, high-fat and high-sodium foods does great harm to your body – increasing your risk for weight gain, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

    Lunchtime Disaster #2: The Cold-cut Combo

    bologna-sandwichCommon lunch meats are full of sodium, saturated fat and carcinogenic agents known as nitrites and nitrates, which are known to raise the risk of certain types of cancer.

    For example, three ounces of bologna, ham, turkey or salami has between 900 and 1,100 milligrams of sodium.

    And that’s before you add cheese, bread and condiments. The saturated fat content can be as high as 9 grams for one 3-ounce serving of a cold-cut sandwich; that’s about 50% of the recommended daily limit.

    So just don’t just hold the pickles — skip the sandwich!

    Lunchtime Disaster #3: Pizza

    slice-of-pizzaAn average slice of pepperoni pizza contains about 680 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of fat (5 grams of saturated fat) and 300 calories. And how many of us eat just one slice?

    Eating three slices from a large pizza add up to more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium – almost the daily limit for average Americans (2,300 mg/day) in just one sitting.

    Over-consumption of sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of disease and death in the U.S.A. So save the pizza for an occasional weekend night out — and give your blood vessels a break in the process.

    Lunchtime Disaster #4: Fried Chicken

    fried-chickenDid you know that one fried chicken breast from your favorite chicken place contains over 500 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 1,200-plus milligrams of sodium? Those kinds of numbers should scare any fried chicken lover away.

    Fried foods are often loaded with fat and sodium; a deadly combination when you consider that every 40 seconds another American dies from cardiovascular-related disease.

    So forget the fried chicken — and the other foods listed here — or at least make them rare treats rather than daily eating habits. Your body will thank you.

    Lunchtime Disaster #5: The Hot Dog

    concession-stand-hot-dogThere is very little that’s good in a hot dog. A typical frankfurter contains as much as 35 grams of fat — 15 grams of which is the “bad” saturated fat type.

    Eating one hot dog adds up to more than half of your daily-recommended fat intake and a whopping 80% of your saturated fat intake. High cholesterol increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

    Set aside that hot dog and try a grilled chicken sandwich or healthy green salad instead!

    (published May 14, 2014)

    kristin-kirkpatrick-cleveland-clinicKristin Kirkpatrick is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. She is a regular contributor to the “Doctor Oz Show” and provides expert opinions for several major magazines as well as media and web outlets. Kristin’s articles also appear on Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, a consumer health and wellness blog. Kristin has been helping individuals reach their personal health goals for over 12 years and her specialties include weight management, nutritional genomics, dieting on a budget and community-worksite wellness.