Opting for low cholesterol lunches not only caters to those aiming to manage their cholesterol levels but also presents a heart healthy alternative. These meals, often rich in plant-based ingredients, fiber, and beneficial nutrients offer a delicious way of eating without compromising on taste or satisfaction.
Are you ready to indulge in some low cholesterol lunch options? This article will walk you through the ins and outs of cholesterol and outline 21 low cholesterol lunches that you can easily incorporate into your routine!
- Opting for low-cholesterol lunches is not only beneficial for managing cholesterol levels but also promotes heart health.
- Cholesterol comes in two main types, LDL (bad) and HDL (good), and it’s important to distinguish between them to manage cholesterol effectively.
- To lower cholesterol levels, reduce consumption of saturated fats found in animal products, choose healthier oils, increase soluble fiber intake, and incorporate foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes, soy products, and fatty fish into your meals.
- Meal planning, preparation, monitoring serving sizes, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are other strategies to help lower cholesterol beyond diet.
- Top Takeaways
- Pin It For Later!
- What Is Cholesterol?
- Managing Cholesterol Levels
- Nutrients That Contribute To Lower Cholesterol
- Foods To Incorporate Into Lunches For Lower Cholesterol
- 21 Low-Cholesterol Lunch Recipes
- Other Strategies To Maintain Low-Cholesterol Diet
- Other Ways Beyond Diet To Low Cholesterol
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Other Low Cholesterol Articles
- Final Thoughts
Pin It For Later!
What Is Cholesterol?
It’s important to start off with defining what cholesterol really is before we dive into how it affects our bodies and what we consume.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that exists naturally in the body as well as in the foods we eat. People often associate cholesterol with negative connotations, however, it is actually needed to help build cells and make hormones and vitamins in our bodies (1).
There are two main types of blood cholesterol levels known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (2). These two types of cholesterol have a very important distinction as one is considered good and the other bad for us.
HDL cholesterol is commonly known as ‘good’ cholesterol. This type of cholesterol travels away from the arteries and to the liver where it is broken down and passed from the body (3). This is an important process in eliminating the risk of fatty buildups in the arteries and thus preventing negative health effects such as heart attack, stroke, stents, or peripheral artery disease.
LDL cholesterol on the other hand is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. This type of cholesterol travels to the blood and can cause plaque build-up in the arteries. As the plaque builds up over time, the blood is unable to flow through the body properly, thus resulting to the previously mentioned health implications.
It is important to know the distinction between HDL and LDL cholesterol to properly manage your cholesterol levels from the foods you eat.
Managing Cholesterol Levels
As mentioned, cholesterol comes from two main sources including our bodies as well as the foods we consume.
To limit the amount of food that contributes to our blood cholesterol, it is important to reduce the consumption of animal products that are specifically high in saturated fat. Additionally, other changes can be made such as incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats in the diet (4). Or follow specific diets like the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, low cholesterol diet, MIND diet, and portfolio diet.
Nutrients That Contribute To Lower Cholesterol
In order to reduce your overall intake of these products, simple changes can be made such as choosing a leaner cut of meat or lower fat dairy options.
Additionally, other changes include eating smaller portions of animal products, swapping the products out for vegetarian or plant based protein options, and opting for healthier oils such as olive oil.
Moreover, foods that are high in trans fats may include deep-fried foods such as fries and donuts, store-bought foods such as cakes and crackers, and hard margarine (6).
Along with avoiding some nutrients such as saturated and trans fats, other nutrients should be incorporated more frequently to lower LDL cholesterol. This includes soluble fiber and unsaturated fats.
Fiber is a component found in plants that the human body cannot digest. It is important in lowering cholesterol as it encourages the liver to decrease its overall production (7). Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are all great sources of soluble fiber in the diet.
Foods To Incorporate Into Lunches For Lower Cholesterol
Listed below are some foods that can be easily incorporated into lunches to help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
Whole grains are a great source of soluble fiber to help lower LDL cholesterol in the body. This may include foods such as oats, barley, and psyllium.
- The Mediterranean diet suggests basing every meal on these foods along with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds (9).
- The DASH diet incorporating 7-8 servings of whole grains per day (10).
- The portfolio diet recommends 2 servings of whole grains per day (11).
Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables also contribute to the intake of soluble fiber in the diet. Some foods specifically high in soluble fiber include carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and eggplant.
- The Mediterranean diet suggests basing every meal on these foods along with whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds (9).
- The DASH diet suggests incorporating 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (10).
- The portfolio diet recommends 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day (11).
Lean proteins are important in lowering LDL cholesterol as it reduces the amount of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet. This may include foods such as skinless chicken and turkey, fish and seafood, red meat like extra lean ground beef, trimmed cuts of veal, and more.
- The Mediterranean diet suggests consuming lean meats in moderate portions daily to weekly (9).
- The DASH diet, 2 servings or less of lean meats per day (10).
- The portfolio diet, does not mention consuming lean meats.
Nuts And Seeds
- The Mediterranean diet suggests basing every meal on these foods along with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains (9).
- Nuts and seeds are also recommended along with legumes in the DASH diet with 4-5 servings per week (10).
- The portfolio diet recommends 45g or a handful of nuts and seeds per day (11).
Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and peas are all important in increasing the amount of soluble fiber in the diet and therefore lowering LDL cholesterol. They are also high in protein and can be a vegetarian replacement for animal products.
- The Mediterranean diet suggests basing every meal on these foods along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds (9).
- Legumes are also recommended along with nuts and seeds in the DASH diet with 4-5 servings per week (10).
- The portfolio diet recommends 50g or plant protein, including both legumes and soy products, per day (11).
Soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soybeans, and soy milk are known to be high in soluble fiber as well as unsaturated fats. They are also a great dairy or meat alternative to support a diet lower in animal products.
- While the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet do not mention soy products specifically
- The portfolio diet recommends 50g of plant protein (including both legumes and soy products) per day (11).
Fatty fish are a great source of unsaturated fats (like omega 3 fatty acids) to lower the amount of LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol in the body. This may include mackerel, salmon, unsalted herring, sardines, and trout.
- The Mediterranean diet suggests consuming fatty fish at least two times per week (9).
- As per the DASH diet, fatty fish along with lean meats are recommended with 2 or less servings per day (10).
- As for the portfolio diet, there is no mention of fatty fish.
21 Low-Cholesterol Lunch Recipes
Often times people will skip breakfast or lunch for various reasons, from a busy schedule to weight loss attempts. However, this is counter-productive for those trying to lower their cholesterol. In fact, following an irregular meal pattern where meals are skipped can actually raise cholesterol (12)!
By planning your easy low cholesterol lunches according to the nutrients above, it will become easier and easier to reach your cholesterol lowering goals. Check out these 21 low-cholesterol lunch recipes below that can be easily incorporated into your day.
Low Sodium Chili – The Heart Dietitian
This low sodium chili features amazing cholesterol-lowering ingredients such as olive oil, carrots, and beans. It is perfect for meal prepping for low cholesterol lunches all week long!
Sicilian Tuna Pasta – Go Cook Yummy
This easy to prepare pasta dish is packed with fatty fish from the tuna and anchovies that are excellent in supporting a low cholesterol diet. Be sure to add this to your low cholesterol lunches for work.
Protein Tomato Soup – The Heart Dietitian
Another great option to make in large batches is this protein tomato soup! With Greek yogurt, white beans, hemp seeds, carrots, and olive oil, this soup is perfect for your cholesterol lowering needs!
Air Fryer Mahi Mahi – Aubrey’s Kitchen
The star of the show in this recipe is the mahi mahi. Fish is an important food group in the Mediterranean diet and is a great lean protein option to lower your cholesterol!
Carrot Lentil Ginger Soup – The Heart Dietitian
Lentil soup has always been my personal favourite due to the amazing nutrients (and taste) that comes with it. This carrot and lentil soup is great for managing LDL cholesterol, with the main powerhouse ingredients right there in the name! Add this to your low cholesterol lunches for work!
Hearty Vegetable Stew – Refresh My Health
There’s nothing like a hearty stew at lunch to keep you full until dinner. Try this hearty vegetable stew packed with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and unsaturated fats to help keep your HDL and LDL cholesterol in check! Another great low cholesterol recipes for lunch.
Mediterranean Chickpea Quinoa Bowl – The Heart Dietitian
Healthy eating never tasted so good with this Mediterranean chickpea quinoa bowl is loaded with plant-based protein and fiber that not only meets the criteria for a cholesterol-lowering lunch but also tastes amazing!
Lemon Lentil Stew – Clan Kitchen
This was added to my favorite low cholesterol lunch recipes. It is a twist on lentil soups, this time featuring vegetables such as corn, spinach, carrots, and zucchini. This extra fiber along with the plant-based protein from the lentils is perfect for lowering cholesterol!
Lentil Burrito – The Heart Dietitian
Craving Mexican food? Swap out the beef for this heart-healthy meal made with sunflower seeds for added unsaturated fats! Don’t forget to opt for a whole grain wrap to get even more cholesterol lowering benefits from adding fiber.
Buffalo Tofu Sandwich – Plant Based On A Budget
Another favorite low cholesterol lunch ideas using meat alternative a like tofu, the star of the show in this buffalo tofu sandwich. Tofu is a soy derived product that can help lower the amount of dietary cholesterol you would consume from eating animal products.
Tofu Toast – The Heart Dietitian
Just to show you how versatile tofu really is, here is another one to add to your low cholesterol lunch ideas! By combining tofu with avocado, you are not only lowing your consumption of saturated fats, but you are also replacing them with unsaturated fats can lower cholesterol levels.
Ketoprak – Cinnamon Snail
This Indonesian dish is packed with cholesterol lowering ingredients, from the peanut butter to the canola oil to the tofu. Healthy meals do not mean less flavour! An awesome low cholesterol lunch.
Peanut Butter Avocado Toast – The Heart Dietitian
This makes the easy low cholesterol lunches list. This quick heart-healthy lunch is easy to prepare meal is a great way to incorporate cholesterol lowering ingredients in a pinch! I’s a tasty way to get added unsaturated fats and fiber in (if you don’t believe me just give it a try)!
Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad – Get Set Vegan
Another one for your low cholesterol lunch recipes list. If you’re anything like me then you love your salads to be filling enough to fuel you throughout the day. Good thing this butternut squash quinoa salad is packed with great ingredients like squash, quinoa, and olive oil that will not only help your healthy cholesterol but will also keep you full for lunch!
Black Bean Toast – The Heart Dietitian
This is another nice and easy low cholesterol recipe for lunch. Opting for this black bean toast will provide your body with plant-based protein, unsaturated fats, and fiber to help lower your cholesterol levels.
Tuna White Bean Salad – Wholesome Made Easy
This tuna white bean salad is the perfect throw together low cholesterol recipe for lunch when you’re looking for something nutrient packed and delicious. It includes ingredients such as tuna, beans, and greens that all contribute to a well-rounded cholesterol-lowering diet.
Tomato Oatmeal Soup – The Heart Dietitian
This is an easy low cholesterol lunch for work. It offers a great twist on classic tomato soup that will leave you feeling satisfied. It includes oats, olive oil, and an array of vegetables that contain soluble fiber and unsaturated fats to help lower LDL cholesterol in the body.
Thai Crunch Quinoa Salad – Begin With Balance
Here is another salad that is packed with amazing ingredients to keep you going at lunch time. It includes chicken, quinoa, edamame, avocado, carrots, cabbage, and more to provide a variety of textures and flavours that support a healthy heart.
Strawberry Balsamic Tofu Pasta Salad – Naturallie Plant Based
Nothing beats a summer lunch quite like a pasta salad! This strawberry balsamic tofu pasta salad is a great vegan option that is packed with all the key nutrients to help lower LDL cholesterol. It is also a great recipe to prep ahead for cholesterol-lowering lunches all week long!
Grilled Green Goddess Wrap – Strength And Sunshine
This easy low cholesterol lunch is sure to please! The lima beans and broccoli are both rich in soluble fibre which makes it a perfect option for a low cholesterol lunch. You could even take it one step further by ensuring the wrap is whole grain!
Broccoli Almond Soup – Home Cooking Collective
Loaded with yogurt, broccoli, almonds, and olive oil, this soup recipe contains unsaturated fats, soluble fiber, and protein for a well-rounded lunch perfect for lowering cholesterol!
Which low cholesterol recipes for lunch will you try?
Other Strategies To Maintain Low-Cholesterol Diet
There are a few other strategies (aside from low cholesterol lunches) to keep in mind when aiming to maintain a low cholesterol diet. This includes both meal planning and preparation as well as monitoring serving sizes.
Meal planning is an excellent way to keep track of the foods you’re consuming throughout the week to ensure they include the key nutrients outlined above that decrease LDL cholesterol and support HDL cholesterol. It can also help when navigating the grocery store as you will already have a pre-set list to guide your choices.
Meal preparation on the other hand will help ensure that you stick to the meal plan you previously outlined. By having pre-cooked, healthy meals ready to go it makes sticking to a low cholesterol diet that much easier.
Lastly, serving sizes are also important to consider when attempting to maintain a low-cholesterol diet. Monitoring how much you consume of certain foods will help guide you to make healthier choices. Following the serving sizes outlined in DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, or portfolio diet is a great place to start.
Other Ways Beyond Diet To Low Cholesterol
Beyond low cholesterol lunches and meeting with a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition advice, there are many other ways to help lower cholesterol. This includes engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake.
The American Heart Association currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week (13). This is because being sedentary has been found to lower HDL cholesterol and therefore increase LDL cholesterol in the body.
Some exercise options to help you reach the American Heart Association recommendations include brisk walking, running, swimming, resistance training, or even yard work.
Finally, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake is also recommended by the American Heart Association. This includes smoking, vaping, tobacco products, and all alcoholic beverages. Not only has it been found that engaging in these activities can lower HDL cholesterol, but it can also increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.
It may be useful to ask for support from a friend or family member to hold you accountable when quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Good Lunch To Lower Cholesterol?
A good lunch to lower cholesterol includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds. For example, a salad made with leafy greens, avocados, walnuts, dressed in olive oil topped with black beans and quinoa. Feel free to check out 7 day low cholesterol diet plan for more options.
What Lunch Meat Has The Least Cholesterol?
The lunch meat that has the least cholesterol is turkey breast but be sure to check nutrition labels as this varies per brand. Or try plant-based proteins for sandwiches such as hummus that has zero mg of cholesterol. Check out alternatives to deli meat post for more ideas.
What Can You Put On A Sandwich If You Have High Cholesterol?
If you have high cholesterol, you can put on your sandwich plenty of vegetables such as leafy greens, tomatoes, avocadoes, as well as nut spreads, hummus, mayonnaise, mustard, lean meats, legumes, and more!
What Is The Single Best Food To Lower Cholesterol?
There is unfortunately not one single best food to lower cholesterol. Rather, cholesterol can be lowered through a combination of many different foods. While some were mentioned throughout the article, you may find more options listed on list of low cholesterol foods.
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Cholesterol exists in two forms, known as LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. While LDL cholesterol is considered ‘bad’, HDL cholesterol is ‘good’.
In order to manage cholesterol levels, some nutrients are more beneficial than others. For instance, while saturated fats and trans fats should be limited, unsaturated fats and soluble fiber should be increased.
Certain dietary choices can be made to support the intake of the nutrients outlined above. For instance, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, legumes, soy products, and fatty fish are all great choices for low cholesterol lunches when following a cholesterol-lowering diet.
In this post, we made it easy to incorporate these ingredients with delicious recipes that include 21 low cholesterol lunch ideas. Which one will you try first?