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Upgrade Your Lunch

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1. From Burger To Wrap

For her lunch upgrade, Kathie Swift, MS, RD, reimagined the classic cheeseburger combo, which she calls “an inflammatory meal” because of its imbalanced fats, deep-fried starch, and heavy reliance on meat, dairy and refined flours combined with a notable absence of phytonutrient-rich vegetables and fiber. In its place, Swift, who’s the nutrition director for Food As Medicine at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., created a whole-grain flax wrap that’s filled with hummus, avocado, spinach and roasted red peppers. It’s accompanied by a fresh pear and unsweetened jasmine green iced tea.

Before: From the “low-fiber, high-gluten white bun,” most likely made with sugar and hydrogenated oil, to the American cheese (“a super-processed food”), there’s not much Swift can find to like about this burger meal. The industrially raised beef provides protein, but may also contain antibiotic residues, heavy metals and other toxins — and it could harbor nasty bacteria.

After: Packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats, Swift’s whole-grain flax wrap is made with colorful veggies and creamy hummus. For easy preparation, use store-bought hummus (just be sure it’s made with extra-virgin olive oil); jarred roasted red peppers; prewashed, bagged spinach; and avocado. Feel free to sub in other greens, such as arugula and watercress, or for heartier palates, swiss chard or even kale.

Before: White potatoes are starchy, high-glycemic fare, and when deep-fried in low-grade, trans-fat-laden vegetable oils, they can develop toxic properties. Most commercial ketchups contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

After: With summer in full swing, there’s a wide variety of seasonal fruits to choose from. Pears are naturally very sweet, which can be a good thing if you are choosing them in place of a sugary dessert or coffee drink.

Before: Aside from their heavy dose of HFCS (or artificial sweeteners), “one of the biggest problems with soft drinks is their addictive nature,” says Swift. “I call these types of beverages ‘Cokeaine.’ Breaking the habit can be challenging, but it can be done, sip by sip.”

After: Antioxidant-rich green tea is a lunchtime no-brainer, says Swift. It also makes a nice afternoon pick-me-up. If you crave a little sweetness in your ice tea, try a touch of raw honey or real maple syrup (but don’t go overboard — these are sugars, too!).

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Read more: All recipes, Eating for Health, Entrees, Food, Soups & Salads, , , , ,

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4:35AM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

Its a great article, we all need ideas to jazz up lunches so we can eat a bigger range of foods and keep things enticing

6:57PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Don't need to!

7:34AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

This is definitely an upgrade! They all look so yummy.

10:19AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011


6:39PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Fun ideas. Thanks.

5:54AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011


5:13AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Eating out makes this more challenging.

3:33PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

Great tips. The correct nutrition is essential for a healthy life.

11:34AM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

For those of us who are living gluten free, there are spelt wraps, too! I also make my own spring rolls with the tapioca "paper" from my Asian store. Filled with fresh veggies and dipped in the sauce I make (1/2 and 1/2 garlic/chili with the spring roll sauce and a dash of soy) is a wonderful treat. Since it's so easy and fast to make, I do this OFTEN!!

8:32AM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I pack my lunch for work every day. Wraps are a favorite as they are quick and easy to prepare. I start with an organic sprouted wheat tortilla (Alvarado Street fajita wraps are a favorite), spread on homemade or store-bought hummus, sliced kalamata olives and whatever veggies I have on-hand (shredded carrots, cucumbers, red and green cabbage, lettuce, tomato and avocado). Tofu wraps are also tasty. Spread the tortilla with Vegenaise and Dijon mustard, add baked flavored tofu cut in strips, then top with fresh veggies and wrap up. It's a delicious lunch that I never tire of!

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