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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

CentraCare care givers have been working around the clock for more than 20 months to care for you, your families and friends during COVID. We are committed to caring for every Minnesotan who needs us, and nothing will prevent us from doing so – even during these never-seen-before times.

The challenge of providing this level of care is that our hospital beds are often full. ERs in all of our hospitals are packed. And our clinical teams are exhausted. Early in the pandemic, our community stepped up in amazing ways to help us. We ask that you again join us in fighting this pandemic together.

How can you help?

  • Please get your COVID vaccines and booster shots. They are proven safe and effective in reducing COVID illness, keeping people out of the hospital, and preventing death.
  • If your situation is not an emergency, please use other care options, including:
  • If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1, or visit the ER.

Together, we can do this. Thank you for your support.

Ken Holmen, MD
President and CEO

A new twist for lunchtime

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Alyssa Monson, Registered Dietitian

Stuck in the same old lunch routine? Kids complaining about their PB&J? Check out these twists on the old standbys to add variety and balance to your lunchtime routine.


Add variety:

  • Travel the globe and try out a variety of flavors. For example: a Mexican-inspired salad may include a variety of peppers and use salsa as the dressing. Season your chicken or protein of choice with cilantro, lemon pepper and chili powder.
  • Add fruit for a twist. Fruits can add a fresh flavor while satisfying your sweet tooth.
  • Switch out dressings or seasonings. Sometimes switching from your usual dressing to a different variety (i.e. ranch vs. southwest ranch) might be enough to keep your taste buds interested.

Prep ahead:

  • Salads are easily prepped in advance. Make sure to store any dressing or wet ingredients separately to avoid soggy lettuce.
  • Measure out all ingredients for the week of lunches and you have a grab and go lunch that will satisfy your hunger and won’t break the bank.

Dietitian tips:

  • Measure dressings — they can add up quickly. If you are prepping ahead, purchase small dressing cups (some even have measurements right on them) to keep your calories in check.  
  • Beware of toppings. Even though toppings add variety and can play a role in adding vital nutrients, the calories can add up quickly. Measure these out and account for the added calories.
  • Keep it balanced: Make sure to include a protein food in your salad (chicken, beef, pork, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, tofu, tempeh, etc.)
  • Repurpose leftovers. Use your leftover protein foods or vegetables (or purposely cook/prepare extra) to add to your salads for the week.


Add variety:

  • Skip the bread. Wrap your sandwich in a lettuce leaf for an added crunch, while also cutting calories.
  • Try alternatives to bread. Pita pockets, sandwich thins, English muffins all bring a different flavor and texture to your sandwich. Make sure to choose a whole-grain option to add more fiber and find a “light” version to keep calories down.
  • Sandwich/luncheon meats can be higher in fat and sodium. Opt for turkey, chicken and ham to keep fat lower. Look for a lower sodium option in the grocery aisle. You may also consider using home-cooked proteins for your sandwiches instead.
  • Warm up your fillings and toast your bread. This alone will change the flavor of the sandwich.
  • Switch up your spread. Try out a chipotle mayo or a dollop of salsa to add zing to your lunch.
  • Add vegetables. This is an easy way to add crunch and extra flavor to your sandwich.  
  • Add fruit. If your little ones are PB&J fans, add chopped fruit (strawberries, bananas, apples are all tasty options) to their sandwich and go light on the jam/jelly. For more protein, mix in Greek yogurt with the peanut butter and jelly. Swipe on bread and sprinkle with chopped up fruit.

Prep ahead:

  • Measure 3-4 oz. servings of protein and package up in single portions for the week.
  • Measure out enough spread of your choice (if you are using a spread) for the week and place in a small dressing cup.
  • Package up the ‘wrapper’ of your choice (lettuce/bread/alternative) separately to avoid soggy sandwiches.


Add variety:

  • Start with plain yogurt and add flavors from there.
    • Berries/fruits
    • Powdered peanut butter
      • Add few (less than 1 Tbsp.) dark chocolate chips to add sweetness if desired.
      • Banana slices are great in this option, too.
    • Homemade granola contains less sugar than purchased varieties.
    • Whole grain cereal (unsweetened or lightly sweetened is best).
  • Mix in a ranch/dressing flavor packet (replacing the sour cream) and use as a dip for vegetables.
  • Plain Greek yogurt works great as a replacement for sour cream or mayo. Don’t be afraid to add it to your sandwiches or salads to increase protein.

Prep ahead:

  • Buy yogurt in bulk if desired (saves money!) — then measure out ½-1 cup servings for the week and store in the refrigerator. Plain yogurt works best to keep sugar content down (you control the sweetness with the toppings you add).
  • Measure out desired toppings and package separately.
  • Frozen fruit can be added right away for time to thaw while in the refrigerator.