A week of healthy lunches

By Live Dr - Wed Sep 03, 9:27 am

If the only planning your lunch involves is where you’ll get your sarnie from, you’re missing a trick. Ready-made food can be high in calories and fat, making it harder to eat healthily and keep those pounds off. Find out how to transform your midday meal and make good choices when you’re short of time.

© NatMag - healthy lunches
Ditch those prepacked sandwiches for healthier choices at lunch.

If you are somebody who makes a dash to the supermarket for a sandwich and a bag of crisps come lunch time, you are not alone.

We take a paltry 19 minutes for lunch and 78 per cent of us plump for a sandwich. Nearly half of us will wolf it down at our desk, too.

But some simple forward planning can transform your midday meal.

Healthy, well-balanced meals can be quick to make and much cheaper than something ready made.

If you work, you can take a packed lunch or even microwave a baked potato if you have a decent staff kitchen.

Try these ideas – both your waistline and wallet will thank you for it.

Seven-day plan

    Before you start

    © NatMag - avocado

    Butter and margarine are high in calories and fat, so all these recipes are designed to be made without.

    If you can’t say no to butter, use sparingly.

    A little ripe avocado, spread like butter on your toast or for sandwiches can make a healthier alternative.


    © Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images - 	spicy chicken and vegetable tortilla wrap

    Spicy chicken and roasted vegetable tortilla wrap

    The night before: pop chopped courgette, pepper, mushrooms and strips of chicken breast into a roasting tin.

    Lightly brush with olive oil, paprika and ground chilli and put in the oven on a low heat until the chicken is well cooked and veg is tender.

    In the morning: pack into a plastic container and take to work with a tortilla wrap and a handful of ready-washed salad leaves.

    For just-made freshness, assemble your wrap at lunchtime.


    © NatMag - couscous with vegetables and fresh herbs

    Couscous mixed with chopped vegetables and fresh herbs

    Low-fat yogurt

    Couscous is as versatile as pasta and takes just five minutes to cook.

    Try it with a variety of raw or cooked vegetables, chopped avocado, walnuts or beans and stir in plenty of fresh herbs.


    © NatMag -  	watercress, spinach and rocket salad with peppers,  onion and smoked mackerel

    Watercress, spinach and rocket salad with red peppers, red onion, smoked mackerel and a balsamic dressing

    Fruit juice

    You can quickly assemble this simple salad in your lunch hour.

    You can substitute tinned tuna or salmon for mackerel.

    Make up the salad dressing at home and pop in an old jam jar to keep in the office fridge.

    You can use extra-virgin olive oil, then whisk in a little balsamic vinegar and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Experiment by adding lime juice, some Dijon mustard or dried herbs such as basil or rosemary.


    © NatMag - roast beef sandwich with horseradish and rocket leaves

    Roast beef sandwich on rye bread with horseradish and rocket leaves

    Piece of fresh fruit or prepared fruit chunks

    Buy pre-sliced beef and make at home.

    Get organised and prepare your fruit at home too, rather than spending on shop-bought versions.


    © Dorota i Bogdan Bialy/StockFood Creative/Getty Images -  jacket potato with cottage cheese and chives

    Jacket potato with cottage cheese and chives and a large green salad

    Cereal bar

    Use your work microwave for a healthy hot potato rather than heating a ready-meal.

    Pierce a washed spud all over and pop in the microwave on high heat for ten to twelve minutes, depending on size.

    Spear with a knife to ensure it’s cooked all the way through then serve with cottage cheese, chives and salad.


    © NatMag -  scrambled egg on wholemeal toast with grilled field mushrooms and tomato

    Poached or scrambled egg on wholemeal toast with grilled field mushrooms and tomato

    Fruit smoothie

    Enjoy a cooked brunch with a home-made fruit smoothie – try whizzing up a banana, berries and some pineapple with a little orange juice.


    © NatMag - 	homemade vegetable soup

    Homemade vegetable soup, eg spicy parsnip, pea and watercress, tomato and basil or carrot and coriander

    Crusty granary bread

    Canned fruit in juice with low-fat Greek yogurt

    For spicy parsnip soup, fry chopped onions, spring onions and garlic in a little oil until brown.

    Add chopped parsnips, potatoes and a tablespoon of garam masala mixed spices.

    Add a pint of vegetable stock and cook until veg is soft.

    Whiz up in a blender until smooth and stir in a tablespoon of tahini paste before serving.

    Make a double batch and you’ll have enough for Monday’s lunch, too.

Healthy choices you can buy

On days when time is short, use these tips to navigate the shelves when buying your lunch.

Common mistakes
  • Thinking a cup-a-soup is enough. This won’t see you through the afternoon and will have you heading for the biscuit barrel.
  • Following a large lunch with a large dinner. If lunch has been a blow-out, reduce your evening meal accordingly.
  • Choosing reduced-calorie options. Check labels because some are filled with additives or artificial sweeteners to keep the calorie count low.
      • Mayonnaise: it can turn a low-fat tuna sandwich into a lunch laden with unhealthy fats and calories. Steer clear by going to a shop where they will make your sandwich from scratch.

      • Triple sandwich packs: unless you are an Olympic athlete you simply don’t need this many calories in one sitting.

      • Cheese: it might make for a delicious sandwich, but even small amounts will hike up your calorie and fat intake.

    • Avoid

      • Salads with separate dressing sachets – add sparingly and save yourself up to 150 calories.

      • Anything around the 350-550 calorie mark – women should have closer to 350 calories for lunch, men nearer 550.

      • Sandwiches with plenty of salad.

      • Fresh, canned or pre-prepared fruit if you fancy something sweet – that way you get a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals and fibre too.

      • Low glycaemic index (GI) carbs such as rye bread, oat cakes, bulgar wheat, new potatoes, couscous, quinoa, pearl barley, soya and linseed bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown or wild rice. All are slow-release energy foods, which means no sudden sugar highs or lows.

    • Tuck into

    © NetDoctor.co.uk - seasonal summer foods
    • Leaves: watercress, spinach and rocket are packed with beneficial phytonutrients and vitamin C, betacarotene, iron and calcium.

    • Avocado: packed with essential fats, vitamin E and fibre, all essential for heart health. Those watching their weight should eat in moderation.

    • Peppers: their distinctive flavour is down to a chemical called capsaicin that can also act as a natural painkiller. Red peppers are an excellent source of betacarotene and vitamin C.

    • Berries: no matter what the berry, each is packed with its own unique set of beneficial nutrients – the deep colour gives this away.


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