Back to work: How to pack the perfect healthy lunch


As we prepare for a phased return to something resembling normality, you can’t overstate the importance of nutrition to get you brain ready for the daily grind. Here are some nutrition tips and tricks to help set some healthy new habits.

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In the last instalment of this column, we laid down a few rukes of thumb for breakfast, and they remain largely appicable for lunch. Essentially you want to make sure you are bringing something that is protein packed, full of veggies and provides enopugh fuel to see you throught he day.

It sounds simple, but lunch is a tricky meal to get right. Eat too little and you’ll be heading to the vending machine by 3pm. Eat too much and you’ll be drowsy at your desk. You want to make sure that you break the day up without totally derailing the momentum you’ve built up in the morning.

What packs well?

There are a few factors to consider: ease of preparation, ease of transportation and ease of reheating/storing. If you have access to a microwave then one of the best options is to batch cook stews and minced meat dishes like bolognese and chilli, or use a slow cooker and prepare pulled meat dishes.

You can front load the work on these as well, so that you aren’t adding to the morning chaos as you leave the house. These are meals that will reheat well in a microwave and you can transport them easily to work.

A great way to up the protein and fibre content without also upping fat and calories is to include pulses, including kidney beans, chickpeas, borlotti beans and black beans.

These dishes can also be packed with loads of vegetables in the sauce. Onions, peppers and grated carrots are easy additions and you can add spinach leaves and mushrooms as well. 

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Your choice of carbs is also important. Balance is the order of the day so if you opt for a fattier meat (minced lamb over minced chicken, for instance), then maybe choose a lower carb accompaniment.

There’s nothing wrong with rice and pasta but if you’re looking for a lighter lunch then pairing saucey protein with roasted veggies works a treat.

Butternut Squash roasts magnificently and offers great texture with half the calories per gram of potatoe and sweet potato – it will provide volume, crunch, flavour and nutrition without blowing your calorie budget.

Broccoli and cauliflower also benefit tremendously from oven roasting and they reheat really well in a microwave.

Salads

If you’d rather pack a salad as the weather starts to warm up there are a few rules to follow:

  1. Pack the dressing separately and only add when you’re ready to eat.
  2. Choose a protein option
  3. Choose a base leaf
  4. Pack it with extra vegetables, both cooked and raw

Typically olive oil will be the healthiest choice of dressing, but if you’re trying to lose weight loss be aware that monounsaturated fat and “healthy” calories still count, so don’t free pour. Combine with your choice of vinegar or juice for a tasty dressing.

If this all sounds like too much work then you can easily salvage most lunchtime options by having a few pots of Greek yoghurt or skyr to hand. They’re an easy and delicious way of adding 20grams of protein to your meal and they sort of count as pudding.

• For help planning nutritional meals go to Nutrition Kitchen.





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