Making fast, nutritious and delicious lunches and lunch choices can be a challenge whether you’re working, studying or running around with the family. The health and wellbeing team at rt health fund share some of their tips to selecting healthy eats – where delicious meets nutritious!
You already know the basics – fresh is best and the less processed, the better. For example, canned tuna or fresh fish trumps fish nuggets and an apple is a better choice than a sugary apple bar from the supermarket. But time and hunger can challenge the best of intentions. So, if you’re watching your weight or trying to boost the nutrient content of your diet, here are some super quick tips:
1. Fill up half of your lunchbox or plate with veggies – red, orange, blue and yellow. The more colours, the better. Go for masses of green veggies such as broccoli, kale, rocket and asparagus – these are ultra-low in calories and very high in nutrition.
2. Make a quarter of your meal starchy carbohydrates – the wholegrain kinds of bread, rice and pasta are best because they have their fibre, vitamins and minerals intact. In the same way, potatoes with their skins on are better than without and sweet potatoes are a great choice. Try to avoid white flour foods, for example white bread and pastry because they have had the fibre and nutrients removed from them in processing. Without the fibre, these foods are digested quickly so you feel hungry again after a short time. So, for a steadier life, go wholegrain.
3. Make a quarter of your lunch protein foods. Fish is a great choice as it provides omega-3 essential fats (oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are especially high), lean meat provides a big hit of iron and pulses (peas, beans and legumes) are a rich source of protein with added fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential omega-3 fats.
4. Add a source of calcium – either dairy or a vegetarian alternative such as soy or almond milk. Many women don’t get enough bone and teeth-building calcium, which can lead to issues such as osteoporosis later in life.
5. Some fresh fruit – which provides vitamins, minerals, fibre and a whole host of protective plant pigments. Plus, when you have a meal that satisfies your savoury taste buds, you may want something sweet to finish. Fruit could do the trick and could reduce the temptation for sugary/fatty snacks.
Here are some quick lunch ideas to get you started (most can be made at home using supermarket ingredients but some can be bought from takeaway shops):
- Canned tuna with a little low-fat mayonnaise and lots of salad on a wholemeal roll
- Roast beef with lettuce and lots of sliced tomato on rye bread
- Supermarket salad leaves (lettuce, baby spinach, rocket) with tomatoes, feta and a can of drained red kidney beans
- Hummus, pita bread and a double serving of tabbouleh
- Sushi and boiled green soybeans (edamame)
- Quinoa with a rainbow of veggies
- Poached eggs on wholegrain toast with spinach and avocado
- Store-bought soup with added frozen baby peas
- Vietnamese rice paper rolls with a large side salad
- Falafel/chicken/lean meat roll with extra salad
- Pasta with tomato sauce and lots of steamed veggies
- Indian dhal with basmati rice and a big salad
- Hot smoked salmon with mashed potatoes, green beans and grilled tomatoes
- Mushroom and veggie omelette with wholegrain bread
- Thai salad with fish, meat or tofu
- Tofu and veggie stir fry
- Homemade chilli con carne with meat or veggie mince and extra beans with tomato salad.
And for something sweet …
- Fresh fruit
- Sugar-free dairy or coconut yoghurt
- A few dried peaches/apricots/prunes with unsalted nuts
- Sugar-free jelly
- Canned peaches or apricots (drained)
- A couple of squares of dark chocolate.