Desk lunches needn’t mean calorie loading: get into good habits and nail healthy eating on-the-go
Words Dr. Michelle Braude
Many of us eat lunch out and about, whether it be from the office canteen, a sandwich shop, or supermarket, having to find lunch “on-the-go” is something that can wreak havoc on the best-laid healthy eating plans. But buying lunch out needn’t ruin your weight loss efforts. Follow the tips below for healthy lunches and snacks when working and on-the-go.
Choose sensible salads
A hearty salad can make a filling, healthy and tasty lunch. If you make your salad at home, you can control exactly what goes in, and save money too! Try to make sure your salad contains some starchy whole-grain carbs such as quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat couscous or pasta; lean protein such as grilled chicken, fish, cottage cheese, boiled eggs, lentils, beans or pulses and a variety of colourful veg or salad greens and some healthy fats such as hummus, olives or avocado. If you’re buying salads, avoid ones that contain a lot of mayonnaise or other high-fat dressings, such as coleslaw, potato salad and some pasta salads.
Beware of hidden ingredients. Items that may seem healthy, for example a tuna or egg sandwich are often LOADED with full-fat mayonnaise and oil, packing in more than 20 grams of fat per sandwich! What’s more is that these sandwiches come pre-made so you don’t have the option of asking them to hold the mayo. Read labels to check ingredients and calories, and stick to sandwiches on whole-grain bread with vegetables or salad in it, and lean protein, such as smoked salmon, turkey or chicken, tuna or boiled egg, with either little or low-fat mayonnaise.
Choose sensible snacks
The processed snacks that often accompany the “meal deal” don’t satisfy hunger for very long. Processed foods that are high in fat and refined sugar, such as crisps, biscuits and milk chocolate bars, all digest very quickly, raise blood sugar levels and actually promote hunger. Instead opt for nuts, which are naturally filling, extremely healthy and promote stable blood sugar levels. They’re a great source of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats, and a single one ounce (28g) serving has only about 150 calories. But beware of jumbo-size bags that can contain a whopping 10 servings and can easily add up to a whole day’s worth of calories! Instead do your own portioning in small Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers to pack into your handbag or keep in your desk at work. The amounts to stick to for a 30g portion are roughly: 24 almonds, 18 cashew nuts, 28 peanuts, 14 walnuts and 49 pistachio nuts!
Fresh fruit never fails
Fresh fruit and chopped vegetables with hummus make smart, filling, on-the-go additions to lunch. Whole fresh fruit and ready-cut fruit salads are sold at most supermarkets and coffee shops, or you can easily pack an apple or two in your bag. If you don’t have time to chop veggies at home, most supermarkets sell bags of pre-cut carrot sticks that pair perfectly with hummus, and many shops now even sell packs of baby carrots with a perfectly portioned mini-pot of hummus.
If you prefer a hot meal for lunch, you can still make healthier choices. Baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes if available) are a great choice, especially if you eat the skin, which is a good source of fibre. Go for a healthy filling, such as baked beans, cottage cheese or tuna and sweetcorn, and avoid adding butter to save unnecessary calories and saturated fat. Soups are also a great choice, especially if they contain vegetables. You can add a wholegrain roll or whole-wheat pitta plus a side salad to make it a filling, satisfying meal.
Grab a coffee
If it’ll be a while till you get your healthy lunch and your stomach is rumbling, grab a tall skimmed or soya milk latte. The milk is full of protein and calcium, and is actually extremely filling and satisfying! Especially if paired with some fresh fruit, such as an apple.
Dehydration can make you tired and feel hungry, when actually you’re really just thirsty. In fact dehydration can mimic the symptoms of hunger and cause you to overeat at lunch time, when all you really need is to drink. Water is nature’s perfect thirst quencher and it’s totally calorie free. So make sure to have a glass of water before your lunch and always carry a bottle of water, to stay well hydrated throughout the day.