Work lunches don’t have to be boring. With summer on our doorstep it’s an easy time of the year to pick healthy choices with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables available. But what makes up a healthy lunch? Follow our 4 step guide to ensure that your lunch is healthy and balanced and provides you with all of the right nutrients to get through the afternoon.
BYO – Build Your Own
It’s as easy as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4. There are four key components that you need for a healthy meal at lunchtime. They are:
Carbohydrate + Protein + Fat + Vegetables
Wholegrain carbohydrates are full of fibre and digested more slowly, which gives you sustained energy throughout the afternoon to avoid the 3pm slump.
- Suggestions: (portion depending on how active you are) – wholegrain roll, brown rice or pasta, couscous, quinoa, wholemeal wraps, potatoes
Protein helps us to feel full for longer. Lean and unprocessed varieties are best.
- Suggestions: (size of a deck of cards, 2 eggs or ½ cup) – lean chicken or beef, eggs, fish, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, low-fat unsweetened yoghurt, low-fat cheese)
Fats are often given a bad name, but healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fats are needed to absorb vitamins A, D and E and healthy (unsaturated) fats help to lower cholesterol levels.
- Suggestions: (1 thumb size portion or 1 Tbsp/handful nuts) – extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts & seeds, avocado, dressings made with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, unsaturated-fat spread (made with sunflower/olive/rapeseed oil)
Vegetables provide us with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to protect the body’s cells from damage. The more colours the better!
- Suggestions: (at least 2-3 handfuls) – lettuce, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, peppers or include some fruit such as dried cranberries or fresh watermelon in a salad
10 healthy summertime lunches
Using the 4 step guide, we’ve planned these healthy lunches for you to pick ‘n choose from:
- Wholegrain bread roll + boiled egg or roast beef + avocado + tomato and cucumber
- Wholegrain flatbread or tortilla + falafel + hummus (made with olive oil) + salad
- Sweet potato cubes + lentils + balsamic and olive oil dressing + spinach leaves, roast carrots and red onion
- Brown rice + reduced-salt feta cheese + homemade dressing and pumpkin seeds + rocket, beetroot and pumpkin
- Quinoa or couscous + roast chicken slices + balsamic and olive oil dressing + dried cranberries and roast vegetables
- Brown pasta + tinned salmon (counts towards protein and healthy fats) + low-fat mayonnaise, avocado or crème fraiche + sweetcorn and peppers
- Granola + low-fat Greek yoghurt + almonds + fresh blueberries and strawberries
- Grainy roll + lentil or minestrone soup (with beans for protein) + unsaturated-fat spread + piece of fruit
- Jacket potato + tinned tuna or baked beans + sprinkling of cheese + side of salad
- Wholegrain toast + poached eggs + unsaturated-fat spread + roasted tomatoes
Remember the 4 step guide: Carbohydrate + Protein + Fat + Vegetables
- Plan your menu for the week on a Sunday and ensure that you have all of the ingredients needed (this can also save you time and money at the supermarket)
- Make one of these “lunch” meals for dinner, and bring the leftovers for your lunch
- When making pasta or rice salads, make enough for a few days’ worth