Weekday lunches can be hard. If you work in an office, it will probably need to be something quick and easy. But if you choose badly, it can leave you feeling bloated and sleepy in the afternoon and desperately craving a sugar hit by 4pm.
A good lunch can come in many different forms, but it needs to contain some protein, veggies or salad and usually, some wholegrain carbs. It also needs to be varied, in order to help you get all the nutrients your body needs in a day. The easiest way to do this is by preparing it yourself. If you have access to a microwave, then leftovers from last night’s dinner of casserole, chilli or homemade soup is a great choice. If not, then a bit of planning at the beginning of the week can provide lunches without resorting to sandwiches every day.
Try buying some base salad items, like lettuce, cucumber, tomato, carrots, beetroot, avocado, peppers and olives then add protein – cooked chicken (leftover from a Sunday roast or weekday dinner), tuna, cheese, humous or hard boiled eggs plus a slice or two of grainy bread or pita bread. This will give you a few different lunches for the week, which you then throw into a plastic tub in the morning or keep in the office fridge. It will also add 1 or 2 serves to your daily fruit and veg target. Alternatively, make up a pasta or rice salad (see recipes) at the weekend, then use that as the basis for a lunch, throwing in a few extra bits for taste and variety.
If you are making a sandwich, use wholegrain bread and add plenty of salad – not just lettuce and cucumber, but tomato, peppers, grated carrot and try using avocado as a spread instead of butter; it works really well with ham, chicken or tuna and is full of healthy unsaturated fats.
However, it is worth saying that a big sandwich at lunch can leave us feeling bloated and sleepy. In Chinese and alternative medicine, wheat is said to be difficult for our bodies to process. It is often responsible for bloating and wind, especially if your afternoon is desk-based and sedentary. If you find this happening, cut out the bread and try having rice or oat crackers with your salad or soup. You could go carb free at lunch, but you may well need to plan a late afternoon snack of nuts, crackers and cheese or humous if you want to avoid the 4pm sugar craving.
If you buy lunch, aim for variety. If you work in the centre of a city, there may be many options available. Burritos are great if you’re starving and active – choose the wholewheat wrap if available and make sure you have the beans and salad for a super tasty lunch. Rice or salad bowls are lighter if you’re just sitting at your desk for the day. Middle eastern food such as falafels, humous and salads are really tasty and nutritious too, as are Asian stir fries or noodles, especially if you choose the veggie and cashew nut option. If your options are limited to a local sandwich shop or supermarket, vary the sandwich fillings, avoid the mayonnaise and go for those with the most salad in them. Many supermarkets offer alternatives to sandwiches now, so experiment with a few different things or try to bring your own food a couple of days a week.
A good lunch can come in many different forms – just try to include plenty of veggies, some protein and wholegrain carbs if possible. And don’t forget that variety is the key to getting all the nutrients you need and will help you avoid the boring old sandwich rut.