We know that people who buy their lunches out are more likely to consume more calories, sugar and salt each day. On top of this, the average lunch bought out could cost you around £35 each week – so by making your own lunch just three times a week you could save yourself over £1000 each year!
Our nutritionist Ruth Tongue looks at some of the best and worst high street lunch options and offers her tips on simple, tasty lunches to take to work (no soggy salads or dry sandwiches we promise!)
Posh Cheddar and Pickle Baguette – highly refined carbs like white baguettes are a recipe for a mid afternoon desk slump. This baguette contains 4 teaspoons of sugar plus almost half of your recommended daily salt intake – neither of which will keep you firing on all cylinders come 3pm.
Chakalaka wrap – Not only does it have the best name on the menu 🙅🏼♀️, but this vegan wrap is also the perfect slow releasing lunch. Made with a rye wrap, beans, squash, peppers and spinach, it’s an antioxidant-packed power lunch without the excessive calories, salt or sugar content. Despite being veggie, it still contains a good amount of protein and the high fibre content will keep you feeling full without feeling sluggish.
Ready made pasta salads tend to be common culprits when it comes to sugar content. This simple pasta salad contains almost 800 calories per pot, plus a whopping 32grams of sugar (that’s the same as 8 teaspoons – dessert anyone?!)
And watch out for the clever labelling techniques – this pasta pot puts the nutritional information per quarter of a pot (and no-one ever eats just a quarter of a pot!).
WIth almost a quarter of the calories of the Italian pasta salad, this salad still packs a protein punch and will give you your pasta fix without the extra 8 teaspoons of sugar. If you’re worried this won’t fill you up, pimp your lunch with a mini pot of hummus and some extra carrot crudites or add a bag of lightly salted popcorn for a filling fibre fix.
At over 700 calories, this rice bowl contains more calories than a Big Mac. That said, the fact it’s made of red and brown rice puts it high above the Big Mac for nutritional quality. It also contains a huge 34g of protein – but as the body can only absorb around 25g of protein at a time a third of this may be wasted!
Pimp your lunch by dividing this lunch into two and having the other half as the perfect pre or post gym booster.
Eat your heart out:
Itsu’s zero salads contain their shirataki noodles – zero carbs and made from a special root called konjac. Konjac root contains around 40% of the soluble fibre, glucomannan, which creates a feeling of fullness due to its very slow passage through the digestive tract, and is shown to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar. The salmon and edamame beans provide a perfect protein portion to keep you feeling alert and satisfied throughout the afternoon.
Make your own:
If you’re keen however to save yourself pounds in your pocket as well as on your waist line, why not try these two simple lunches to make in minutes – both of which can be made for less than £1* per serving.
Burrito in a jar:
3 tbsp cooked quinoa
3 tbsp tinned black beans
2 tbsp tomato salsa (home made or shop bought)
Sprinkle of jalapeños (optional)
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
Handful of fresh coriander and/or mint
Optional chicken or prawns for an extra protein boost
Layer all of the ingredients in a mason jar or tupperware pot. The quinoa can be cooked in advance and will keep for around 3 days in the fridge.
Noodles in a pot 😉
You’ll need – a deep plastic pot with a secure lid or plastic Kilner type jar (approx 700ml capacity)
1 nest vermicelli rice noodles
2 spring onions
1⁄2 small red pepper (seeds removed)
1- 2 pak choi leaves
4 baby sweetcorn
1 small carrot peeled into fine slices
2 tablespoons frozen peas
Black pepper (optional)
4 sprigs fresh coriander and or mint
1 tbsp chopped peanuts
Optional protein of your choice – 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded, 150g cooked prawns, 1 boiled egg, 100g tofu.
1 quantity dressing (see below):
1⁄2 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1⁄4 red chilli, finely chopped
Juice of 1⁄2 lime
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1cm piece root ginger peeled and grated
OR 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
150–200ml boiling water
Make up your noodle pot with the above ingredients and sauce. When you get to work fill with 150-200ml boiling water, stir, cover and leave for approx 2-3 minutes. Eat and enjoy!