Beat the afternoon office slump and pack a lunch that's full of healthy snacks, fibre and blood sugar-balancing wholegrains and lean meats...
With more than half of children taking a packed lunch to school – that’s a staggering five billion lunches a year – not to mention the many office and outdoor workers who rely on them, it’s clear what a vital contribution lunchboxes make. That said, thinking up inspiring ideas can be a challenge. It's tempting to fall into the trap of using packaged, ready-made options. Although these seem like the easy answer, they tend to be high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
Avoid that mid-afternoon slump by packing foods that help to balance blood sugar. The B group of vitamins and chromium are important for this, so include wholegrains and lean meats as well as tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Combining protein and fibre with carbs will also help to get you through the afternoon.
- Fill up on fibre by adding grains such as barley or pulses (including lentils) to soups - both help manage cholesterol levels.
- Vary the bread you use by opting for granary, rye, pumpernickel or seeded varieties of wraps, rolls, bagels or pitta. Omit the butter or spread when using moist fillings in sandwiches to help keep fat and calories down.
- Slash salt levels by using low-sodium stocks in soups and opt for rice, pasta or potato salads in place of sandwiches at least 2-3 days a week. If you love sandwiches, choose lower-salt fillings such as chicken or turkey salad.
- Make the most of leftovers – these save time, money and can offer a healthier choice (eg cold, sliced frittata served with a green salad).
- Be good to your heart and include oily fish once a week – choose from sardines, salmon, trout or mackerel.
- Choose a healthy snack to get you through the day – a handful (30g) of unsalted nuts or seeds are full of stress-busting nutrients.
- Sweets, chocolate and biscuits – use fruit or dairy options to satisfy that ‘sweet’ need.
- Too much tea and coffee – opt instead for water, 100% fruit juice, milk, a yogurt smoothie, green or herbal teas.