Unless you’re based in a big city it’s likely that your lunchtime choices are fairly limited. Research shows that many of us are eating the same things most days. We are also spending up to 30 quid a week on lunch and takeaway coffees and snacks. Some lunches can be really bad value too –the mark-up on sandwiches and salads is eye-watering.
Too much of the bad stuff
If you’re a fan of the “meal-deal” choosing a sandwich and crisps every day, you are probably eating more fat and salt than you need. Excess saturated fat and salt can lead to heart disease in the long term. Throw in a fizzy drink or juice as well and that could be on average 10 teaspoons of sugar that you really don’t need everyday. Diets high in refined sugars can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Lacking in protein
Even if you choose salads, they are usually low in protein. Most shop bought salads contain very little of the 'expensive' ingredients and a lot of cheaper lettuce. We need enough protein to feel satisfied. If you find that you need a snack at 3pm then your lunch hasn't given you what you need.
Miles away from your 7 a day
Current advice is to eat seven portions of veggies a day and only two of these can be fruit. 'Eat the rainbow' to get lots of different colours of veg in your diet . The red, blue, purple, green, white, yellow or orange colour of plant foods indicate different nutrient content and support our health in different ways- so we need them all! Eat at least two portions of veg in your lunch to be on track and vary it every day.
If you buy lunch from the same outlet day after day it’s unlikely to give you enough variation in your diet to keep your gut happy. Eating a wider variety of fresh, unprocessed foods helps to cultivate rich and diverse gut microbes. This can help you to avoid heart attacks, fight off infections, reduce allergies and stay slim. These helpful bugs also stop you from getting bloated and uncomfortable after you eat.
Time for a change
Why not take some time this lunch break and explore what else is out there? Swap cheese and ham for tuna, salmon, prawns, falafel, eggs, tofu or turkey. Make a salad with lentils, kidney beans or brown rice instead of a sandwich. Opt for a veggie soup, chilli or curry when the weather is cold. You’ll feel much more satisfied, and they make good choices to get lots more veggies into your day.
If there is nowhere near you to buy lunch each day, or you prefer to pack your own lunch, you might need some new ideas to mix things up. St Albans food writer Becky Alexander and nutritionist Michelle Lake have written a book crammed full of very quick lunch ideas. Each recipe/idea has a handy info box to tell you how it can boost your health. You can even save money, in just a couple of weeks.
Packed by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake is out today, published by Nourish Books. Available on Amazon, Waterstones and Hive, 12.99.