For big and little kids alike, getting prepared with a wholesome, healthy lunch can be time-consuming, difficult to plan, or require a level of creativity we are sometimes too weary to get our head around.
Buying out all the time means we have little control over the ingredients or the way it is prepared or cooked. And it gets downright expensive!
However, a little – and only a little – forward planning can go a long way toward making great food choices and a lunch that will support health and energy (and plug the ever-growing hole in the back pocket burned by daily takeout!).
Here are some suggestions to help you create a deliciously nutritious lunch.
1. Stock up
The important thing for making quick and nutritious snacks and meals is to be armed with a core set of ingredients, sources of fibre, quality protein, and healthy fats. Here are some suggestions for real, whole food (though the list could go on!) to stock up on and keep in your fridge and pantry, for grab and go simple lunches and snacks.
|Nuts & seeds
Leafy greens & vegetables
Seasonal fruit, including avocado, banana, apple, berries & citrus.
Hummus or other whole-food dips
Tinned beans & sustainably sourced fish (like sardines, mackerel, tuna, and salmon).
Using some of the ingredients listed above, you could very quickly whip up a tasty and nourishing bowl of greens, seeds, tuna, lemon, and olive oil, or dip vegetable and fruit slices (like carrot, capsicum, cucumber, and apple) with hummus, nut butter, and smashed avocado.
2. Make a quick salad
Building your own salad can be done right before you are ready to eat, the night before, or as you are running out the door. Ensure your fridge and pantry have at least 1-2 items from each of the layers below, so you can assemble in 5 minutes and move on.
Layer 1: Fibre (greens and vegetables)
Greens are the base and should comprise a good portion of your meal. For example, spinach, kale, rocket/arugula, baby beetroot leaves, cos lettuce, sprouts, and lots of chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, coriander, parsley). Next, choose vegetables that are in season, and include as many colours as possible. For example, carrot, capsicum, radish, tomato, onion, cucumber, fennel, broccoli, cabbage, and beetroot. Roasted vegetables are a winner!
Layer 2: Quality protein
The amount can be up to the size of your palm. For example, nuts, seeds, quinoa, amaranth, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, egg, chicken, tuna, salmon, mackerel, tofu, tempeh, and cottage cheese.
Layer 3: Healthy fats (dressing)
The amount should equal the size of your thumb, and can include any number of combinations of the below. Get creative with it! For example, freshly squeezed lemon or mandarin juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, pepper, sea salt, plain dairy or coconut yoghurt, tahini, almond or cashew butter, hummus, and miso.
If you are particularly active, include ½ cup of pre-cooked or prepared whole-food complex carbohydrates, such as roasted or steamed sweet potato, brown rice, buckwheat, or a no added sugar pita/wrap, made of simple ingredients and stoneground, wholemeal flours.
When eating away from home or on the run, you could store the salad in a jar for easy transport! See our Salad in a Jar recipe for tips on how to put it together, and ensure the dressing is put in first, and the leafy, softer items last. No one likes soggy greens!
3. Use your leftovers
Cook extra when making dinner, and you can enjoy leftovers for several days. Simple, easy, and you know exactly what is going into your body.
We have a heap of recipes here on the That Sugar website to inspire you, as well as our books and recipe ebooks. Think leftover chicken, fish or roast veg tossed through a salad of leafy greens; soup; a vegetable curry or lentil dahl; a slice of frittata; or home-made stir-fry.
4. Order early (if buying out)
Enjoying takeaway lunches can be a fun time! And research suggests that ordering or buying lunch earlier in the day – before the tummy grumbles begin – generally leads to healthier choices.1
Another paper suggests we are far more likely to reach for the junk food and sugary snacks as the day goes on too, further supporting this notion to order early.2
Get lunch happy
So, a little forward planning – whether eating lunch at home, at work or school or buying out – may be required to get something that will nourish you.
The Office Luncheon e-book offers a wonderful array of recipes to suit all tastes and dietary requirements. The recipes are simple and easy to make and can be done so in advance so you have supplies throughout the week.
Go get a little food prep on and make lunchtime sing!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- VanEpps, EM Downs, JS & Loewenstein, G 2016, “Advance Ordering for Healthier Eating? Field Experiments on the Relationship Between the Meal Order–Consumption Time Delay and Meal Content.” Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 369-380.
- Haynes, A, Kemps, E, & Moffitt, R 2016, ‘Is cake more appealing in the afternoon? Time of day is associated with control over automatic positive responses to unhealthy food’, Food Quality and Preference, vol. 54, pp. 67-74.