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Nutritious Lunches

For many people, lunch was always a dedicated one hour break, a time to get out of the office and recharge.  Nowadays, business lunches are all the go, whilst others work through their lunch break, lucky to get in a few mouthfuls at their desk.

Lunch is such an important meal as this gives you energy to get through the afternoon rather than having the desire for an afternoon siesta!  There is an art to eating well at lunch.  The first thing you need to decide is how you will get lunch – will you pack a lunch each day from home, have a store of foods in a cupboard or fridge at work (eg. tinned foods, rice cakes, spreads, yoghurt, cheese), or become savvy as to what is a good nutritious buy at the local takeaway outlets?  (For more information on suggestions for eating out, see Fact Sheet titled “Eating on the run”

Once this is decided, the structure of the meal is consistent across all ways of getting it!  You need to look for five things: carbohydrates with the meal for long lasting energy, a small serve of protein to keep you full till your mid afternoon snack, and vegetables or salad.  Add in a piece of fruit and a bottle of water and you have an action packed meal!

Read on for some good suggestions for variety, good health and taste!


Warmer months

During spring, summer and early autumn, a light cold lunch is very satisfying.  Whether you are making your own, or purchasing food pre-made, look for the following:

Carbohydrate: focus on bread, and be daring with variety!  Try sourdough and rye bread, as well as wholemeal, wholegrain, pita and mountain bread.  This is a good base to any lunch, and will keep you on the go all afternoon.  For those who would like a change from bread, dried crackers (preferably grain based) are a healthy alternative.  Women and inactive men should usually only need 1 – 2 sandwiches (or if having dried crackers, count 2 crackers ½ the size of a slice of bread as 1 slice of bread).  More active men may need 2 – 3 sandwiches – however, this is obviously dependent on weight and appetite.

Protein: protein is more filling than carbohydrate and fat, which can help prevent overeating.  It is also important in muscle repair, good for active workers.  There are many options to choose from including reduced fat cheese (if possible, less than 15% fat) (1 slice), tuna or salmon in brine or spring water (50 – 100g), low fat ham, chicken or turkey (look for 97% fat free if purchasing from supermarket) (1 – 2 slices), or 1 egg.  

Veggies: Include salad in the sandwich or separate to it, to add vitamins, fibre, and make the meal more filling.  A quick, simple tip is to grab a carrot, tomato, and some baby spinach leaves as you run out the door, and assemble the sandwich just before you eat it.  Aim for at least 1 cup of salad.


 Also look for

Pre-made garden salads with dressing on the side and chicken added

Sushi and sashimi packs;

Wraps made with plenty of salad and lean ham, chicken, fish, or beef;

Tuna and corn mixed with baby spinach leaves and drizzled with lemon juice.


 Cooler months

Late autumn and throughout winter, we tend to look more for “comforting” and “warming” foods.  Many people overeat during these months and the result is the typical “winter coat” people are seen to shed in the gym in September!  This can easily be avoided by filling up on some of the suggestions below.  As is always recommended, watch the serving size of the foods.

Carbohydrate: bread can still be used, but you might prefer to toast it. Alternately, have a small serve (1/2 to 1 cup) of cooked pasta or rice, preferably with a left over you have recently made.  Another option is a medium-sized baked potato, topped with reduced fat cheese and a small tin of baked beans (good source of protein and fibre).

Protein: Add about 50 – 80g cooked chicken or beef to your pasta or rice, or if you prefer, throw in legumes such as chick peas, kidney beans, or borlotti beans (125g canned varieties, once rinsed, are fine).  

Veggies: on cool days, many would agree there is nothing better than a hearty bowl of homemade soup, packed with vegetables and flavouring from herbs and stock.  If you make up a big pot, freeze small portions and take them to work to reheat. Many cafes sell delicious and healthy soups.  Otherwise, you can also buy a tin from the supermarket and once placing in a cup, heat in the microwave.  Just look for one with less than 3g fat per 100g, and plenty of veggies added.  If soup is not your thing, lightly reheat some steamed veggies – and don’t be afraid to add some soy sauce or sweet chilli sauce for flavouring.


More good suggestions to keep you warm:

Entrée serve pasta with napoli sauce and steamed vegetables;

Beef, chicken, seafood or vegetarian risotto based in a tomato sauce and served with steamed vegetables;

2 – 3 slices vegetable or chicken topped pizza with minimal cheese (avoid ones with ham and bacon);

Hearty soup served with a wholegrain or sourdough bread roll;

Lightly stir fried vegetables with small serve of steamed rice.

So, look for variety when having lunch, and make this a meal to look forward to!


© Alison Walsh, Alison Walsh Pty Ltd ACN 112 196 728

No part of this document may be reprinted nor published in any form whatsoever without the consent of Alison Walsh first obtained.