How to upgrade your lunchbox
What you eat for your midday meal can make the difference between powering through the afternoon with superwoman efficiency or facing brain fog, bloating and sneaky ‘can’t-say-no-to’ sugar cravings. Choose healthy foods that will give you a boost throughout the afternoon, avoid high-sugar options that send your energy levels crashing – as well as saturated fat. Here’s how to lunch like a pro
1. Pack your lunch right
You’re more likely to enjoy your packed lunch if it looks and tastes as fresh as when it was first made. To keep your food cold, take a cool bag with freezer packs – if you don’t have freezer packs, freeze a bottle of water to help keep your food cold. Also try using boxes with compartments to keep items separate.
2. Say no to soggy salad
How often does the lunch you so lovingly prepared end up wilted or soggy? To combat, buy dressings in sachets, or put your dressing in airtight tubs or old jam. You could also try making your salad in a kilner jar. Put dressing at the bottom, then add layers of lettuce and whatever else you want in your salad. Put the lid on and the salad won’t be wilted by lunch.Read more: Fill-you-up superfood salad recipe
3. Eat more iron
Vital if you want to avoid the afternoon slump. Enjoy a salad of roast beef, watercress, tomatoes and red onion with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. It’s low in fat, you know how to pack it, and it contains plenty of iron to boost your energy.
4. Stay fuller for longer
Choose pulses, such as chickpeas mixed with spinach, diced red pepper, smoked paprika, coriander and 0% fat Greek yoghurt to lightly coat. Munch on this and you’ll be less likely to pick and snack on high-sugar and fatty snacks in the afternoon.
5. Plan your meals
If you compile a list of what you have for lunch each day (don’t plan each day in detail, just give yourself seven different options), this will help you avoid making impulse purchases when shopping. Also check your cupboards – it can be surprising what gets lost at the back.
6. Don’t forget night-before prep
Make sure you have everything you need in the house, or buy the ingredients the day before, so you can make your lunch the night before and avoid rushing in the morning. That’s when things get forgotten or, if you’re running late, you give in to the temptation of buying lunch from the deli.
7. Use your leftovers
It might sound old-fashioned, but what you had for dinner last night can be jazzed up for lunch the next day. Mix leftover stir-fried veggies into instant miso soup, top leftover salad with a little couscous and crumbled feta, or whizz leftover veggies from Sunday dinner with stock to make a soup.
Did you know parents spend £1 billion on packed lunches, but only 1% of them meet nutritional standards? Soups are a fantastic way to pack in nutrients – make a big batch and freeze in portions. Tinned fish such as tuna and sardines are healthy additions to bean or pasta salads, or mixed with low-fat soft cheese for a dip. Or why not cook a little extra pasta at dinner? Stir through pesto, shredded cooked chicken, basil and pine nuts for a tasty lunch.
9. Balance your blood sugar
If you skip lunch, your blood sugar level drops and you become irritable, sluggish and lose concentration. Avoid this by including wholegrain or wholemeal starchy foods in your lunch box that release energy slowly, keeping your levels stable throughout the afternoon. Wholegrain or seeded bread, brown rice or pasta, or potatoes with their skins on, are all good sources, and should make up a third of your meal.Read more: The sugar-free guru’s guide to outsmarting sweet cravings
10. Try something new today
The number one secret to success at lunchtime is trying something new. Expand your lunchtime repertoire and think outside of the box. Even if you really can’t see past the sarnie, try some exciting new fillings inspired by all over the world – you could make a hoisin duck wrap, a New York deli bagel, or a Greek salad baguette.