Healthier lunch options

Whether you buy your lunch from a sandwich shop, café, supermarket or work canteen, there are usually plenty of healthy lunch options available.

Choosing lunch options

When choosing lunch options, especially when eating out, you should consider portion size.  The Eatwell Guide shows us how much of each food group should be consumed overall to help achieve a healthy balanced diet.

Look for healthy options within meal deals to help reduce your fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar intake, such as water instead of fizzy drink or fruit instead of a chocolate bar.

Salads

Salads can be very filling, especially if they include some starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes or couscous. Cold grilled chicken (without the skin), prawns, sardines, cottage cheese, mozzarella, or strips of lean ham are all healthy choices to add to a salad.

You should choose a variety of veg - you could add things like:

  • roasted peppers and courgettes
  • avocado
  • spring onions
  • salad leaves
  • tomatoes
  • olives
  • radishes
  • grated carrot
  • raisins
  • green beans

If you are making your own salad at home, you could also add leftover potatoes or rice.

Remember to watch out for and avoid salads that contain a lot of mayonnaise or other dressings high in fat, such as coleslaw, potato salads and some pasta salads.

Pre-packed salads often have a nutrition information panel on the label so you can check how much total fat, saturated fat, and salt they contain. Go for salads that are lower in fat, especially saturated fat and salt (or sodium) or look for smaller portions.

Sandwiches

Whether you're buying a sandwich or making your own, here are some tips to help you make healthier choices:

  • choose brown or wholemeal bread, in thick slices or rolls
  • choose healthier sandwich fillings such as lean meats (this includes ham, beef, turkey and chicken without the skin), tuna, smoked mackerel, hard-boiled egg, and cheeses such as Edam, Emmental, Gruyère, mozzarella and low-fat cream cheese
  • go for a sandwich that contains salad - add or ask for extra, if possible
  • if the sandwich is home-made or made to order, try having it without butter, spread, mayonnaise or other dressing especially if the filling is moist, or just have a small amount
  • if you do have mayonnaise, choose a low-fat variety, when you can

To add variety, you could use different types of bread.

For example you could choose:

  • granary rolls
  • brown bread with added nuts or seeds
  • rye bread
  • bagels
  • tortilla wraps
  • wholemeal pitta bread

Here are a few suggestions for different sandwich combinations:

  • low-fat cream cheese, roasted red pepper and sunflower seeds in a toasted bagel
  • edam, tomato and cress in granary bread
  • chicken tikka and cucumber with a mint and yoghurt dressing in chapatti or pitta bread
  • lean ham, mustard and salad leaves on rye bread
  • mozzarella, olives, roasted vegetables and red onion in a wholemeal roll
  • turkey, cranberry sauce and baby spinach in brown bread

To add interest and texture, try adding a few olives, sundried tomatoes (if possible remember to drain off the oil), gherkins, or some seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin.

When buying pre-packed sandwiches, have a look at the nutrition information on the label to help you choose the healthier option.

Hot food

Baked potatoes are a good lunchtime choice, but it's better to leave out the butter, or just have a tiny bit. Healthy fillings include baked beans, cottage cheese and ratatouille. Try to avoid ready-mixed fillings that contain lots of mayonnaise, because these can be high in fat.

When choosing pasta, try to avoid dishes served with a creamy or cheesy sauce, or mixed with lots of oil, because these tend to be high in fat. Tomato or vegetable-based sauces are a healthier choice.

You could try soup with chunky vegetables. Soups can also help count towards your five-a-day and to make it a filling and balanced meal you could add a wholemeal bread roll or two.

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