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Work lunches: avoiding the cost and convenience traps

Workplaces 27 Jun 2017
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We've all been there. It's almost lunchtime, your stomach is starting to rumble and you realise you forgot to bring your lunch in – again.

It's easy to spend a small fortune on takeaway food each week; it's also easy to end up eating processed or unhealthy foods, especially if that's all there is available.

Bringing a healthy lunchbox into work each day is the best way to ensure you are eating the right foods, and also saving money. A little time spent planning ahead can reap great rewards, and once you get into a routine, it will become second nature.

Jean Hailes naturopath, Sandra Villella, has some great ideas for a healthy lunch. "It's best to be prepared and spend some time thinking about the types of food you enjoy," she says.

"Buy some freezer bags, order a vegetable delivery and stock up on easy items such as canned fish or legumes. Cook in advance, starting off with soups, casseroles and frittatas, which are really convenient, but also super-tasty and nutritious."

If you are time-poor, Sandra suggests cooking a little extra for dinner each night, so you have leftovers for the next day. Having a list of tasty recipes stuck to your fridge door, or in the kitchen at work, will also help you stay on track and avoid snacking.

Sandra's favourite lunchtime recipes – print and share with colleagues

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Other easy lunch ideas

  • Wholegrain salad sandwich with chicken, avocado and at least five salad ingredients
  • Salad of grated carrot, beetroot, mixed lettuce, tomato and capsicum, plus a protein of choice such as chicken or canned sardines and either freshly chopped herbs, such as dill or mint, or a spoon of pesto
  • Leftover roast vegetables on a bed of rocket dressed with balsamic vinegar and oil and choice of protein
  • Marinated tofu steaks and salad
  • Canned legumes, canned fish and salad ingredients and fresh herbs (try this combination: 4-bean mix, canned tuna, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, carrot, capsicum and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and mint, dressed with olive oil and your choice of vinegar)
  • Stir-fry vegetables and tofu and cashews, with brown rice
  • A patty or meatball such as quinoa patty, chickpea patties (see our upcoming magazine for this recipe), chicken meatballs or lamb kofta, with a salad and yoghurt dressing

Plate basics – aim for a protein, carb, vegetables and fruit

Protein

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1 palm-sized portion, such as:

  • lean meat (beef, lamb, pork, 'roo) or skinless chicken/turkey
  • fish (fresh or canned)
  • two eggs
  • tofu
  • legumes
  • cottage or ricotta cheese

Vegetables
2-3 cups raw (2-3 big handfuls) or 1.5-2 cups cooked, such as:

  • baked or steamed vegetables (cook extra for dinner the night before and use in salads or stir-fries)
  • bunches of fresh green herbs – not only flavoursome, but a vegetable source
  • a variety of vegetables of all colours – "eat the rainbow"
  • vegetables such as carrots and beetroots – they keep well (which is handy towards the end of the shopping week). Grate them as a salad base

Low GI carbohydrate
1 fist-sized portion (optional – some people are choosing a low-carb diet), such as:

  • wholegrain bread or wrap
  • rice, corn or legumes
  • a serve of fruit

Sandra's final piece of advice is to eat slowly and mindfully, away from your computer. For more information read The three P's: the secret to healthy eating.