Monday, 9 February 2015

How to pack a healthy lunch

We've all seen the horror stories about how many grams of saturated fat and calories there can be in shop-bought sandwich and lunches, and the same goes for snacking on an innocent-looking fruit bar or smoothie when you need a little pick-me-up. So how can you eat on the move - and still stay healthy? The easiest solution (unless you are an absolute whizz at reading nutrition labels) is to pack your own lunch and snacks for the day ahead - be it during the working week or on a trip out with the kids. And as an added bonus you'll likely save money and, with the right lunchbox, cut down on wasteful packaging too.

Where to start

Never skip lunch! It's what gets you through the day - and will prevent you from being so ravenous that you'll pounce on any passing high-fat snacks at a moment's notice as the hours tick past. There's lots of research that suggests taking a break at lunch will also help your brain recuperate, allowing you to 'work smarter' for the rest of the day. Concentrating on what you are eating (rather than your computer screen or smart phone, guilty as charged!) will allow you to enjoy your meal and for your brain to register that its has eaten too, a great way to avoid over-eating. To ensure your lunch is healthy, and sustains you throughout the afternoon, try to pack one portion from each of the five main food groups:


  • Fruit: An apple, some berries, grapes or a kiwi
  • Veg: Carrot sticks, celery, red peppers or cherry tomatoes
  • Dairy: Cheese, yoghurt (vegans can make up calcium requirements with green veg, beans, nut butters) 
  • Protein: Chicken, beans, hummus, tuna, egg 
  • Whole grains: Wholemeal pasta, pita, wrap, crackers, couscous or oat cakes. 


Where to put it

There's an increasing trend towards environmentally-friendly lunch boxes that reduce the waste of wrappings such as cling film and foil - and the need for lots of small disposable pots. The dishwasher-safe Yumbox is a good example of this, with a leakproof silicone single lid that seals the individual compartments so you can pack wet foods like yoghurt safely. The Yumbox is also BPA- and phthalates-free (nasty plastics chemicals that lurk in some food and drink containers) - and comes in loads of colours with removable, illustrated food tray guides to help you pack a balanced meal for yourself or your kids. Choose between the 'Classic' tray, divided into five ½ cup portions of the key food groups, and the 'Panino' Yumbox, which has a tray divided into a large (2 cup) portion (perfect for a sandwich or salad), plus two 1/2 cup portions and a dip well.

I put my Yumbox Classic through a little road test today (as my kitchen is currently being rebuilt and off limits at lunchtime) and I want to avoid piling on the pounds with pricey lunches out. I packed in some wholemeal pitta, a bean salad, carrot sticks, strawberries, a little clutch of almonds and some Greek yoghurt topped with blueberries (I gave it a good shake to see if I could splat the yoghurt across anything, but failed!). It looked very appetising and the kids were rather jealous as I packed it up (they'll be taking turns with it this week!), so it gets the 'winner, winner, chicken dinner' thumbs up from us!



Do you struggle with packed lunch ideas for you and your family? How about portion control? Perhaps you need a box of snacks to see you healthily through a day trip? What would you pack in your Yumbox to stay happy and healthy? Comments in the box below please.

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