At the start of a new year, we’re all trying to develop healthier eating habits. One of mine is to minimise my snacking but let’s be real…with the stress of work/studies and life in general, it’s much easier to reach out for easy and fast calorie-dense meals and snacks.
It’s been said that lunch is an important meal in the day and is almost as important as what is eaten for breakfast because a badly planned lunch can lead to unnecessary snacking. In contrast, a well-balanced lunch will aid the feeling of fullness and prevent late-afternoon cravings for junk food.
So what constitutes a healthy lunch?
These are meals high in complex carbohydrates which include whole grains (e.g. Oats, Quinoa, Brown rice), Pulses/beans (e.g. Lentils, chickpeas, Kidney beans), Vegetables high in starch (e.g. potatoes, beets, butternut squash) or Fruits.
Complex carbohydrates are more nutritious and also take longer to digest, which helps to feel full for longer, compared to simple carbohydrates e.g. sugary pastries, white bread, sweets etc. that are digested quickly and cause a quick increase in blood sugar levels.
It’s also advisable to consume lunches that contain lean protein sources such as turkey, chicken, tofu, salmon, low-fat Greek yoghurt etc. These also help to feel satiated and are full of nutrients.
If you’re like me, and in need of some inspiration for healthier meals to take to school/work, here are 5 lunch ideas you can try for the week!
Monday - Lentil soup
Lentils are nutritious, low in fat and high in fibre, making lentil soup the perfect option for lunch (especially on cold days!). Lentil soup tends to have a bad rep as being ‘boring’ or ‘tasteless’ which is far from the truth as they can be seasoned to the heavens with as many spices as you’d like! Depending on how much water you add, it can have a thicker texture – perfect for dipping in crusty bread. You may alternatively opt for adding diced chicken/turkey pieces to also make it more filling. Lentil soup also keeps well in the fridge and can be prepared and dished out throughout the week.
Tuesday - The Classic Chicken/Veggie Wrap
You can’t go wrong with a wrap! They are typically quick to assemble as you can make the components ahead of time and store them in the fridge. You may opt for wholemeal bread or better still, try lettuce wraps! There are so many wrap recipes available, here are some you may want to try.
Wednesday - Buddha Bowl
Buddha bowls can be packed full of flavour, making them a yummy treat to spice up the slow workday. Again, there are so many recipes you can attempt with chicken, salmon, tofu or chickpeas and you can check them out here. I’m particularly loving the look of the ‘Teriyaki chicken bowl’, which uses pure honey to sweeten, instead of loading the sauce with sugar. You can pair your chicken/tofu with vegetables of your choice and may decide to also add some brown rice for a more filling meal.
Thursday - Grilled Salmon and Avocado salsa
Avocados are a good source of key nutrients and have been found to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The consumption of healthy fats also helps to keep you feeling full for longer, which (among other reasons) is why avocados have become quite a popular addition to meals. I love the look of this recipe with grilled salmon marinated in a mixture of spices and accompanied with avocado and tomato salsa.
Friday - Stir-fried noodles
Yes, you read that right! Stir-fried noodles have a reputation for being a calorie-dense and oily meal option, but it doesn’t have to be. You can increase the portion of vegetables, opt for whole-wheat noodles or spaghetti, minimize the amount of oil used for frying or opt for healthier fats, such as olive oil. I’ve also seen zucchini and carrots peeled into ‘noodles’ as an alternative to pasta!
Don’t forget your snacks!
When you’re stressed with work and you’re suddenly hit with cravings, it’s helpful to have healthy snacks in hand. Pack some fresh fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate, or dry nuts with you. I love the combination of Greek yoghurt, apples, and a drizzle of honey, as well as fruit salads, which can be prepared beforehand and stored in the fridge.
I hope this has inspired you to start thinking of ways to incorporate healthier meals into your daily diet. Let us know if you give any of these recipes a go and how it turns out. Here’s to a healthier version of you this new year!
Success Fabusoro (Blog writer)