As the weather changes, it's time to trade in summer salads for a little more warming, and High Street has a range of new seasonal lunch options. But which is the healthiest?
CAROLINE JONES asked Azmina Govindji, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, to review a selection.
We then assessed them – with some surprising results.
EAT SPICY AND SMOKE BEAN CHILLI – 8/10
EAT SPICY AND SMOKE BEAN CHILE
From £ 5.95. Per 360 g serving: calories, 319; saturated fat, 0.5 g; protein, 11 g; sugar, 7.7 g; salt, 2.3 g
EXPERTISE: Made with sweet potato and red peppers and served with red, brown and wild rice, this provides 8.3 g of fiber – almost a third of your daily needs, which helps with digestion. Brown and wild rice are digested slower than white, while red rice contains antioxidants – compounds that help protect cells against damage.
The brightly colored vegetables have a range of nutrients, including vitamin C from the red pepper, essential for keeping skin and blood vessels healthy and beta-carotene from the sweet potato that helps your immune system function. It is also suitable for vegans and contains little saturated fat.
CAFFE NERO GRILLED BUTTER NUT & BALSAMIC RED ONION TARTLET – 3/10
CAFFE NERO GRILLED BUTTER NUT & BALSAMIC RED ONION TARTLET
£ 3.95. Per 140 g serving: calories, 297; saturated fat, 9.9 g; protein, 7.6 g; sugar, 4.6 g; salt, 0.6 g
EXPERTISE: The good news is that pumpkin is the first ingredient on the list – the ingredient with the highest amount – and the bright orange color offers beta-carotene, which is important for vision and a healthy immune system.
However, it is unlikely that you will feel full after eating it, because there is very little fiber (less than 2 g per cake) and it is a fairly small portion of food – so consider adding a mixed salad with some proteins such as nuts, as well as whole-grain carbohydrates such as a granary, to make this more balanced.
A portion of this provides half of a woman's daily limit in saturated fat, so don't butter the bread if you add it.
GREGGS CREAM CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE SOUP – 4/10
GREGGS CREAM CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE SOUP
From £ 1.90. Per 300 g serving: calories, 129; saturated fat, 0.3 g; protein, 8.1 g; sugar, 6.9 g; salt, 1.5 g
EXPERTISE: Studies suggest that soup can fill you up more than solid food, but even if you pay attention to weight, this creamy chicken fillet and thick vegetable soup contains far too little fat, sugar and calories for a main meal.
However, this portion still offers a quarter of your maximum salt intake for the day. Eat it with a whole-grain sandwich with some protein in it, such as cheese or fish, and some fresh fruit, to make it a more filling and varied option.
COSTA RED THAI CURRY POT – 6/10
COSTA RED THAI CURRYPOT
From £ 3.95. Per 275 g pot: calories, 285; saturated fat, 6 g; protein, 5.4 g; sugar, 6.6 g; salt, 1.5 g
EXPERTISE: The good news is that for a meal made with coconut milk, this does not contain too much saturated fat. There is a colorful mix of babycorn, red pepper, green beans and spinach – which provides vitamin C, which contributes to healthy skin and blood vessels, and vitamin A, which keeps your immune system functioning properly, as well as fiber.
But there is not enough vegetables to provide even one of your five a day.
87% of this meal consists of white rice and red curry sauce, and there is very little protein – only 5.4 g. Compare that with a chicken fillet (30 g to 40 g), or half a can of kidney beans (more than 9 g).
LEON LENTIL MASALA – 8/10
LEON LENTIL MASALA
£ 4.95. Per 363 g serving: calories, 463; saturated fat, 9 g; protein, 12 g; sugar, 4 g; salt, 2.2 g
EXPERTISE: Lentils are a nutritious, vegan source of protein and research suggests they can help keep blood sugar levels stable – especially important if you have type 2 diabetes.
This dish also contains carrots, squash and kale – all sources of nutrients, including beta-carotene and iron.
With brown rice as the first ingredient, I had hoped for more fiber (you get about 5 g), but the good news is that more than half of the fat is the healthier, unsaturated type, plus it's low in sugar. Rice, lentils and soybeans add a little protein, so serve with tofu, fish or chicken to increase the level.
COSTA BOLOGNESE MAC & CHEESE – 4/10
COSTA BOLOGNESE MAC & CHEESE
£ 3.95. Per 270 g serving: calories, 481; saturated fat, 11 g; protein, 23 g; sugar, 6.2 g; salt, 1.5 g
EXPERTISE: On the positive side, you get iron from the beef in the Bolognese, which helps to reduce fatigue and fatigue, and calcium from the cheese, which helps to build strong bones and teeth.
The tomato sauce provides potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure – and most of the sugar in the meal seems to come naturally from the tomatoes.
However, this macaroni cheese, which is covered with a layer of Bolognese, contains more than one third of the daily maximum saturated fat content of a woman.
It will certainly fill you up, but it's not the healthiest.
FUN SMOKY SWEETCORN CHOWDER – 6/10
FUN SMOKY SWEETCORN CHOWDER
From £ 3.60. Per 370 g serving: calories, 219; saturated fat, 1.5 g; protein, 7.89 g; sugar, 8.9 g; salt, 2.7 g
EXPERTISE: With just over 200 calories per serving, this is not enough in itself – but the ingredients are nutritious. Sweet corn makes up about half the soup. This, with the other set of vegetables, means that you get at least two of your five-a-day. Sweet corn is an excellent source of fiber to maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation.
You also get onions, cannellini beans, red pepper and leek, with a range of vitamins and minerals such as potassium and beta-carotene. However, with 2.7 g of salt (more than the amount of ready-salted chips in five bags) you will reach almost half your daily limit without even taking enough calories to support you for a main meal.
ITSU KOREAN CHICKEN RICE BOWL – 6/10
ITSU KOREAN CHICKEN RICE BOWL
£ 7.99. Per 460 g serving: calories, 556; saturated fat, 3.1 g; protein, 29.7 g; sugar, 19.5 g; salt, 3.47 g
EXPERTISE: This chicken fillet dish marinated in miso (a Japanese sauce made from fermented soybeans), served with whole-grain brown rice, seasonal vegetables, teriyaki and spiced coconut sauce, offers a good portion of chicken protein and half your daily magnesium (a mineral that helps the food into energy), thanks to the greens.
The brown rice gives you about one third of your daily vitamin B6, which is necessary for a healthy immune system and for maintaining your hormone levels.
However, you get more than half your daily limit of 6 g of salt and there is no need for nearly five teaspoons of sugar in a savory meal.
BRANDS AND SPENCER PEPPERED STEAK AND STOUT PIE – 4/10
BRANDS AND SPENCER PEPPERED STEAK AND STOUT PIE
£ 4. Per 250 g cake: Calories, 575; saturated fat, 21.7 g; protein, 26.7 g; sugar, 11.5 g; salt, 1.8 g
EXPERTISE: It's great to see beef at the top of the ingredients list – almost a third of the weight of this pie is steak. This makes the pie a decent protein source that supports muscle growth.
The beef also contains iron, which helps in the formation of the protein in red blood cells, responsible for the transport of oxygen through the body.
However, there is more butter in this cake than beer, which leads to a high saturated fat content – a woman would get more than her daily limit in this meal. There are also more than two teaspoons of added sugar in this lunch, probably mostly from the molasses used in the gravy.
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