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Grabbing a quick bite at a coffee shop is wonderfully convenient, allowing you to ditch the time-consuming late-night task of packing a packed lunch.
And, for most office workers, it’s much more tempting to escape to Pret or Leon for something substantial, rather than go for a suspicious-looking dinner served in the work canteen.
But, as expected, it may not be so good for your waistline…
So what do dietitians say is the answer? Should you ditch your beloved street lunch provider and make your own sandwiches? And what should you choose in each scenario?
Well, luckily for you, MailOnline has asked four of the best in the business for their opinion. This is what they said…
According to experts, a homemade lunch is probably the healthiest option for most people, as they can prepare a balanced meal and avoid adding too much salt and sugar.
‘The advantage of home-cooked food is that you know what’s in it and can make sure it’s healthy. There is less control over other foods: takeaway foods are often high in fat or salt,” says Dr Gunter Kuhnle, a food scientist at the University of Reading.
He recommends bringing a salad to work, made with pasta, rice or couscous.
People should include plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and apples, as they take longer to digest and make people feel fuller for longer, says Dr. Kuhnle.
Even a sandwich can be healthy, but it depends on what’s in it, he notes. People should avoid too much butter, mayonnaise and processed meat, says Dr. Kuhnle.
For Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and author of Unprocess Your Life, the most nutritious lunch option is a homemade salad with whole grains, pasta or noodles and a protein, such as chicken, tuna or legumes.
If you add a dressing, she suggests making one with tahini (a condiment made with sesame seeds) instead of a store-bought option.
“This combination of protein and fiber is a good way to maintain energy levels and prevent sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels that can make you feel lethargic after lunch,” he says.
Dr Duane Mellor, a dietician at Aston University in Birmingham, said a healthy lunch should include plenty of vegetables, some protein and starchy foods, which should make up a quarter of the lunchbox.
He recommends eating leftovers from dinner the night before, as it prevents food waste and discourages overeating at night.
However, he points out that where a person buys their lunch is not necessarily an indicator of how healthy their food is.
“It is advisable not to be tempted to fill the lunchbox with snacks such as chips, cakes and cookies and think about foods such as natural yogurt and fruit,” he adds.
Kim Pearson, a London-based nutritionist, also recommends using leftovers to prepare lunch. She suggests eating roasted Mediterranean greens with spinach, arugula leaves, and a protein like a boiled egg, a salmon filet, or tempeh (fermented soybeans) with olive oil and pumpkin seeds.
work dining room
Options in work canteens can vary drastically, from freshly made soup to fish and chips.
That means the nutritional status of a workplace lunch depends on what is ordered.
Additionally, there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach, as some eateries offer larger portions and use different ingredients.
Dr. Mellor recommends avoiding chips and other heavy foods and focusing on the salad and vegetable section.
miss pearson suggests including a protein, such as an egg or tuna, along with vegetables to reduce hunger levels and eating a piece of fruit for dessert.
In the meantime, Hobson recommends selecting a stir-fry with rice or a soup made with lentils or grains and served with a whole-grain roll and salad, if available.
He points out that these dishes provide several servings of vegetables and a lot of fiber, necessary to provide a more sustained release of energy.
Cafes and restaurants
The main streets are lined with cafes and restaurants offering tempting cakes, toasts and main courses accompanied by chips for lunch.
It is still possible to eat out healthily, but you will have to choose wisely, according to Dr Hobson. ‘AND“You can’t go wrong with an omelet and a salad,” he says.
Using leftovers to make a salad for lunch is also a good way to make your lunch healthy, according to Kim Pearson, a London-based nutritionist.
He suggests choosing those made with tomatoes and red peppers.
“This is a cheap and tasty way to get a good source of protein to keep you feeling full throughout the afternoon and a great source of nutrients, including B vitamins, which are needed to convert food into energy for the body,” he added.
According to Pearson, salads and soups are among the best options for eating out. But he recommends swapping out any fries offerings for vegetables or salad and swapping salad dressing for olive oil.
Dr. Mellor points out that it is the combination of foods served together in cafes and restaurants that can make healthy eating difficult.
While an all-day breakfast can be high in calories, salt, and refined carbs, simply swapping out some of the meats for more mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans can make it much healthier, as can choosing poached eggs and whole-grain toast. , he suggests.
“The goal is to try to include vegetables and moderate sauces and extras, such as French fries and garlic bread,” he adds.
Obviously, a pizza, burger or kebab is not a healthy option for lunch. In addition to being caloric, they usually have a high salt and saturated fat content.
But it is possible to choose a healthier option when ordering takeaway during your lunch break, such as curry or street food.
“Street and traditional staple foods can work well, such as chickpea curries, as well as soups and dahls,” says Dr. Mellor.
If you’re opting for takeout, experts recommend avoiding pizza and Chinese food and opting for chickpea curry, dhal, or Lebanese food.
Pearson recommends Poke, a Polynesian dish made with fish, rice and vegetables, or Lebanese salads, made with grilled proteins like shrimp or lamb.
However, he notes that these are more available in large towns and cities.
“Outside the cities, options are more limited and you may struggle to find something healthy at your local Chinese takeaway or pizza,” he admits.
But some chains, like Pret, offer a variety of healthy salads and high-protein options, Pearson says.
Hobson agrees that one of the healthiest takeout options is Lebanese food.
“There are plenty of healthy options to choose from, including sauces and vegetable sides like tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, or stuffed grape leaves,” she says.
“Main courses are usually lean grilled meats such as chicken, fish or grilled halloumi as a vegetarian option, served with salad, pickled vegetables and couscous.”
He explains that the cuisine has a “Mediterranean style” which is known to provide a good balance of healthy foods and is “known for its health benefits and disease prevention.”