Whether you get the tube, drive or walk to work, taking your own lunch is definitely do-able. People in the UK are spending about "25 a week on lunch, coffee and snacks so you can save money and eat far more delicious and healthy food if you take your own with you. If it seems like a hassle to make lunch in the morning, there here are some hacks to make it as painless as possible. And just think of the time you will save instead of queuing in Pret...
Nutritional Therapist Michelle Lake and Food writer Becky Alexander have combined their knowledge to publish Packed, a handy book that's filled with recipes as well as tips to ensure you make the most of your diet and pack as many nutrients as you can into the food you eat.
Here they share their exclusive tips for healthy and commute-friendly lunches and we share a few recipes from the book to inspire you.
Table of Contents
Pack it up
Buy a great lunchbox that will make your lunch look great and to survive the journey. You can get collapsible ones you can squash up for the journey home again. Pop in a small ice pack (some have them built in) and you won't even need to put it in the fridge when you get to work. You'll save the cost within a fortnight.
Eat your veg!
If you are going to be pressed up against strangers on the train twice a day you need to keep your immune system in tip-top condition. Veg-packed salads, soups, chillis and curries are all great ways to get loads of different veggies in your week. Lots of shop salads cram in lots of cheap lettuce; making your own means you can get in more variety.
Pack a sneaky snack or two for when trains are delayed to keep energy and mood levels up and stop you needing chocolate. A little pot of nuts is perfect, or make a batch of protein balls at the weekend with nuts, seeds, coconut oil and spices; they are so easy to make and so much cheaper than buying them.
Use your freezer
Frozen raw peas, edamame beans, sweetcorn and pomegranate can be quickly thrown into salads in the morning and will be ready to eat at lunchtime. This adds flavour, crunch and loads of nutrients (and keeps your lunch cool!).
Bring back the pot noodle! It's so simple to throw together your own healthy noodle pots. Throw together a pot in the morning or make a week's worth at once; they will last happily in the fridge. Take to work and just add boiling water at lunchtime. Start with a layer of flavour such as grated ginger and miso paste, add lots of chopped veggies such as broccoli, spinach and mushrooms, add a handful of protein such as cooked chicken, tofu or nuts and top with brown rice noodles. Delicious and so good for you![amazon box="1848993153"]
Beluga Lentils, roasted red pepper and feta salad
This salad uses delicious store cupboard ingredients, so you can throw it together in the morning. Feta cheese and baby plum tomatoes last for ages in the fridge, so this is a good option for the end of the week. It’s worth having a couple of packs of pre-cooked lentils in the cupboard for when time is short. They are packed with protein and have a rich, satisfying taste. This makes one lunch.
- 1 small roasted red pepper/bell pepper cut into thick pieces
- 50g cooked Beluga black lentils
- 1 handful of pitted Kalamata (purple) olives
- 1 handful of baby plum tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 handful of baby spinach leaves or rocket/arugula
- 25g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1tsp pumpkin seeds
- Freshly ground pepper
- Put the pepper into a bow. Add the lentils, olives, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, and mix carefully.
- Put the spinach leaves into a sealable container. Put the pepper mixture on top, followed by the feta cheese and pumpkin seeds. Add plenty of pepper (the feta is salty so there is no need to add any salt).
- Put the lid on the container, and take to work.
Prawn Tom Yum Soup
You can make this spicy, warming soup before you go to work – it is so quick and easy. Tom yum paste adds a delicious flavour to the prawns/shrimp and udon noodles. The soup has plenty of vegetables in it too, so it is a well-balanced lunch in a bowl. This makes two lunches.
- 1 heaped tbsp tom yum paste
- 125g frozen cooked peeled king prawns/jumbo shrimp
- 50g fine green beans, cut into 1cm pieces
- 1 spring onions diagonally sliced
- 4 mushrooms, peeled and thinly sliced
- 50g dried brown rice udon noodles
- Quarter red pepper deseeded and thinly sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Put the kettle on and pour 500ml of boiling water into a saucepan. Add the tom yum paste and stir for a few seconds until it dissolves.
- Add the prawns/shrimp, green beans, spring onions, mushrooms, noodles and pepper.
- Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Season with a little black pepper.
- Pour one portion into a vacuum food flask to take to work. The second portion will keep well in the fridge until tomorrow.
Beetroot and tahini dip
These will certainly brighten up the middle of your day, thanks to the vibrant colour of the dip. It's a delicious and easy way to get beetroot into your diet, plus the vacuum packs last for ages in the fridge so it's good to always have a pack handy.
Serve it with oatcakes or pitta bread and add rocket and spring onion for a bit of greenery.
- 300g cooked beetroot, drained
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 handful of mint leaves
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Oatcakes, or whatever you’d like to serve it with
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- The great thing is this will last for four days in the fridge, so spilt it up and spread it over a few days.
- You can even freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
Lemony lamb koftas with mint and yoghurt dip
If your stamina is flagging at the end of a busy week, you might need to up the protein and iron in your diet, and these koftas are the perfect way to do so. The koftas can be eaten hot or cold and are delicious with the mind and yogurt dip, a wholemeal pitta bread and plenty of green salad. Toast your pitta at work, if you can, as it is lovely warm and with a little crunch. Makes two lunches.
- 250g minced/ground lamb
- Half a red onion, thinly sliced
- 2tsp frozen chopped garlic or 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Wholemeal pitta bread and green salad to serve
For the mint and yoghurt dip
- 150g Greek yoghurt
- Juice and zest of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
- A pinch of salt
- Preheat the grill. Put the lamb and the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well using your hands. Roll the mixture into 12 walnut-sized balls.
- Put the koftas in a baking pan and put under the grill for 5 minutes. Turn the koftas and cook for a further 5 minutes until they are browned. Check the meat is cooked through by breaking one open.
- Meanwhile, stir all the ingredients for the mint and yoghurt dip together in a bowl. Transfer to two sealed containers and keep cool until needed.
- Leave the koftas to cool before storing them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The koftas also freeze well for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Pack the dip, bread and salad to take with you.
- If you’d prefer to eat the koftas warm, put them in the microwave at work at full power for 1-2 minutes.