Dietitian Susie Burrell shares her expert tips on creating the pack the perfect office lunchbox to keep you satisfied until dinner.
For parents everywhere it is lunchbox season but whoever said that lunch boxes are just for kids? Rather for adults too packing a nutritious, well balanced lunch not only ensures that you eat well throughout the day and are not as tempted by high calorie options at food courts and cafes but you will also save bucket loads of hard earned cash if you take your lunch each day.
And this does not have to mean a boring sandwich, there are plenty of tasty, appealing foods that you can pack in your daily lunchbox to help get you just as excited about your own lunch as the next kid.
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If you consider that an adult going to work each day will likely spend at least 10 hours away from the home, ensuring that you actually have enough food to sustain you throughout the day is crucial.
It is the times we find ourselves hungry late in the day and without nutritious snacks on hand that we can be lured by the high-fat, high-sugar options that you really do not want to be indulging in at work.
For the average person, this will translate into a substantial sandwich, wrap or reheated leftovers, at least two protein-rich snacks plus some fresh fruit and vegetables.
This may sound like a lot of food, but when you consider that fresh, natural healthy foods are generally much lower in calories than processed foods and snacks, you will basically get to eat a whole lot more when you take your food from home.
What to pack for lunch
So firstly let’s start with the main event – lunch, and a lunch that will fill you for at least three to four hours. Forget a plain tuna salad or couple of sushi rolls which are too light to sustain you. Pack yourself a hearty sandwich with lean meat and salad; or a large salad with extra protein added, or a smaller leftover serve of your evening meal, will go a long way in keeping you full and satisfied until late afternoon.
Next we need to bulk up our lunchbox with nutrient rich fresh fruits and veggies. Think: pre-cut vegetables for a late afternoon snack, or to enjoy with your lunch. An apple, pear or berries to mindlessly munch on when you get bored or even a serve of soup or salad to compliment your lunch.
For busy people grabbing lunch on the go, this is the most common mix of foods that we forget to eat throughout the workday which can leave us feeling unsatisfied and bloated as we have not consumed the dietary fiber and bulk we require to keep our digestive system working optimally.
What to pack for snacks
Then we need to take into account snacks – ideally a well-balanced snack will contain at least five to ten grams of protein along with some good quality carbohydrates. While typical go to snacks at work such as muffins, biscuits, banana bread and milky sweet coffees satisfy sweet cravings in the short term, ultimately they give us far too much processed carbohydrate and are exceptionally easy to overeat.
Much better options that are both tasty and a source of protein and that can be packed at home include cheese and cracker snack packs, small containers of hummus, nut bars and bites, small protein bars, roasted legumes and Greek yoghurt.
Think about your snacks
If you start your day early and eat your breakfast before seven AM you will likely need one protein rich snack through the morning and another mid-late afternoon. On the other hand if you eat your first meal later in the morning you likely only need one protein rich snack mid-afternoon to keep you satisfied until dinner time.
Take the time
Planning your meals and snacks in advance is one of the most powerful steps you can take in taking control of your nutrition.When you take your lunch from home you will consume fewer calories, more fresh fruit and vegetables and boost both your overall nutritional intake and the size of your wallet.
The key is simply allocating time to do it each evening or morning, and investing in a decent sized container to fit in all of your delicious food and snacks.