Not every day can be spent attending business lunches at the restaurant closest to your high-rise office. This means there are only a few options left, like grabbing something from a drive-through or the canteen. And this does nothing for that toned beach tummy you’ve been sweating in the gym for – neither does it help sustain energy levels or enhance your work performance.
Mariana Davel, a registered dietician and consulting dietician for Compass Group Southern Africa, says: “Most people tend not to eat lunch at work due to lack of planning and time constraints. This means they run on empty all day or try to boost energy levels with sweet or strong coffee, energy drinks and a quick chocolate from the vending machine.
“Inadequate eating habits lead to unstable blood glucose levels which influence concentration, emotions and energy levels directly,” she adds.
For this reason Davel says it is beneficial to pack a nutritious work lunch box (snacks, lunch and water) if there is no healthy meal option available.
A healthy meal should always contain foods that ensure a steady supply of low glycaemic index (GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels) starches to stabilise blood glucose. Lean protein, preferred fats, vitamins and minerals should also be included.
So what is a balanced health-packed meal? Half the volume of what is packed into the lunch box should be fresh/cooked vegetables with one or two portions of fruit. Add lean protein the size of your and palm (like mini-meat balls, chicken strips, salmon, eggs, low- fat cheese) and include a fistful of low GI starch like seed loaf, pita bread, wrap, baby potatoes, cooked pasta. Add one fat portion (avocado, olives, peanut butter, salad dressing, low fat mayo) and round the meal off with a bottle of water.
You can use individual containers with lots of little titbits – dried fruit pieces, nuts, sliced fruit, biltong sticks.
Skip colas and opt for lite ice-tea, and limit yourself to four cups of tea or coffee a day.
Widening the lunch box
Sandwich fillings:Left over meat with sandwich spread or hummus;
· Bolognaise mince;
· Ham and pineapple;
· Biltong powder and avocado with lettuce and tomato;
· Lean-grilled bacon with banana or avo;
· Mashed hard-boiled egg with low fat mayonnaise;
· Tomato & cheese with hummus; and
· Fish cakes with tomato sauce or low fat mayonnaise
Something else to fill lunch boxes :
· Pita bread or wraps with filling;
· Low-fat muffins;
· Whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese;
· Pasta salad with protein e.g. chopped chicken;
· Dried fruits/nuts/sliced dried fruit rolls;
· Fresh vegetable sticks served with a low-fat dip;
· Homemade popcorn; and
· Homemade muesli bars.
Add fun to lunch time :
· Start a lunch club. Each person will be responsible for bringing an ingredient for the main meal
· Have your lunch away from the desk; go outside for a change
· Motivate each other to walk during the work day; it helps to stretch the muscles and relief stress.
· Motivate to install a water cooler in the office if there isn’t one already
· Challenge other departments at the office to see who is having the most balanced meals at lunch times
· Decide on a day per week and exchange lunch boxes. You might get a big surprise.