Whether you’re still working from home or are back at the office, taking a lunch break is a chance to relax, and eating a tasty, healthy meal can energise you, both physically and mentally.
One of the pitfalls of working from home or in the office is when you forget to pack a proper lunch break, choosing to order in food that may be unhealthy like scoffing down a takeaway in front of your screen.
But with a little hack here and there, and some inspiration, work lunches can be a breeze and easy on your pocket, says registered dietitian, Maretha Vermaak.
She tells Health For Mzansi, “Taking time to prepare our own weekday meals at home, using the many good ideas and time-saving hacks that are easy to find, enables us to avoid buying high-fat takeaway meals loaded with refined carbohydrates and fats because we’re hungry, in a rush and it’s the most easily available food.”
Vermaak is a dietician with Rediscover Dairy, an education project affiliated with Milk SA.
Quick tips for healthy work lunches
Vermaak shares eight tips for your healthy work lunches.
- Plan, shop and prepare for your weekday meals on the weekends.
- Save money by packing your own daily snacks and lunches.
- Avoid situations where you are dashing out to buy food on the workday. when you are hungry as this can easily lead to poor food choices.
- Focus on nutrient-rich whole foods and include fruit, veg, milk and wholegrains.
- Avoid high-fat, highly processed foods, and takeaways.
- Add dairy options daily such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and maas.
- Be mindful of portion control.
- Take a mental break and relax while eating your lunch.
Cost, convenience, and nutritional value
Planning our work lunches and any snacks for the day helps to keep our healthy eating on track and keeps our focus on nutrient-rich, whole foods, making sure we are including fresh seasonal produce, says Vermaak.
Vermaak, and Dr Hester Vermeulen, a specialist in consumer economics at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), have some cost friendly examples of easy-to-prepare weekday lunches.
Low carb and high in calcium:
For R38.00: Try out this salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avo and feta with dried fruit and a DIY latte. “This meal is low in energy and carbohydrates, and provides 499 mg of calcium, which is almost half of your daily needs,” says Vermeulen.
While Vermaak suggests a hint of something green and roasted as an alternative for salty feta cheese.
A safe cheesy sarmie
For R20.00: Try a roasted cheese sarmie with an apple and milky coffee. “When it comes to energy, fats and protein, this is a ‘middle of the road’ option. However, with 622mg of calcium, it helps you achieve more than half of the daily recommendation for adult calcium intake,” says Vermeulen.
Vermaak suggests leaving out the butter for a lower fat option.
Fishy carb combo:
For R28.05: Pasta salad of tuna, tomato, cucumber, onions, and cottage cheese. Vermeulen says that this meal offers sufficient quantities of cost-effective protein, carbohydrates, and fibre.
Vermaak agrees and says, “This is a lovely option providing sufficient energy to get you through the afternoon shift. Adding chickpeas or butter beans will increase the fibre content.”