The Packed Lunch Dilemma
Whether it’s for work, school or taking with you on trips, making packed lunches is often an unpopular chore. Here are a few ideas for healthy lunches on the go………
The healthiest packed lunch contains:
- Non-starchy vegetables or salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, celery, spinach, broccoli or courgette)
- Lean protein (eggs, fish, especially salmon and mackerel, lean meat, milk, cheese, yogurt or nuts)
- Good fats (egg yolk, salmon, trout, mackerel, avocado, a few nuts and seeds – high calorie so not too many)
- Slow release carbohydrates (quinoa, oats, butternut squash or wholemeal/multigrain and of course Irish soda bread)
Some of the above examples fall into 2 brackets (e.g salmon is a lean protein and also contain omega 3 fatty acid), so you get good food value from it.
To avoid the last minute lunch rush on a Sunday evening or Monday morning, a trip to the vegetable market or grocery shop is required every week. Buy fresh ingredients once or twice a week and store cupboard staples when needed.
Good staples are chickpeas, beans and lentils (either tinned or dried), olive oil, herbs and spices, olives, sundried tomatoes and capers. Feta cheese, eggs (hard boiled eggs keep for a few days in the fridge, so are ideal for lunches), fresh berries, nuts and seeds are all good lunch ingredients.
Leftover dinner from the previous day makes an ideal lunch. It’s worth factoring in a little extra to allow for this. E.g. cooked salmon or mackerel, any lean cooked meat, salad or roasted vegetables.
If children are involved in lunch making, they will be more likely to eat it. They usually like vegetables, meat or cheese cut into strips. Fun sized sweet peppers are very popular. A portion of hummus is a good choice for dipping veg into. It contains protein, fiber, minerals and vitamin C from the lemon juice in it. If you buy hummus and it is a little too firm, add a little olive oil and lemon juice (vitamin C) to it.
Once children with T1 diabetes have given/been given their insulin for carbohydrate food they have to either eat it or take some other form of carbohydrate, so it’s very important that they enjoy their lunch.
Wholemeal or sourdough bread, wholegrain rice and quinoa are good choices for slow release carbohydrates. Remember a lot of vegetables and all fruit contain carbohydrates, so if your lunch contains a lot of these you may not need any other carbohydrates.
Quinoa is fairly high in carbohydrate but doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes like rice, pasta and potato do. This is due to its high fibre and protein content. It has more calcium, potassium, iron and antioxidants than rice. Quinoa releases its energy slowly which is easier for insulin to deal with than rice, pasta, potato or bread.
Eat as little white bread as possible. Buy good quality bread and try to have healthy fillings. Cheap bread contains lots of unhealthy additives.
Lunch preparation can be done several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. That may be a prepared salad:
or sliced raw ingredients, all stored in the refrigerator:
Reusable lunch boxes/bags that can accommodate a cool block help to avoid soggy limp lunches. There are lots of colourful and practical ones available for both children and adults. Again, allowing children to choose their favourite one may help. It’s a good idea to have a few cool blocks, so that there is always one available in the freezer.
If the same container is used for lunch it makes carbohydrate portioning easier.
Omelette/frittata with any of the following – onion, mushroom, peppers, tomato, spinach, courgette, salmon (cooked or smoked), leftover vegetables, sweet potato, butternut squash makes a good lunch choice.
Water or herbal tea is the best choice for a lunchtime drink. Fruit juices (both processed and fresh) contain huge amounts of sugar. They can be as unhealthy as fizzy drinks. Due to their rapid delivery of pure sugar, they put huge demands on insulin, whether naturally made or injected.
For more ideas check out the following links: