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What’s in your lunchbox?

Nutritionist Clare Jones scrutinises Lynda Moyo’s daytime eats and finds butter is better

Written by . Published on November 10th 2010.

What’s in your lunchbox?

HEALTH and Beauty ed Lynda Moyo has sent me a week’s lunch diary to demonstrate what a typical girl about town is eating for her lunch and has asked me to "tear it apart" – or at least make some comments or suggestions as to what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’.

Monday: Homemade sandwiches: 2 granary buns with margarine, Branston Pickle, Double Gloucester cheese, baby gem lettuce and cucumber. Packet of Walkers lights crisps. Cup of tea with two sugars

Tuesday: Miso soup; crayfish and avocado salad. Sea salt and organic cider vinegar crisps. Fizzy orange drink. All from Pret-a-Manger

Wednesday: Nothing and then a Krispy Kreme doughnut at about 2pm. Oh dear.

Thursday: Brought in previous night’s Spaghetti Bolognese leftovers in Tupperware and heated up in microwave at work. Drank a glass of water.

Friday: Had Gourmet Burger Kitchen chicken burger with camembert and cranberry with half a portion of chips (on special offer) and no drink.


First of all, brownie points straight away for taking time out to eat a proper lunch most days. It’s amazing how many people don’t do this – and then wonder why they feel stressed and exhausted. Lunchtime is often the first opportunity since breakfast to replenish energy stores so make the most of it.

• Monday
Bringing in lunch from home is cheaper and can be prepared the night before if you’re always in a rush in the morning. Choosing wholegrain rolls adds fibre and B vitamins but I would ditch the margarine in favour of butter: most margarines contain hydrogenated fats which are associated with raised cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease. Despite its bad press, butter (in moderation) is better.

Cheese is a source of protein, which helps to sustain energy levels for longer and adding some greenery in the shape of lettuce and cucumber adds fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Crisps are high in hydrogenated fats (see above), salt and, depending on the flavour, may contain artificial additives too. I’d bin these.

Tea with sugar may disrupt blood sugar and isn’t great for your teeth either. Try swapping to plain green tea, which is lower in caffeine and high in antioxidants and recent research has suggested it may be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight too.

• Tuesday
A good example of the choices available when you are working in town. Miso soup is warming and various health benefits have been attributed to its consumption although it’s worth watching out for salt content and MSG (monosodium glutamate), if you are sensitive to it.

There are lots of great salads around these days and the crayfish and avocado is an excellent choice: a good source of protein and "healthy" fats. The Prêt à Manger website provides loads of information about their food, so is worth checking out; several other sandwich chains do the same.

I’ve already talked about crisps (above) but fizzy drinks aren’t usually a great choice either: they’re often high in sugars or artificial sweeteners, flavourings, etc. and because they are carbonated, they can cause bloating. However, this one is made from fruit juice and sparking water (you could make your own, cheaper version, at home) and appears to be free of the usual nasties.

• Wednesday
I don’t think you need me to comment on this! Suffice to say, skipping lunch is likely to cause a drop in your blood sugar and therefore your energy levels – making you reach for sugary snacks........

• Thursday
As for Monday, it definitely pays to bring in food from home and using up leftovers is an excellent way to do it: cost effective and nutritious.

• Friday
It’s still fast food, even if they call it gourmet: a chicken burger with extra cheese is likely to be high in fat and serving it with a cranberry sauce adds sugar. It’ll arrive in a white bun, which adds little nutritionally but fills you up, often to the point of bloating and there will be added mayo too. The ‘special offer’ chips are a great way to get you to part with more money in exchange for more hydrogenated fat, salt and cheap carbohydrates.

If this is a regular Friday outing with work colleagues, a better choice would be one of the salads but watch the dressing: these are often high in fat and sugar. If possible, choose a plain olive oil and vinegar dressing. If you must have a burger, choose a plainer one and ditch half of the bun; one of the vegetarian options or a buffalo burger would be a good bet – and hold the mayo! Unfortunately, this company doesn’t publish nutritional information about its meals but they do claim to use quality ingredients and make everything fresh so if that is the case it's a better option than other burger joints.

Overall, I’d say Lynda is doing pretty well: it’s what you do most of the time that makes the most difference and she’s taking lunch breaks and eating a wide variety of food with generally healthy choices. Keep up the good work.

Working with clients, I find that lunchtime can be one of the most difficult times of day. You’re in a hurry, choices may be limited and a lot of the easy options seem to be nutritional no-nos. So here are some general principles:

- If you’re busy working in a stressful environment, making good food choices at lunchtime may help to sustain your energy levels for the rest of your working day.

- Poor food choices at lunchtime often result in a mid-afternoon dip in energy (ever felt an overwhelming urge to have a nap at your desk?).

- If it’s practical, bring lunch in from home – it’s cheaper and you have complete control over what goes in.

- Be wary of meal deals and special offers – although these can offer good value, they often include crisps, chocolate snacks and fizzy drinks, which are best avoided if you want to keep your energy levels up.

- Make sure you include some veg (e.g. a small salad) to boost the vitamin and mineral content.

- If you’re eating out in a restaurant or pub, look for soups and salads and avoid chips (pinch one from a colleague if you can’t resist them).

- This may be your only break in a busy day – take advantage of it – relax and eat slowly, away from your desk.

The advice given here is not intended to replace medical advice. Always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health.

Clare Jones, BA(Hons), Dip ION, mBANT
Nutritional Therapy 07985 166606.
If you would like to make an appointment for a personal nutrition consultation with Clare, please contact her on the above number or visit Clare’s website: www.clarejones-nutrition.co.uk

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