Following on from my blog ‘How to avoid added sugar at breakfast’, in this blog we’ll take a look at no-added-sugar meal planning strategies for lunch.
For many of us, lunch means grabbing a sandwich from the nearest convenient place, often with a chocolate bar and a packet of crisps, this type of eating can mean consuming large amounts of sugar inadvertently, so the best way to avoid added sugar is to make your own lunch. We’ll look at tips and ideas for preparing lunchboxes for old and young alike, along with what to look out for if you do need to grab food on the go.By minimising sugars at lunch time you will be helping your body avoid that afternoon dip as well as improving your overall health. Excess added sugar is the driving force behind dental decay and it also increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. With maximum intake guidelines being no more than 30g of sugar for adults, it is surprisingly easy to go over this when eating processed foods.
“Excess added sugar is the driving force behind dental decay and it also increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”
Always check the ingredients label of anything you buy. Although added sugar and intrinsic sugars (intrinsic sugar is that which occurs naturally, such as those in fruit) aren’t listed individually, you will be able to tell if sugar is added as it will appear in the labelled ingredients on the packet.
So what to look out for if eating on the go…
- Wholewheat bread can have as much as 5g of sugar per slice. Check for sugar in the ingredients list.
- Condiments such as tomato ketchup, barbeque sauce, honey mustard dressing and teriyaki sauce are all high in sugar. A tablespoon of barbeque sauce can have as much as 9g of sugar in it!
- Avoid sugary drinks such as fruit juices and soft drinks. Although fruit juices are made from fruit, they are as damaging as added sugars as they have been separated from the fibre of the fruit. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to dental erosion and dental decay.
To avoid these added sugars, opt for salad boxes with fish or chicken – these will have lower sugar content and the major supermarkets have some great options.
Other places lunchtime sugars like to hide are:
- A can of Heinz tomato soup contains nearly 20g of sugar – that’s 5 teaspoons worth!
- Fruit yoghurts are marketed as healthy but usually contain high amounts of added sugars. For example, the second ingredient listed on ‘Frubes’ is sugar. Buy plain yoghurt instead and add your own fruit.
- A jar of pasta sauce can contain around 7 teaspoons of sugar!
Ideas for… kids lunchboxes
I think of kids lunchboxes as having 3 elements: Firstly, the main event – a sandwich or something similar; secondly, some sort of a ‘side-dish’; and thirdly, a piece of whole fruit.
- Go for a sandwich on wholemeal bread containing cheese, meat or nut butter. Or as an alternative to a sandwich, try savoury egg muffins – these are like portable omelettes. See recipe at the end of this blog.
- Pop plain yoghurt into a small tupperware dish with a dollop of homemade stewed cinnamon apples, blueberries, or even use frozen berries for convenience (they will be defrosted by lunchtime!). Alternatively, how about olives, sundried tomatoes, carrot sticks, cheese sticks or hummus in a pot.
- Whole fruit such as an apple, satsuma, plum or pear.
Ideas for… adult lunchboxes
For a takeaway lunch outside of the home, the key is in the planning.
- Make a little extra dinner and take it to work the next day.
- Make a batch of soup or stew over the weekend and take it to work over the week (if you want to keep it warm, invest in a wide mouthed flask).
- Buy bread without added sugar, and make a sandwich. Here are some suggested fillings:
– Beef and mustard
– Avocado and red onion
– Egg and mayonnaise
Add salad to all of the sandwich ideas to boost nutrient and fibre levels.
- Keep healthy snacks in your bag such as nuts, seeds and fruit to combat afternoon nibble cravings!
Quick and easy recipes for home:
Tuna or salmon salad:
Combine a can of tuna or salmon along with some chopped salad items such as baby spinach, avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and make a dressing using olive oil, plain yoghurt, apple cider vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add freshly ground sea salt and pepper.
Chop 1 onion, 1 leek and 1 sweet potato, and put in a pan to sweat for 10 minutes with a big lump of butter. Add 1 litre of hot water with a chicken or veg stock cube dissolved in it. Cook until potato is soft (around 20 minutes), and add in a salad bag of watercress in the last 5 minutes. Whizz in the pan with a handheld blender and add about 100ml of cream or coconut cream and freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
Lunch box recipe idea: savoury egg muffins
- 1 pepper (red, yellow or green) – finely diced
- 1 small onion (red, white or spring) – finely diced
- 6 cherry tomatoes – finely diced
- 6 eggs
- Handful of spinach – chopped
- 1 cup of grated cheese
- Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into a muffin tray lined with paper muffin cups (they stick otherwise creating a lot of tricky washing up). Cook them at 180 for around 20 minutes, test them by dipping a knife into the center, when it comes out clean they are ready.
I hope I’ve made your mouth water with these healthy and delicious no-added-sugar lunch ideas! In the next blog I’ll be looking at no-added-sugar dinners.