You might have seen the surprising news recently that one in six eats the same packed lunch EVERY day! This was a survey that was commissioned by Covent Garden Soup and I was quite shocked by the results. I remember seeing it in the Telegraph. Now I know I’ve been packing lunches since 2008 for my kids, but to pack the same lunch every day? And not just that but to pack the same lunch every day for TWO years? Two years is a long time! Not only would I get bored packing the same lunch, but if you’re doing that for your kids, and they are growing and their nutritional needs are changing, what does that mean for the kids? We all know the old saying: variety is the spice of life… So, I recently caught up with Nuffield Health and have also been chatting to the lovely Nutritionist Lily Soutter to get the run down on what makes the perfect packed lunch nutritionally and also to really understand what makes the perfect packed lunch for teenagers? With two teenage boys constantly complaining of fatigue and tiredness at the end of the school day, I knew I needed to take action and get some real solid advice.
Now, if we stop to think a minute, we know that the repetition of the same lunch day in and day out means dissatisfaction, boredom, despair, coupled with that sinking feeling when you open the lunch and it is the same old same old. You get the picture? But not just that, think about the packed lunch contents, having the same lunch box contents, will of course limit the variety of nutrients and goodness you are consuming in your diet. Our bodies need a variety to keep the balance. So over to Lily and her top tips for preparing a balanced healthy lunch that keeps an eye on spending and the other eye on the waistline!
Why Packed lunches are the way forward?
When you take lunch to work, you know exactly what is in your lunch, plus you can budget, by buying the contents or components of your lunch box at the supermarket in bulk, and therefore wave goodbye to higher levels of salt and sugar that can be included in the high street lunches.
Packing your own packed lunch enables you to not only control the quantities of each food group that you add to your plate, but also the calories. Remember the eat well plate? If you’re not sure, click to read the article “Why is it important that the lunch box is healthy?”
According to Lily Soutter, high street lunches rarely provide you with enough veg, fibre and good quality protein to keep hunger at bay and blood sugar levels stable throughout the afternoon (so you avoid that mid-afternoon slump).
What makes the perfect packed lunch?
A great blood-sugar balancing lunch is essential if you’re wanting to avoid that post-afternoon energy slump as well as keeping your hunger at bay for longer.
So what do you have to eat to avoid that slump? Fill your plates or lunch box with fibre rich vegetables, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Then your afternoon will be a breeze!
How to minimise the time required to make a packed lunch?
Stock up on lunch boxes or air tight containers and always cook more than you need at dinner. This will ensure that you always have healthy and filling left-overs for lunch and zero preparation in the morning.
We’ve always found the System range a good value lunchbox product range. Check out our lunch box kit review section for more ideas. You can also try pre-chopping or preparing your sandwich or salad fillings/bases over the weekend, which cuts down on preparation time during the week; or make up the lunch the night before, and chill over night in the fridge.
How to make packed lunches more fun?
Well, you just need to check out all our lunch box ideas within the Lunchbox World recipes index. If you’ve exhausted these packed lunch ideas, then why not try making a salad in a jar. Not only is this the easiest way to transport them, with no chance of it leaking, (if it’s a screw top jar) but you can also make rainbow salads by layering different coloured veg on top of each other. You’ve probably seen lots of these ideas on instagram and they do look really effective and exciting to eat!
Switch up your sandwiches using rice paper rolls and get inventive with your fillings.
Make colourful dips like purple beetroot and bartolotti, green pea and mint, or orange roasted carrot and coriander…
Change the way you eat, try roasted vegetable skewers, or cheese and fruit sticks.
Which foods to incorporate regularly into your lunches?
Low-glycemic load foods are essential to include within lunch boxes to provide us with longer lasting energy throughout the afternoon.
Low glycemic load foods include:
High quality protein – meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts & seeds
Complex carbohydrates – sweet potato, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, oats, brown rice, wholegrain wheat or spelt
Healthy fats – avocado, oily fish, cold-pressed oils, seeds, nuts
Vegetables – a mix of rainbow colour of veg
Lunches to give you energy
B vitamins are known as the energy vitamins and play an important role within energy metabolism. B vitamins help to convert the food we eat into energy.
Magnesium plays a key role within the energy pathway and energy production and antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and E are essential in the support of energy production.
The best and worst snacks?
Most shop bought snacks are highly processed and often packed full of sugar, or are nutrient poor.
It’s vital to choose nutrient dense snacks, which are protein rich to stave off hunger.
For some healthy snack choices, choose:
A handful of almonds or mixed seed
Greek yoghurt with berries and chia seeds
Hummus with crudités
Homemade low sugar energy balls
An apple dipped in nut butter
An oatcake topped with avocado and a slice of chicken
The nutritionist’s choice?
Lily is often short on time during the mornings, therefore she usually packs leftovers from the night before which can range from frittatas, to chicken with quinoa and veg, or even soup which is transported in a flask. There’s always space made for lots of veg, which can be missing in so many high street lunches.
So what specifically makes a perfect packed lunch for teenagers?
As we discussed earlier, magnesium rich foods and Vitamin B will help give teenagers energy throughout the day, but what foods are these exactly?
Dark green leafy vegetables contain a rich source of magnesium, so kale, spinach, rocket added to sandwiches will help here. Also you could make pesto sauces, and hide the veg within sauces, dips, green juices.
Magnesium is also found in nuts, seeds, cacao, dark chocolate, so some healthy snacks or trail mix would work well.
B vitamins are essential for converting the food we eat into energy, so adding meat, fish, beans, eggs, pulses, whole grains, potatoes and bananas.
If you’ve been following us on instagram, we’ve been sharing our teen lunch box ideas there, so do hop over and check out the Lunchbox World instagram feed, and feel free to join in and be sure to hashtag #lunchboxworld so we can see your creations! So that’s it for the perfect packed lunch for teenagers. Do you have any tips and ideas you would add to the list?
Happy lunch packing!
The Lunchbox Lady x
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