While we all know that eating on the run should be avoided as much as possible, everyone is susceptible to having ‘one of those days’ where you are just running behind from the get-go.
Days like these often mean a late lunch, no lunch or grabbing something on the run. While taking time out for lunch is the ideal, it isn’t always possible. So rather than burying our heads in the sand, and say ‘don’t eat on the run’, let’s have a contingency plan, so the next time you are having ‘one of those days’, you are armed with the best plan of attack.
So what are six of the best grab and go lunch options when there isn’t time to make a healthy, balanced lunch?
Well, first of all, you should know what to look for and why.
A protein source
First and foremost, protein. This nutrient is essential for appetite control. Not having enough protein at lunch will often lead to those afternoon sugar cravings.
Protein is the number one most important nutrient when it comes to satiety, which is the feeling of fullness. If a meal does not have enough protein, by the law of probability, it will more than likely have more carbohydrate.
This isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but pending the type and amount you consume, having too much carbohydrate (or the wrong type) can spike your sugar levels, leave your appetite unsatisfied, and if you are sedentary, it may not be the best option for you to have.
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Plenty of colour – why, because colour is good!
Colour refers to the salad and vegetable component of the meal, which is plentiful in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Currently, more than 90 per cent of Australians don’t meet their daily vegetable intake of five serves.
With a serve constituting one cup of salad or ½ cup of cooked vegetables, and lunch and dinner being the main contributors to our vegetable intake, it is imperative we find a way to maximise our vegetable intake at lunch and dinner.
A small amount of healthy fat – why, because fat is another important nutrient for appetite control.
Gone are the days where fat was once demonised. While excessive amounts of fat intake are not recommended, as per gram, fat has double the energy value of other nutrients (carbs and protein), it certainly has a place in the diet.
Ideally, you should consume a small amount at most main meals and snacks – think nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butter.
A good quality carbohydrate
Good quality carbohydrate – why, because carbs are not the devil, and good quality ones very much have a place in the diet.
Carbohydrate foods can be a large contributor of soluble and insoluble fibres, along with resistance starch, which is gaining a lot of interest in the gut health space.
At the of the day, carbohydrates are a source of many essential vitamins and minerals; it is just about choosing the best forms and in the correct amounts – a general rule to adhere to is ¼ of the meal should be good quality carbs.
So, with all that in mind, what should you be go for when needing to grab lunch on the run?
1. Burrito Bowl
This is not a licence to go overboard on all the extras such as sour cream, grated cheese, guac and extra meat.
However, a basic bowl with lean protein such as chicken, lots of colour, some beans, brown rice and a side of guac is a good grab and go lunch option.
2. Poke Bowl
Delicious salmon or kingfish, lots of beautiful colours, and a small portion of quinoa or low GI rice. The poke bowl is certainly a great grab and go lunch option.
3. Grilled chicken sandwich
The old faithful sandwich can be a really option. Lean protein, lots of colour, good quality rye bread to boost up the fibre content, a little bit of avocado for flavour and the healthy fat portion.
4. Sashimi + edamame
Simple, easy and hitting all the requirements of a balanced lunch. Salmon sashimi is a great source of protein and healthy fats, and edamame provides you with some colour, plant protein and carbohydrates, this basic but simple lunch is an elite on the go lunch option.
5. Super salad
A salad is certainly a good way to boost up the vegetable intake in your diet. Make sure you are searching for one which has plenty of colour (not just lettuce in a Caesar salad).
A good rule to aim for is at least three colours. Make sure it has some lean protein, a little bit of extra virgin olive oil as a dressing or a sprinkle of nuts or seeds for the healthy fat factor.
6. Rice paper rolls
The trick with these are finding ones which have a good mix of salad, protein, and are not just all noodles. If you can, these can be perfect for lunch on the run.
Jessica Spendlove from Health and Performance Collective. Advanced Sports Dietitian and currently the Dietitian for the GWS Giants, Cronulla Sharks, Giants Netball and Sydney Kings.