Lunches on the go

March 24th, 2011 | Filed Under: Nutrition Tips

One of the most common questions I have from patients is: what are the best lunch options when you’re out and about.

For those who work in offices around London, lunch usually means getting something quick from one of the many fast food lunch outlets or something readymade from the local supermarket. There are so many places these days that it’s hard to tell what the healthiest and tastiest options are. Most of the fast food outlets have their nutritional information on their websites, which I have been looking through. This is what I’ve found:

Pret a manger

I guess this is usually the number one choice, as they are on almost every corner and have a good variety of sandwiches. But they are certainly not the healthiest!

A filled sandwich such as their Posh Cheddar and Pickle Baguette has a Massive 779 calories and 38.9g Fat! That is over ½ a woman’s fat intake and 1/3 of a Man’s calorie intake. Throw in a cappuccino and one of those yummy little slices of cake and you are at a whopping 1,273 cals and 64.4g fat. For a woman that would exceed her recommended fat intake for the day! Not only that but their lentil and Bacon soup contains 1.3g sodium, that is over half the recommended intake. You could say, that is the worst case scenario, the better options would be; their Simple Tuna Salad, with only 120 cals and 3.5g fat, but it wouldn’t fill you up so you could have a Very Berry Prêt Pot to follow. Even so I don’t think one would feel satisfied for long. The other vaguely better option is the Super (Duper) Hummus Salad (285 cals 14.8g Fat 0.6g Sodium), at least it contains some good fats, and nutrients and might be reasonably satisfying. Generally, I don’t think Pret is the healthiest option out there.

EAT

This masquerades as a healthy place to eat but I was quite surprised by the amount of salt they put in a lot of their soups. Their Chunky Minestrone with Pesto contains 2.5g salt which is over a third of your maximum recommended daily intake (6g) the Winter Vegetable Soup contains less at 0.9g so would be a better option. Their pies are a bit of a shocker, as one might expect. The chicken and mushroom contains: 851cals, 38.6g fat and 4.5g salt (per pack with mash and gravy)!!!. Some of their salads are a good option but maybe just don’t add all the dressing, which can be a bit salty, the superfood salad and crayfish noodles could be a good option.

Itsu

This is my favourite of all the fast food lunch outlets because there are so many healthy options, although you do have to watch the salt because they don’t show the content on their site, so go easy on the soya sauce. A medium Chicken Rice Bowl, contains a reasonable 499 cals and 11g fat, surprisingly the Vegetable Rice Bowl contains almost double the fat, which must be down to the sauce (which does appear to contain fish sauce for those veges who didn’t know). Their Detox 7 vegetables miso broth looks great (although it could be high in salt as miso usually is), it could be a nice snack. The special salmon salad and the Hip and Healthy salad have got to be the best, they are full of nutrients good fats and are low in calories (the hip and healthy is lower in cals) and fat, you could even have a frozen yoghurt for desert mmmm. The sushi boxes are higher in fat but the majority is the good type of fat from the fish. To be honest I couldn’t find anything that shocking on their menu but as I said I think the salt content could be high due to the soya, fish sauces and the miso. The only other thing to note is there is MSG in their hondashi or furikake seasoning so watch out for that if you are allergic to it.

M&S

As most of the supermarkets near offices etc are smaller, sometimes the variety is minimal but I find M&S usually have a couple of reasonable choices. Their fuller for longer range is good. I always go for the quinoa shaker salad (with only half the dressing) which is nutritious and keeps you satisfied. Or one of those big salad bowls served with a pita bread can be nice. Or my husband’s favorite is the salmon and watercress sandwich.

Tesco

I generally find Tesco to be a bit of a lost cause when it comes to lunch, with their stodgy tuna pasta salad and their salty fatty sandwiches. The main thing I am put off by when I look at the ingredients on their sandwiches is the sheer length of the list of ingredients. If it’s a chicken and salad sandwich it should contain: Flour, water yeast, salt, chicken, lettuce (maybe a bit of mayo [egg, oil salt] or butter ) instead you get this: Malted Brown Bread, Roast Chicken (27%) ,Tomato ,Lemon Dressing ,Lettuce ,Cucumber. ,Malted Brown Bread contains ,Wheat Flour ,Water ,Malted Wheat Flakes ,Wheat Bran ,Malted Wheat & Barley Flour ,Yeast ,Salt , Emulsifiers (Mono- and Di-Acetyltartaric Esters of Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids) ,Spirit Vinegar ,Vegetable Fat ,Wheat Protein ,TempText2. ,Roast Chicken contains ,Chicken ,Cornflour. ,Lemon Dressing contains ,Water ,Reduced Fat Crème Fraîche ,Low Fat Fromage Frais ,Lemon Juice ,Rice Starch ,Spirit Vinegar ,Inulin ,Vegetable Oil ,Salt , Thickener (Pectin Stabilised With Sugar) ,Milk Proteins ,Black Pepper ,Concentrated Lemon Juice ,Mustard Flour.

While I’m on ingredients lists, take a look at the microwave Feaster Smoked Hot Dog: Bread Roll (56%): Wheat Flour, Yeast, Water, Sugar, Wheat Protein, Salt, Vegetable Fat (Rapeseed and Palm), Emulsifier (E472e),Flour Treatment Agents (E300, E920) ,Frankfurter (37%): Pork (77%), Water, Potato Starch, Salt, Spices, Stabiliser (E452), Dextrose, Antioxidants (E300, E301) ,Preservative (E250) ,Tomato Ketchup (7%): Water, Sugar, Tomatoes, Glucose Syrup, Waxy Maize Starch, Salt, Acidity Regulator (E260) ,Preservative (E202).

Lovely, if you fancy a mouthful of E numbers. This is cannot be classed as food!

The better options at Tesco could be a sushi variety pack or one of those big salad bowls (as above for M&S).

On the whole, I usually recommend people take their own lunch to work, that way you know what’s in it and you can make it as nutritious as possible, not to mention how much money you save! It can be nice to eat out sometimes too though.

Buon appetito!

Leave a Reply