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By Nutrition Experts


Friday, September 11, 2009.


Do you think you’re destined to a lifetime of limp salad or soggy sandwiches now you’re trying to eat healthy lunches? Or maybe you feel you’re stuck in a rut of chicken on wholegrain with low fat mayo?


If so, you’ve got 'em... the dreaded lunch box blues.


Almost every healthy eater falls victim to lunch box boredom at one time or another. What follows usually is not pretty: after just a few weeks of following a healthy meal plan, you get sick of traditional lunch staples and decide the only cure is to go for that pub lunch or pop into the burger bar in the half hour you have to spare.


Well, hold the mayo and hold your horses. Your days of successful dieting aren’t behind you yet! Variety is the spice of life and it’s also the key ingredient in sticking to a healthy eating plan.


Advance planning is a crucial part of healthy eating. If you don't plan ahead, you're likely to end up eating in the same old hot spots where a burger can cost you 600 calories and a sandwich from the deli can tip the scale at 700 or 800 calories. So packing a lunch really is worth the effort!


Like any meal, lunch should contain a balance of wholegrain, complex carbohydrates, low fat protein and nutrient-filled fruit and vegetables. This balance will keep you satisfied, help your concentration and meet your nutritional requirements.


Another thing that’s important to remember: how you pack lunch is just as important as what you pack, especially when dealing with perishable foods. Sandwiches and soups require a little bit of TLC to keep them in top, luscious condition.


Lunches carried from home often sit on the desk or in a drawer until noon or later. That long wait at room temperature makes them a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So pack wise to stay safe with these precautionary measures:


· Use hot soapy water on hands, worktops, utensils and cutting boards before and after food preparation.

· Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Use thermal containers and give them a head start by chilling cold containers with iced water or a short freezer visit, and preheat hot containers with boiling water. Make sure the hot food is very hot (for liquids, that's almost boiling) before going into the thermos.

· Invest in an insulated bag. Freeze your juice carton or bottle of water - it will serve as a perfect cold pack to help keep your foods cool.

· If you make sandwiches in advance, wrap them in airtight packaging and refrigerate (they’ll keep for a day that way). You can also make and freeze meat sandwiches assembly-line style in sandwich bags, then store them in the freezer for up to a month. Pull one out of the freezer in the morning, and it will be thawed by lunch. Stop your sandwiches becoming soggy by packing the little extras like tomato, lettuce and condiments separately to tuck in the sandwich just before eating.


                                   Tesco Weight Loss Retreat  


Here are 10 top tips to beat the boring lunch box:


It’s a wrap!
Flour tortillas are convenient and versatile for packed lunches and can be filled with just about anything…


1. Mix together 2 tbs cooked mixed beans (these are available canned in supermarkets), 1 tbs low fat coleslaw, 1 tbs grated low fat cheese and a good pinch of chilli powder. Spoon the mixture down the centre of a flour tortilla and roll up, adding salad if you wish.


2. A jar of salsa will liven up any tortilla – whether it’s chicken salad or cheese!


3. Try wrapping a bought salad such as celery and apple salad or cous cous salad in a flour tortilla for a more satisfying lunch.


Souper Trooper
Soups are quick and easy to make the night before and a wide-mouthed thermos is perfect for carrying hot soups to work…


4. Vegetable soups are a great way to beat the chills and get extra vegetable portions, while bean or lentil soups also provide plenty of protein. Avoid soups with added cream or fatty meats such as sausage. Here are a couple of recipe ideas:


5. Chop a small onion and a clove of garlic and cook in a little chicken stock. When softened, add chunks of pre-cooked smoked turkey (available at the meat counter in supermarkets), chicken stock, a tin of chopped tomatoes, herbs of your choice and a tin of cannellini beans. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Store one portion in the fridge overnight and the rest in the freezer in single serving portions. Heat to almost boiling before taking to work in your thermos.


6. Chop a small onion and a clove of garlic and cook in a little chicken stock. When softened, add sliced parsnips, some diced potato, curry powder to taste and stock. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and puree before storing as above.


Pitta in your Pocket


7. Mix together salad leaves, crumbled feta cheese, a small tin of tuna (in brine, of course) and olives. Dress with lemon juice and pack into a pitta pocket.


8. Mix a small tin of salmon or tuna with half a tbs reduced fat mayo, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, chopped red pepper, ½ a diced apple and black pepper to taste. Stuff into a wholewheat pitta with salad.


Variety is the spice of life


9. Granary rolls, brown baps, ciabatta, focaccia, subs, crusty, seeded, finger or floured – the variety of bread available is mind-boggling so don’t be bored by sliced pan!


10. Keeping your lunch interesting with different meats, marinades, chutneys, salads, herbs and dressings will help you stay on target to reach those weight loss goals!


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