Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian
Quite a few of our readers have indicated that they find having a nutritious lunch to suit their diabetes requirements in their busy lives a tricky thing to deal with. Hopefully this blog will help with some practical ideas that you can implement whether you’re a truck driver, a shop owner, a school teacher, an office worker or even a shift worker.
Of course if you have ideas of your own that work, we’d love to have you add them at the bottom of the blog to help others too.
Benefits of taking your own
Making and taking your own lunches is not only financially and nutritionally rewarding, it can actually save you time (spent going to buy your lunch that could be better spent enjoying some exercise) and the effort involved really isn’t much. Also it’s easier to know you’re eating well when you are in control of the ingredients and the portion size.
I timed myself making a cheese and mixed leaf salad from a frozen loaf of bread the other day. It took only 3 minutes, which included slicing the cheese, packing it in a sandwich box and putting away the mess. An apple was the perfect accompaniment to it 🙂
Other easy lunch ideas may include:
- the leftovers from last night’s dinner
- pre-made soups or vegetable and legume laden casseroles
- frittata made with veggies and legumes
- salad mixed with your choice of tinned fish, meat, or tinned legumes
- wholegrain sandwich with cheese or another protein source (such as egg, a slice of meat, a tin of tuna) and mixed salad (such as cucumber, onion, tomato and mixed leaves)
What should your lunch consist of?
Carbohydrates: Our lunches need to contain a low-GI carb source to keep our blood glucose levels steady. Read more here for other benefits of low-GI carbohydrates. These might include wholegrain bread, bread roll or wrap, tinned legumes (baked beans or 4 bean mix are easy options), cooked Basmati rice or quinoa or Rice Plus for a bit of variety.
Protein: The protein element provides us with many essential nutrients as well as helping us to keep our hunger satisfied for longer. A previous blog on this topic will help you to know how much to aim for and the reasons for it. This might include left over cold meats from dinner, a tin of tuna/salmon, cheese (for your dairy benefit too) or vegetarian proteins such as nut butters, hummous or tofu.
Vegetables: Remembering that we’re aiming for 5-6 vegetable serves per day which is quite a lot to achieve in one sitting, getting a serve or two in with your lunch can benefit you in so many ways. Keeping a bag of mixed salad leaves handy with tomatoes, carrots and celery can make adding a serve to a sandwich, or using the salad as the basis for your meal a very easy job. This is where soups really shine too as vegetable-based soups tick nearly all the boxes for a perfect lunch, especially with the colder weather approach. Leftover roasted vegetables are an awesome and delicious option too.
Fruit: Having a piece of fruit with your lunch will provide you with more of those wonderful plant based nutrients to keep your brain and body functioning in top order. Remember that we’re aiming for two pieces a day, so if you struggle to reach that, lunchtime is good time to slip a piece in to your day.
Dairy: If you’re not meeting your dairy needs each day (see previous blog on dairy) then having a glass of milk (you can get individual sized UHT milks to save refrigeration) or a yogurt if you’re not already having cheese with your lunch, can be a top way to add this food group.
Food Safety is very important for lunches
Read the previous blog on Food Safety, and remember to pay particular attention to foods like dairy foods (yogurt, milk and cheese), meats, cooked grains (like rice, quinoa and pasta) and prepared salads.
Some ideas to help keep these foods safe include the use of:
- insulated containers with ice bricks
- a thermos to keep soups and casseroles hot
- keeping a frozen water bottle in your lunchbox to minimise bacterial growth
- tinned food that you can open when you’re ready to each (tuna, sweet corn, baked beans)
What if I get stuck with no other option than to buy lunch?
Sometimes, despite best efforts to be organised and take your own, there will be situations where you need to buy lunch. A great tip here is to find supermarkets or stores where possible in preference to takeaways, bakeries, service stations or pubs. It’s easy to find the makings of your homemade sandwich in a supermarket and you’ll still have the portion control and financial benefits of taking lunch from home. A grainy bread roll, some cold meat from the deli and a small bag of mixed leaves makes an easy sandwich.
And if there are no supermarkets or stores and you do need to visit a takeaway, bakery, service station or pub, they usually do have a healthier option such as a grainy sandwiches (you could ask for no or minimal spread) and healthy fillings. It’s really worth the effort to avoid those pies, chips, battered foods and high-GI carbs wherever you can.
Where can I find ideas to suit what I need?
Making an appointment with an Accredited Practising Dietitian for personalised advice about how you can find lunches to suit you that are healthy for your diabetes and convenient for your lifestyle is an awesome idea. You can find one near you by clicking here.
As mentioned at the top, if you have lunch ideas that work for a busy person we would love to hear about them as a comment below the blog.
Hoping it’s helped you with some ideas to improve the quality of your work day lunch breaks. Sally 🙂
Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.