On an ideal day I would prefer to take my own lunch to work such as a soup or a salad. It’s easier, cheaper and I usually try and make it healthy and balanced to get me through my working day. BUT this requires preparation and planning and while that seems easy on paper, reality often takes over.
Some mornings I open my fridge to find a whole lot of nothing. As much as I would love to have a meal prep Sunday, something will happen to throw my plans out of the window or I will have forgotten something basic like- ‘go shopping’. I am not going to beat myself up, its normal life.
Healthy eating for me is about balance. If you are trying to cut down on processed food and increase your plant based food, healthy proteins and fibre, then you might need some tips for eating lunch out and about on the days your prep didn’t go to plan. For me, if I’m in central London I have a few ‘go to’ places depending on where I am spending my day and whom I am with. If you know your area, you will often have an idea of these places and if not, a quick map search in the morning on your phone might give you a fresh idea for a place you can head to. In some places it can be a bit more of a challenge, especially out of the city centres or if you are on the road. Here are a few tips to see you through your hunter -gathering attempts for a healthy lunch on days when your real life has caught with you.
- Pack your bag with something useful like, a pot with a lid, a water container and a fork. I prefer a glass storage bowl as opposed to plastic but if you really have to travel light some Tupperware will do. Then you have something to eat from and mix things in.
- Can you get something on the way into work that will be easier and healthier than waiting until you are hungry and pushed for time at lunchtime? If I’m going on the bus or train, I find that there are generally more options around the transport hubs for healthier food options to buy for later on. Some of the supermarkets will do salads or soups. I can usually find some leafy greens and rainbow coloured crunch to add to this.
- To help you, can you keep a few basics at work to liven up your shop bought food? At my clinic, I keep some black pepper, chilli sauce, tamari, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. At least then you can rustle up a healthy dressing for whatever veggies or salad you might be able to buy. Of course, this is only useful if you will be at one place on a regular basis and ideal if you have a little kitchen or something at work where you can store a few bits of cutlery and crockery too.
- If you have very limited options think about some food that will sustain you until you can get a better option. In tiny grocery stores you can usually find some yoghurt and nuts, or some hummus. You might have a greengrocer for some carrots or celery to dip in, or a bag of salad leaves. A tin of sardines will give you a serving of healthy omega three essential oils.
- Sometimes you might be faced with the option of a fast food or nothing situation. This is a common scenario on motorways. You are hungry and nothing healthy seems to be on offer. Don’t be too hard on yourself and feel that you are going to ruin all of your good intentions. One ‘not so healthy’ meal will not kill you. If you realise that you are going to be in a situation like this on a regular basis then just get more organised next time. If you can, pile on the vegetables or salad. Leave off the dressings as they are generally made up of not so good oil and sugar. Read the ingredients. Most fast food places now have to show you what is contained in their food offerings. Knowledge is power.
- Once you get knowledge of food and the health benefits they can bring it can be common to see processed food and fast food as not just ‘unhealthy’ but scary and dangerous. Some people really do struggle and can start to be frightened by food. This can slide into a condition we call Orthorexia and it can be quite a distressing problem. Food should be enjoyable and, like everything in life, it is a balance. If you feel that you are becoming overly obsessed or worried by food it might be important to talk to someone. More about this in another blog, but check out this useful website. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa
- If you are on a special elimination diet or regime under the guidance of a nutritional therapist, doctor or dietician it is really important to decide with your health care practitioner when a good time will be to make changes personal to you. These changes often require a lot more planning and support to guide you. You should have a way to get help and practical advice to deal with queries as you go along.
Finally, aim to move in the right direction for healthy food and with balance in your life. Some days will be good and others not so good and that is all ok. Food is best enjoyed with others, socially and fun.