This week, Equi nutritional supplements asked 7 power women to share their typical weekday lunches with our in-house nutritionist and co-founder, Alice Mackintosh. Here she gives some expert feedback and tips.
Mid-week lunches tend to be more about function than flavour, and getting your lunch-on-the-go right can often be tricky and time consuming.. taking up valuable head space.
If you’re up against it with work, kids or just life admin, then the temptation to turn to the same old sandwich and salad, or snacking on fruit, nuts and sweet treats saves time and headspace. However, from a nutritional point of view, it can also possibly mean missing out on some key nutrients. This in turn can impact our energy, productivity and mood throughout the day, can dictate our dinner choices and crucially, how well we sleep at night.
Getting it right every day isn’t easy, but the good news is that you really don’t have to eat perfectly all the time to stay healthy. And there is room for indulgence too – after all, good food is good for the soul!
Finance Lawyer & Fund Manager
If I’m in the office as opposed to WFH I’ll go for a Pret Falafel flatbread; salted popcorn; Kombucha, or a salad from Chopped with beans, feta, olives, red pepper and other colouerful things.
If I’m WFH: if I’m in a mega rush (quite often!) an emergency pita filled with as much greenery as I have in the fridge and cheese, or sometimes a few prawns. Or if I have time for a quick walk and a treat - some sort of salmon sushi and seaweed salad.
In winter, I tend to go for a lot of soup of various descriptions and bread and cheese.
I will be naughty and have a biscuit or something in the afternoon if there anything around!! I need to stock up on ‘draw snacks’ as I do get hungry later in the day!
Alice’s comments & tips - Freya makes some really great lunch choices – everything sounds delicious, varied and colourful, as well as nutritious. Freya eats meat free, so she has to watch her protein intake at meal times to ensure she gets enough as this helps keep her full, satisfied and prevent the blood sugar dips in the afternoon that can give way to cravings for sweet snacks. Getting protein from seeds, nuts, lentils, eggs, fish/seafood is a good idea at all meals for everyone for this reason,. I love the sound of salmon sushi and seaweed salad, but it’s worth trying to get brown rice sushi if possible as white rice can be quite sugary, leading to the same sorts of issues.
A few snack options could be hummus and crudités, almond butter and oat cakes, fruit with nuts, or she could also choose some higher protein fruit and nut/seed snacks such as Kind, Protein Ball Co, Pulsin Bars or Primal Pantry bars.
I’m currently 8 months pregnant, with two little ones already at nursery/school, so lunch is whatever I can grab on the go or put together quickly at home. I also go for things that don’t encourage any pregnancy reflux, but still keep me full.
I normally go for roasted chicken, avocado sandwich with sour dough and some mayo. A snack later on would be houmous and tortilla crisps.
Alice’s comments and tips - Chicken and avocado make the perfect sandwich, especially with mayo! The good thing about this lunch is 1. It contains good protein levels from the chicken. 2. Fibre and nutrients from the avocado are great. 3. Sourdough is also a more digestible form of gluten though it should ideally be wholegrain sourdough, which is harder to come by.
What could be better about this lunch is the diversity – i.e three simple ingredients work together from a taste point of view, but ideally we want to aim for 3-5 different fruits/veggies/pulses/nuts in each meal to ensure we get good levels of fibre to feed our gut. This also maximises the chances of getting nutrients such as b vitamins, folate, omega 3, selenium, iodine that keep our energy levels high and our brains fuelled properly. These are also good for growing babies! Lucy could add some rocket and red onion here or even some crudités on the side, or a piece of fruit for dessert.
Her snack is houmous based which I love – it’s full of fibre, protein, slow-release carbs and nutrients, and though tortilla chips are fine from time-to-time, she’d be better off having some colourful veggies on the side, or seeded oat cakes which are more nutritious, fibrous and filling.
CEO of Walpole
Monday: WFH - quick and easy lunch with a toasted slice of German rye bread, tuna mixed with natural yogurt and mayonnaise with celery, plus rocket, beetroot and pumpkin seeds. Delicious, speedy, felt great - Yay!! I’m so healthy! Look at me with my vegetables and seeds!
Spoilt the smug feeling a few hours later after a tricky meeting made me cross and ate a mini magnum I found in the freezer and two Jaffa cakes
Tuesday: in the office but in a mad rush to leave the house so grabbed a pot of tuna and a piece of German rye bread. Ate the tuna out of the pot with a teaspoon (lockdown cutlery shortage), and ate the rye bread toasted with crunchy peanut butter. Pros: convenient and speedy. Cons: complete absence of vegetables 😬
Wednesday: prêt chicken salad, vaguely yet deliciously thai-ish. Only had half the pot of dressing. Pros: looks pretty healthy and tasted delicious. Cons: lack of planning on my part meant I didn’t get to eat lunch until 4.30pm by which time I was very hungry, hence the chocolate corn cakes...
No restaurant lunches but these are usually a feature of my working week. If I have the time, and left to my own devices, I think I make good food choices but I do often undermine these by a bit of late afternoon sugary badness, not usually because I am hungry, more because I am a bit cross and a bit tired. I need to try to have a few lunches up my sleeve that I can prep the night before and put in the fridge because If I’m off to the office, I rarely have time to make something in the morning and either end up eating random things or don’t manage to get lunch at all until late afternoon by which time I might be a bit over caffeinated.
I do have a lunch staple I can grab from the cupboard that I fall back on - it is a microwaveable pouch of lentil Dahl (sp) which I will heat and pour over a bag of washed baby spinach I’ve grabbed from the fridge.
Alice’s comments and tips – I’m really loving a lot of these lunches and there is plenty of inspiration here for others too - Helen is really creative despite being short on time. There is variety, plenty of whole foods as well as colour and diversity amongst the food groups. Her Monday lunch in particular is bang on, and I also love the idea of a ready meal (yet still healthy) dahl paired with some spinach when WFH. The latter is also a winter warmer and offers vegetarian protein from the lentils as well as energising b vitamins, magnesium and folate. Lentils are also a fantastic prebiotic, which are supportive of the digestive microbiome - essential for everything from immunity to mood and metabolism.
Her Pret salad choice is also great from this perspective and is ideal for a lunch-on-the-go option. I do often find the vegetable portions can be a little bit on the smaller side when eating out and this is something to watch in general, not just from the perspective of them filling you up, but also for providing the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need everyday. Again, not an issue if you eat plenty of veggies regularly, but something to consider if you eat out with regularity.
Founder & Creative Director of Bramley Products
This is a meal that I try and do most days when I’m heading to work – it’s roasted salmon with tarragon and roasted cherry tomatoes & yellow peppers. I shall be having an apple too and then a coffee (with milk & sugar!).
Alice’s comments and tips - Great choices from Chloë – this sounds delicious! I can’t really fault this lunch though obviously it is a lower carb option, which seemingly works for her. Others might find they need some wholegrain/complex carbs to keep them full for the afternoon. The coffee would obviously be better without the sugar but I know this can be a tricky habit to break! She could switch to stevia (liquid can taste less chemically – Ocado have some good options) or slowly wean off the sugar over time. It’s amazing how quickly your taste buds adjust!
Only other thing to say is that Chloë could change it up now and then, if she isn’t already. Though I think keeping it simple and easy is important when you’re busy working, it’s a good idea to try and keep the diet as varied as possible to ensure you’re getting a wide array of foods that offer different nutrients, forms of fibre, enzymes and prebiotics.
Founder of The Dress Tribe
Manager at UEFA
When working on site at Wembley like I am now for the EURO’s I’m at the mercy of the in house catering! Event day meals look like this:
Lunchbag filled with bottle of water, bean salad or pasta salad/green salad, crisps, chocolate (all standard) plus hot meal of choice:
- creamy salmon filo parcel and boiled potatoes
- chicken and mushroom pie and red cabbage and new potatoes
- Fried cauliflower bites, new potatoes, green beans
When the Euro’s finish, I will be back to The Dress Tribe, which is split between WFH or a Co-working space – Co-working, lunch could be
- salmon poke bowl with edamame beans
- Bone Daddies ramen with pulled pork, tea stained egg and kimchi
WFH is more like this:
- Roast chicken, brown rice, wilted garlic spinach
- Chicken and mushroom soup with steamed spinach
Alice’s comments and tips - It’s nice to see so many options here – some are obviously better than others but we have to accept that we can’t always be in control of what we eat at work. Sometimes you just go with the flow, choosing the best options that are available to us. This really isn’t an issue from time to time as long as the rest of the time you do your best to get as many nutrients as possible.
The WFH options here are fab as they blend veggies, protein and wholegrains – the holy trinity when it comes to your plate proportions. She could add some healthy fats from EV olive oil, avocado, seeds and nuts to really take this to the next level. Salmon poke also great though if possible she should choose brown rice, quinoa or edamame over the white rice as it’s less sugary and more nutritious. Ramen is a favourite of mine and it’s not exactly unhealthy, but this meal is on the low side when it comes to the veggies, so a side of those here, or fruit for pudding wouldn’t go amiss. If she can choose buckwheat noodles then great, as these are generally wholegrain. Kimchi is fantastic from a gut health point of view - we should all be making an effort to get more good bacteria into the diet to support our gut and the good news is that is it widely available now from many supermarkets... try it with salads, sandwiches or even with some cheese and biscuits.
Her days at UEFA sound very demanding, so she needs a good lunch. There seem to be options for veggies in hand with a bean salad being a highlight - as it’s really high in fibre, protein, and b vitamins, folate and magnesium. She could choose to eat the chicken or salmon and have slightly less of the pastry, instead opting for the potatoes as her carb option, but equally there isn’t anything wrong with pastry now and then! If she were to eat everything – a hot option plus the salads, crisps and chocolate, then I estimate that her calorie intake would be very high for lunch.. so she might want to pick and choose what she goes for here to ensure she is managing her portions.
Founder & Creative Director at Holmes Bespoke
I'm a Mum of two young girls and I run my business as well. On same days I'll be in the office at my desk, but others am often dashing around between clients in various locations. Lunch really varies depending on what i'm doing that day. On a good day I will have one of the below:
- Leafy salad with vine tomatoes, avo & feta cheese
- Half ball of Buffalo mozzarella, avo, tomatoes & rocket
- 2 scrambled eggs with feta, avo & spinach, with olive oil & balsamic & pepper & basil leaves
- Avo & marmite on toast (2 slices) pepper & basil leaves
- Cheddar Cheese on toast with fresh tomatoes & rocket & Worcester sauce
- Cheddar, lettuce & avo sandwich with Mayo
- & when I’m in a rush I might literally have marmite on toast or crackers and cheese!
Alice's tips and comments - It's nice to see so many colourful veggies on these plates and love the way she adds herbs like basil as these bring flavour but also lots of folate and vitamin C. She's also got winners such as tomatoes, avocado and rocket - all nutritious supportive of the gut, liver, energy and skin health. Marmite is also very good source of B vitamins so I'm a big fan of that addition!
If you've read any of the comments above then you might have noticed that protein is something I talk about a lot. It's really important to try to get a decent amount of protein on the plate because this keeps blood sugar stable over the day and makes you feel fuller for longer. It's also great for your immunity, energy and skin/hair!
Laylah obviously chooses to go veggie for lunch during the week, and there are quite a few options above she lists where the only protein on the plate comes from cheese (though egg option is a good exception here). There isn't anything wrong with cheese but the protein levels would ideally be higher for these lunches. On the second options it would be good to make sure the bread is wholegrain for the sandwiches. The final quick options are obviously not the most diverse and nutritious, but not an issue if she goes for these from time-to-time. One quick tip could be to go for almond or peanut butter on toast as this at least provides some protein and healthy fats!
Advertising Business Director
I'm usually eating lunch at my desk, but currently on maternity leave with a 3-month old baby so lunch is generally at home. I'm breastfeeding at the moment so I'm starving by lunch! These are some typical options:
Alice's comments - I'm impressed Sasha is making such an effort at lunchtime when she has a newborn to look after! It's also great to see that she keeps things different day to day and has plenty of flavours going on. From a nutritional perspective option two is a real winner here - the spices in the curry (which are likely to include turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, fenugreek etc) are fantastic for our health, and offer anti-oxidant benefits as well as being anti-inflammatory. This is useful for the immune system as well as brain health, joint health and energy. It's also got protein and nutrients from lentils, as well as folate, magnesium and b vitamins in spinach which are great for adrenal health, mood and energy (useful if she's up at night). Option 1 is also fantastic from the perspective of vitamins and anti-oxidants in the veggies, and I also love a good pesto as they contain zinc, manganese and calcium from the nuts (try to get good quality pesto to ensure it isn't high in vegetable oils). She is missing wholegrain carbs in this option and it's worth noting that most shop bought filo pastry (unless she making i herself!!) contains alot of vegetable oil which isn't ideal for the body.
Option 3 isnt so bad but a wholegrain baguette or nice brown bread would instantly make a huge difference not only to the Glyceamic load of the meal but also to the fibre and nutrient levels. She could also add some rocket and tomatoes to this or have crudités with the houmous.
One thing Sasha could be doing better here is her healthy fats, as these three options are low in the beneficial omega 3s, 6s and 9s. Omega 3 in particular is really fantastic for infant health as it enriches breastmilk and helps with brain development.
Disclaimer: As with all articles on www.equilondon.com, this is no substitution for individual medical or nutritional advice. Pregnant women and anyone on medication should always consult a doctor before embarking on a nutritional supplements programme or before changing their diet.