Sandwich, Soup or Salad? A Guide to London Lunching

Choosing the wrong lunch can have a direct impact on your waistline and your energy levels, laying you open to the dreaded mid-afternoon slump that usually has you reaching for biscuits or chocolate in the office. Here’s our latest guide to healthy London lunching at some of the most popular outlets, so that you can choose what’s best for you and your waistline.

 

Pret a Manger

Enjoy: Pret’s hearty soups are the ones to go for. Their tasty Peruvian Chicken soup or South Indian soup with lentils and tomato are packed full of protein and fibre which will keep you going all afternoon and make it easier to ignore the treats in the office. A special mention to the new Crayfish & Quinoa pot which is an ideal snack or side dish if you're extra hungry, as it packs a powerful protein punch Avoid: The baguette sandwiches are best avoided, as they’re very carb-heavy with minimal fibre and your body will burn through the refined white flour pretty quickly, leaving you with the munchies within an hour or two. It’s also best avoided if you're prone to bloating, as high levels of wheat can be hard to digest, especially if you've had a stressful morning.

Crussh

Enjoy: Crussh Healthpots are a great flexible option, as you can mix and match a couple for a super-healthy and satisfying lunch. The Black Lentil and Feta pot and the Superfoods pot are two of the best options, as they're packed with protein, fibre and omega 3 which would definitely boost your brainpower for that post-lunch meeting. Avoid: Crussh soups and their Fit Food Specials are surprisingly stingy on the protein, with only a couple of bits of meat in their chicken soups, for example. This means they won't be very satisfying after a hard morning’s work and will definitely leave you wanting more.

Pod

Enjoy: Pod salads are just brilliant as they really are a proper meal, as well as being inventive and quite delicious. Not only are they packed full of protein, fibre and superfoods, but you have the option to add an extra protein topping. Try the Slow Burner Salad with a falafel topping or the Mango & Cashew Salad with chicken. It'll keep you going for hours. Avoid: Watch out for the Veggie Mineral Pod. It‘s not such a good option as the chicken version, as it’s much lower in protein so, despite the immune-boosting superfood content, it won't keep you going for very long if you have a long afternoon ahead of you.

EAT

Enjoy: EAT’s Hot Pots are probably their best option for a satisfying and healthy lunch. Try the Poached Egg and Bean Hot Pot with ham hock or mushrooms or the Texan Chilli Hot Pot as these contain the best protein and fibre blend to help reduce sugar cravings later in the afternoon. They also have the added bonus of heart-healthy omega 3. Avoid: Pie and Mash. It may seem like a satisfying option when you're hungry, but it’s actually very high in simple carbohydrate that your body will break down quickly, leading to an energy slump in the afternoon. It’ll have a big impact on your waistline as well, as this contains half the daily recommended amount of calories, as well as your total daily allowance of saturated fat in just one meal.

Leon

Enjoy: Leon specialises in brown rice hot pots and low GI sweet potato dishes that get a big nutrition tick, as they'll really keep you going, especially if you're planning to work out later on in the day. Try the Chilli Chicken or the Sweet Potato Falafel box as they're really tasty and come with brown rice that’s full of fibre, as well as containing energy-rich B vitamins and calming magnesium to help you through a difficult afternoon. Avoid: Watch out for the Fish Finger Wrap (especially if you add fries), as it’s quite a starchy option that may provide short-term satisfaction but it’s likely to lead to an energy dip mid-afternoon that could encourage you to reach for the office biscuit tin.

M+S

Enjoy: If you just have to have sandwich at lunchtime, then M+S is definitely the place to go for good quality bread and generous, tasty fillings. For a protein and fibre-rich option, try the Roast Chicken & Salad or the Salmon, Cucumber & Watercress sandwiches as they’ll keep you going far longer than the average sandwich. The small mix and match salads deserve a special mention, as options such as the 3-bean or super wholefood salads offer a really satisfying and healthy lunch. Avoid: Their pasta salads are not so good though, as the spinach & pine nuts or chicken versions are pretty low in protein and really won't keep you going. In fact, it’s best to avoid pasta salads from most supermarkets, as they’re unlikely to be made with whole-wheat pasta and so it makes for a pretty starchy lunch that your body will break down quickly leaving you craving for something sweet by about 3.30pm.

Itsu

Enjoy: Itsu’s Slim Salmon or the Omega 3 Salmon Supreme sushi boxes are the best sushi options, containing a good variety of protein (and omega 3) in the form of salmon, edamame beans and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The mixed salad adds to the fibre content of the box and makes them a more balanced and satisfying option than the sushi-only boxes. Avoid: Be wary of the Potsu noodles option, as the high carbohydrate content could lead to a post-lunch slump and you don't want to be caught napping by your boss. If you want a hot meal, choose a rice pot instead, as this contains a blend of brown rice and 7 vegetables that will keep you going for longer.

Greggs

Enjoy: Greggs have a new sandwich range which includes some crusty wholemeal bread options. The  Roast Chicken Salad or the Tuna Crunch Bloomer are your best bet here if you want to keep things healthy, as this comes with fibrous wholemeal bread, lean protein and plenty of added salad. It'll keep you going far longer than the refined white bread options. Avoid: The pasties and bakes. They're all high in starch and saturated fat and won't do your waistline or your energy levels any good. They also contain almost 1/3 of the daily allowance of salt, so this is definitely one to watch if blood pressure is a concern.

Subway

Enjoy: If you opt for the turkey breast 9-grain bread Sub, then this will add a healthy dose of fibre, compared to their standard Italian white bread, which is helped by the added salad vegetables. Turkey is especially low in saturated fat, so this is definitely the one to choose, if you're a Subway devotee. A note of caution though: even if you have the wholemeal version, this 6-inch sub is a lot of starch at one sitting, so don't be surprised if you feel a bit heavy and lethargic later in the afternoon. Avoid: The foot-long Chicken Teriyaki Sub with Italian white bread. This is an overdose of refined carbs with almost 100g at one sitting, which isn't helped by the sugary teriyaki sauce. Your body will break this down into sugar pretty quickly, storing any excess sugar as fat cells and leading to an energy slump mid-afternoon. It’s definitely not the option if you want to be at your brightest and best.

Jackie Lynch www.well-well-well.co.uk @WellWellWellUK To book a consultation at BWW, contact Jackie.lynch@well-well-well.co.uk

Cereal Killers

Do you tuck into a hefty bowl of cereal every morning, secure in the knowledge that it’s a much healthier option than a bacon sandwich or a full English? If so, it might be time to think again, because most commercial cereals are absolutely full of sugar. There is increasing evidence to suggest that excess sugar consumption is at the root of a range of chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, as well as possibly contributing to increased levels of cholesterol. And if you struggle with a stubborn spare tyre that you just can’t shift, again, it’s almost certainly a direct result of your sugar intake.

Ingredients

Do you actually know how much sugar is in your favourite cereal? If you don’t, then it’s time to get up close and personal with the label. A quick glance at the ingredients list will probably reveal more than one of the following: sugar, molasses, honey, dried fruits, fructose, brown sugar, raisins, sultanas, glucose, maltose, raw cane sugar, caramel. It doesn’t matter how it’s expressed – it’s all sugar and the body treats it in exactly the same way, which is to store it first as glycogen in the liver and then as fat around the body.

Nutrition data

The next thing to look at is the nutrition data. Food companies helpfully extract out the sugar content from the carbohydrates, so that you can easily see that in your favourite brand there is, for example, 6g of sugar per 30g portion. It may not sound much, but that’s actually one and a half teaspoons of sugar, so it soon starts to add up. It’s also worth noting that the cited 30g portion is a pretty stingy bowlful, so the chances are that you’re having a much larger portion unless you’re carefully weighing it out.

Things get more complicated when you take a look at the carbohydrate figure. All carbohydrate breaks down into one of three forms of sugar in the body: monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, galactose), disaccharides (sucrose, maltose, lactose) or polysaccharides (digestible starch or indigestible fibre). Fibre comes in both soluble and insoluble form and plays a key part in healthy digestion by ensuring a healthy formation and passage of stools.

If we take Special K as an example, a 30g serving contains 30g of carbohydrate, 11g of sugar and 0.6g of fibre. So, we already know that there is roughly 3 teaspoons of sugar in the portion. Once you’ve extracted the fibre from the carbohydrate, you’re left with 29.4g of carbohydrate that will be broken down into sugar by the body. When you add it on to the 11g of sugar that represents over 40g of sugar – the equivalent of 10 teaspoons, which is far more than a can of regular Coke, for example.

What to look for in a cereal

The food companies are absolute experts at marketing their products in such a way that they appear far more healthy and nutritious than they actually are. You may feel that by steering clear of the more obviously commercial cereals such as Cornflakes, Coco Pops or Weetabix that you’re in the clear. But even the ‘healthy’ brown and grey branding of Dorset Cereals hides roughly 3 teaspoons of added sugar per portion, before you even start to calculate the carbohydrate content. Granolas are also a potential minefield, as many of them can also be high in sugar.

If you want a satisfying breakfast that will keep you going all morning and limit the damage to your waistline, then you need to look for an option that is rich in protein and fibre and limited in added sugar. This is the combination which maintains a blood sugar balance, ensuring sustained energy throughout the morning and helping to combat mid-morning munchies.

The most balanced option in the table below of popular cereals is Lizi’s Original Granola, with roughly equal proportions of protein and fibre and limited sugars, and it is the one I commonly recommend to my clients. It wins out over Weetabix, because the protein source is derived from added nuts and seeds, which is a far more nutritious option than wheat, although it should be noted that Weetabix is fortified with B vitamins and iron which could be important for families operating on a budget and/or struggling to encourage children to eat a balanced diet. However, the reality is that all of these options could do with a bit of help.

If cereal is a quick and easy option for you in the morning, then it’s understandable that you’d want to continue with that, although you may choose to revise your choice of product, based on the data below. Once you’ve selected the one that suits you best, then it’s a simple matter to boost the protein and fibre content by adding a generous tablespoon of pumpkin, sunflower and ground flax seed to the serving and then you’re good to go: a low sugar, protein and fibre-rich breakfast that will keep you going all morning and be kind to your waistline!

1/4 of sugar is roughly equal to one teaspoonJackie Lynch

www.well-well-well.co.uk

@WellWellWellUK

To book a consultation at BWW, contact Jackie.lynch@well-well-well.co.uk