5 great healthy lunch ideas
Looking for some lunch inspiration? Whatever your diet, whether you’re plant-based or looking to reduce meat in your diet, it's particularly important to fuel your brain and energy at lunchtime to support you through the rest of the day.
Here are five ideas for lunch to provide the key nutrients your mind and body need to be at their best.
1. Opt for whole grains
Whole grains should form the main foundation of your lunch. They're packed with nutrients, including B Vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals including Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Copper, as well as heaps of fibre to help you feel fuller for longer.
A diet rich in whole grains has been found to provide a host of health benefits which protect against obesity, stroke and chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Discover the 10 symptoms of diabetes to look out for.
Good wholegrain options: Try cooking with quinoa (try these vegan quinoa burritos), bulgur, barley, buckwheat (try this buckwheat curry recipe) brown rice, whole wheat, amaranth or sorghum.
2. Include some plant-based protein
There’s plenty of protein in a multitude of plant-based foods. While fruit is low in protein and oils don’t provide any protein, all other plant foods contain some degree of protein.
Plant-rich sources of protein include grains, legumes, seitan (wheat protein), tofu and nuts, so you can easily meet your protein requirements without the need for animal product consumption (happy days!). Read more in the best protein sources on a plant-based diet.
If you’re on a vegan or plant-based diet you should aim for a slightly higher protein intake of 1.1g protein per kg of body weight, as plant proteins aren’t digested as well as animal proteins. So, if you weigh 60kg, this would equate to 66g a day (ideally spread over the day). You may also enjoy 'Mistakes to avoid on a plant-based diet'.
Good protein options: try making yourself a tofu scramble. It’s a delicious, high protein egg replacer that has all of the protein, none of the cholesterol and a fraction of calories when compared to a regular egg scramble!
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3. Don’t forget your fatty acids
Fatty acids provide your body with energy, support your brain health, help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, support your joints and eye health, and much more!
Our bodies can make saturated and mono-unsaturated fats, but there are two poly-unsaturated fats that it can’t make - omega-6 (Linolenic acid) and omega-3 (Alpha-linolenic acid).
You can get your omega-6 oils from vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds and sunflower, corn and soy oil.
For your omega-3, chia seeds, avocados, walnuts, and flaxseed are all useful sources. And don't forget your vegan Omega 3 supplement with 300mg DHA and 150mg EPA.
Good options for Omega 3: Why not pair whole-grain toast with vegan cream cheese, spinach, avocados and chia seeds - it’s packed with healthy fats!
4. Bulk up on B12
Vegan foods are naturally void of Vitamin B12 since this vitamin is made by micro-organisms in animals (not by plants). Vitamin B12 deficiency is common, particularly among those on a plant-based diet - learn more about the 5 signs you may be low in Vitamin B12.
To ensure you get at least 1.5 micrograms per day, try foods fortified with Vitamin B12 such as cereals, vegan spreads and nutritional yeast flakes, and fortified plant-based milks.
It's important to note that if you are unable to meet the requirements through fortified foods, you will need to add a Vitamin B12 supplement to your regime.
Good options for B12: creamy vegan pasta is a great option. The sauce can be made with plant-based milk, cashews and nutritional yeast.
Shop Vitamin B12, known as "The Energy Vitamin" and essential for the production of red blood cells and maintaining a healthy heart.
5. Remember Calcium
Some people worry that a vegan diet makes it difficult to gain sufficient Calcium but as long as you’re following a healthy balanced diet, it shouldn't be too difficult to reach your daily requirements.
In fact, cup for cup, Calcium-fortified soy milk, Calcium-fortified orange juice, and many dark leafy greens have about the same Calcium as cows milk.
Useful Calcium sources include dried figs, leafy green veggies, seeds, nuts, oranges, kidney beans, whole grains, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, tofu, broccoli, kale and romaine lettuce.
Good options for Calcium: Try a chickpea curry. Make it with delicious spices and serve with flatbread or brown rice and it can be calcium-rich regular!
Want to learn more? We think you'll enjoy reading The most Googled nutrition questions answered (3 min read).
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Written by nutritionist, Riya Lakhani, ANutr