Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and tea like a pauper may be the saying but if your lunchtime pack up has become the same thing day in and day out, you need these 10 healthy packed lunch ideas to add zest to your midday meal.
SPICY ROASTED SALMON
If your memory of salmon is the stuff in the tin, then visit the fishmonger to see the beautiful pink flesh of farmed and wild salmon. An excellent oily fish, salmon keeps its flavour and texture when cooked, even if you’ve had it in the freezer. Thaw it out, add a spice crust – as a ‘meaty’ fish, salmon works well with most flavours – and roast until cooked through. Lay the salmon on top of couscous, and pile on the salad leaves and any other veg and fruit morsels you fancy. If you need a salad dressing, opt for a creamy version.
MEDITERRANEAN SALAD WITH CHICKEN
Mediterranean cuisine brings zesty colour to your lunch box and this gluten-free lunch is certainly working the extra effort. Roast or pan-fry a chicken breast, coated in coriander, salt and pepper (add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat too, if you like) until cooked through. Leave to cool.
On a bed of lettuce – opt for more flavoursome leaves than just iceberg – adding chopped tomatoes, pickled peppers and olives (opt for black or green and consider flavoured options too). When cool, slice the chicken and lay it on the lettuce. Combine with a fat-free vinaigrette or a creamy dressing.
Tip: To avoid a soggy salad, put the salad in a separate container to the dressing and dress just before eating.
MEDITERRANEAN CHICKPEA SALAD
When it comes to rustling up tasty salads for lunchboxes, canned peas, beans and other pulses really are worthy of a place in your store cupboard. Chickpeas have a gloriously nutty yet creamy flavour making them popular in a range of dishes. In this salad, they are teamed alongside sliced sweet red onion, a riot of lettuce leaves, as well as crumbly feta cheese.
Making your own salad dressing is also easy, allowing you to adjust the flavours to your palate. With a handful of ingredients, you can add zest and zing to any salad but with this one, opt for citrus flavours with an olive oil base. Add a drop of honey and shake well for a tasty but not overly sweet salad dressing.
Hint – roast chickpeas in the oven until they start to colour. Coat in spices or salt and pepper, place in a dish to cool. You have a great snack for pre or post- healthy packed lunch nibbles.
Collard greens are often overlooked when it comes to all meals, but especially at lunchtime. A collard cabbage has large, broad, dark green leaves, perfect substituting as a gluten-free version of fajita wraps and other bread. They also make a welcome change to bread and wraps, and if you are trying to cut down on carbs.
Stuff the leaves with your favourite fillings – from grated cheese, carrot, and other salad additions, as well as your favourite meat or vegetarian option. Roll and warp just as you would a fajita, but you’ll need a bamboo skewer to keep the collard wraps rolled.
STAR-SHAPED SANDWICHES FOR KIDS (AND BIG KIDS)
For children, their lunchbox needs to be not only appealing and jam-packed full of colour and flavour, but easy to eat on the go too. Sandwiches or wraps make the ideal choice. Up the ante with the visual appeal in a healthy packed lunch with shapes and flavour:
Use cookie cutters to cut out star shapes or flowers, ideal for smaller fingers and for making bite-sized pieces of sandwiches
Keep fillings simple and delicious such as egg mayo (for older children, why not add a hint of curry powder for a little extra flavour?), coronation chicken (cooked chicken in mayonnaise with a hint of curry powder and mango chutney for sweetness) or use vegan meat-free alternatives.
THE BLACK-BEAN BURGER
Yes, you can have a burger for lunch! This recipe for black bean burger is vegetarian friendly and with a few tweaks would suit vegans too. Great for teatime, pan fry an extra patty or two and when cold, stack them into a burger bun along with lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes, red onion slices or whatever your fancy. Take a pot of BBQ or red sauce with you in your lunch and tuck into your burger. You’ll be the envy of all your workmates.
This is another fantastic idea for a healthy packed lunch when it has started to feel stale and all-the-same. Use ‘cupped’ lettuce such as Romaine lettuce or butterhead lettuce as these have the best leaves for holding fillings.
The fillings can be anything you desire from tuna mayo with sweetcorn to cooked chicken, coronation chicken, egg mayo, as well as the many vegan sandwich fillers that you can either make yourself or get from the chiller aisle of the local supermarket.
However, a ‘wet’ sandwich filling will wilt the lettuce leaving it looking and tasting past its best. Take a range of sandwich filling in small pots, along with some grated carrot and sliced tomatoes and construct your lettuce cups when it’s time to eat.
STRAWBERRY AND SPINACH SALAD
Strawberries are often eaten as a dessert or for when you need something sweet but they also lend their flavour well to savoury dishes such as this spinach leave salad. Hull and quarter the strawberries and mix with washed spinach leaves in a bowl or your lunch box. Add a few strips of cooked chicken or vegan alternative. Now pile on sliced black olives and a handful of crumbled feta.
In a small pot, add a generous dash of olive oil and lemon juice to taste, along with a sprinkling of salt. Mix well. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for a hint of heat (but not too much). Just before you eat the salad, give the salad dressing a good shake and pour across the salad.
A healthy packed lunch doesn’t mean leaving out all the sweet stuff. The best diet is a balanced one and there are times when we all need a little sweetness. There are lots of healthy dessert recipes to choose from, but sometimes just mixing up the way you present your fruit can make difference to dessert.
Fruit skewers are a fun way of adding just a little bit of fruit to the diet. Choose your favourite fruit and chop it into small squares for children or cut them into larger pieces for older kids and adults lunch boxes. Quartered strawberries with grapes, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are a great combination. There’s also pineapple and grapefruit, mango chunks as well as watermelon that add a refreshing dessert to any lunchbox.
PACKED LUNCH SNACKS
And finally, for when you want lunch but without the hassle of salad or buying expensive sandwiches, falafel frittersare a great choice. Add a creamy dip and serve along with sliced cucumber with a dill dressing. And for a bit of extra fibre, why not take a high fibre brownie to finish off your meal.
Healthy packed lunches don’t have to be boring; with these ideas you’re sure to look forward to a delicious, yet health giving lunchtime dish.