How to Pack Your Lunch Well



Written by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake.

Ever arrived at work to find your soup has leaked in your bag? Or ended up buying a new lunch because you couldn’t face the squashed, “sweaty” cheese sandwich you’d wrestled to work on a crowded bus?  Does your packed salad end up less than appetizing by the time lunchtime arrives?

Here, Michelle Lake & Becky Alexander authors of Packed share their top tips on how to pack the perfect lunch.

  1. Invest in a new lunchbox (or two)
    Lunchboxes are big business these days and there are so many to choose from. In just a couple of weeks you will have saved the cost of buying a box or two by taking your own lunch. The Sistema To Go Salad lunch box has four sections with a mini dressing pot to store all ingredients separately until lunchtime, and even comes with a foldable knife and fork. We love bento-boxes for dips, chopped veggies, olives, nuts andhome-made sushi.  Aladdin and Yumboxes are great.
  1. Clever lids
    Lids that “clip and seal” tend to be more secure and long-lasting than conventional lids which can warp over time.
  1. Collapsible
    You can find collapsible boxes that make taking your box home again easy.
  1. Choose BPA-free
    There is some concern that chemicals from the plastic can seep into food (particularly if the food is heated up) and this could be harmful to our health.  BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used in plastics. Look for BPA-free on the labels.
  1. Salad dressing tips
    Most salads are best dressed just before eating, so pack your dressing separately. One idea is to add your dressing to your lunch box first, then put the salad on top; you just tip it before eating to dress the salad. Mini jam pots are great too.
  1. Super kale
    Kale actually benefits from being dressed in advance as it softens the leaves and becomes easier to digest. In fact, you can dress a whole bowlful of kale leaves and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days to use as a base for different salads.
  1. Keep it cool
    Keep your salads and sandwiches fresh and appetizing by keeping them cool until lunchtime. If you can’t refrigerate your lunch at work buy a couple of mini-ice packs to pop into your lunch box. The Sistema Chill it to Go lunch box comes with an ice brick you can leave in the freezer until ready to use and slot neatly into place in the morning. When the weather is really hot consider putting your lunch into a small cool bag especially if you’re packing fish, eggs or dairy products which can easily go off.
  1. Avoca-dos and don’ts
    We love to include avocado in our lunch – it’s packed with good fats, vitamin E and has a delicious creamy taste. But no one likes brown mushy avo in their salad. Buy small avocados, take one with you to work and add it at lunchtime. It takes seconds to cut in half and scoop out the flesh. If you want to prepare in advance squeeze over plenty of lemon or lime juice to stop it oxidizing and turning brown.
  1. Breakfast on the go
    Keep jam jars as they make perfect “breakfast-on-the go” pots. Fill them with overnight oats, yogurt, fruit, nuts and seeds. Just don’t forget your spoon.
  1. Liven up your lunch
    Fill small containers with nuts and seeds which you can add to your soups or salads to make them more exciting. Homemade pestos also make delicious “stir-ins” and will last several days in the fridge.
  1. Sandwich savvy
    Sandwiches do best assembled directly onto parchment paper, wrapped and then secured with an elastic band.  This allows air to circulate and stops it “sweating”. To prevent a soggy sandwich choose crusty bread or rolls. You can toast and cool your bread to eliminate some moisture before you prepare your sandwich.
  2. Keep it warm
    During the winter months we all crave something warm and nourishing at lunchtime. If you can, heat your food before work and store it in a food flask so it’s ready to eat at lunchtime and avoid queuing for the microwave. Remember to heat your flask with some boiling water before you add your food to help maintain its heat.

Becky Alexander is a food writer (The Guild of Food Writers) and food book editor for companies such as Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bloombsury. She writes a fortnightly food column for The Herts Advertiser newspaper focussing on seasonal, local food. Becky recently appeared on a BBC Radio programme giving commuters easy ideas for their lunches. Michelle Lake DipION CNHC mBANT is a registered Nutritional Therapist and has been running her own busy practice, Mission Nutrition in St Albans for over 10 years. She trained for four years at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition on its internationally acclaimed nutritional therapy course. She is a member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and The Complementary and National Healthcare Council (CNHC).


Becky Alexander, Michelle Lake
£12.99, pre-order from Amazon

Ditch the Detox for 2017


5 practical and accessible health tips from author of the Right Bite Jackie Lynch

If you’re really serious about trying a healthier approach in 2017, then forget about the quick fix or the infamous January detox. They’re not sustainable, they don’t work in the long run and they make for a miserable start to the year.  A more effective approach would be to pick one area for improvement and stick to that throughout the year.

Your body is likely to benefit far more from one small permanent change than a rollercoaster of feast or famine, so pick your favourite of these health-boosting ideas and give it a try for 2017.

  1. Slash the sugar.
    Associated with a range of chronic health conditions, excess sugar is clearly the bad guy of 2017. Cutting out chocolate, cakes and cookies is a great start, but it’s not easy to eliminate sugar from your diet completely. However, you can reduce it significantly by avoiding some of the main culprits. Steer clear of fruit juices and smoothies, as these contain the equivalent of 6-8 teaspoons of sugar. Snack on fresh fruit instead of dried fruit which has about 4 times as much sugar, because the dehydration process intensifies the fruit sugars. Be vigilant with food labels – 4g of sugar is about a teaspoon, which means just a small portion of many popular breakfast cereals contain 4-5 teaspoons of sugar. Anything labelled as low-fat often has added sugar (or salt) to boost the flavour, so do a quick comparison with the full-fat version to check it out. A few smart choices could make a huge difference to your sugar levels.


  • Review your ratios
    Change the ratio of your 5-a-day so the balance is in 4 vegetables to 1 fruit. If you’re already doing that, go for 6 vegetables and 2 fruits! Vegetables are packed full of protective antioxidants and energy and mood- boosting B vitamins, as well as being rich in fibre which promotes healthy digestion, hormone balance and sustained energy levels. Soups and casseroles are easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, without too much effort, as you can just throw them in and let them cook. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, then consider investing in a juicer, as this can be a great way to have a whole range of vegetables in one hit. Don’t forget snacks either – vegetable sticks or cherry tomatoes with some hummus or guacamole is another easy way to help reach your daily veg target.



  • Consider your caffeine
    If your cumulative daily intake exceeds 4 cups of tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks, such as Diet Coke or Red Bull, then you’re having too much. Caffeine has a very powerful influence on the body, increasing the heart rate and impacting blood pressure. Excess caffeine affects the nervous system, resulting in poor quality sleep and impacting mood and energy levels. Consider how you can reduce your intake and set yourself a realistic daily target – for example, if your morning coffee is non-negotiable, then think about avoiding it at other times instead. Find herbal or fruit tea that you like, and drink this in the afternoon. Try sparkling water with cordial as an alternative soft drink, and choose different mixers for alcohol, such as tonic or soda water. If you can manage to even halve your caffeine intake, you will start to see quite a difference to the way you feel.



  • Audit your alcohol
    You may not consider yourself a heavy drinker, but a civilised glass or two of win each night will take its toll in health terms. For 2017, plan 3 consecutive alcohol-free days per week. This will have a far more beneficial impact than going ‘dry’ in January and then partying for the rest of the year. It gives your liver time to regenerate and to focus on some of its other important jobs, such as processing hormones, metabolising fat and regulating blood sugar levels. You’ll also find that this will improve your sleep and energy levels, making you a lot more productive whether at home or at work. This will be especially beneficial if you’re overweight: according to the British Liver Trust, you’re three times more at risk of developing liver disease if you drink alcohol as well.



  • Wave goodbye to wheat.
    There’s no need to eliminate wheat altogether but high levels of refined wheat can be hard to digest, so reducing the amount of wheat in your diet could be a good move for 2017. It’s likely to be especially effective for those people who tend to suffer from stress-related bloating and wind. Wheat is an irritant to a sensitive gut, so you may find that you benefit from cutting it down in times of stress. If you’re regularly having cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner, then that’s quite a burden for your digestive system. Try eliminating wheat from one or two meals by having an oat-based cereal or porridge for breakfast, a rye bread sandwich or soup for lunch or swapping pasta for rice at dinner time. These small changes could reduce that niggling bloating you experience and make you feel far less lethargic.


Good luck and wishing you a happy and healthy 2017.

Jackie Lynch is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and runs the WellWellWell clinics in West London. Passionate about the importance of good nutrition for optimum health, she creates practical nutrition programmes suitable for a busy 21st century lifestyle. Jackie also Jackie Lynchprovides advice and support for a range of blue chip companies, in the form of individual consultations for staff, nutrition workshops and menu analysis and has acted as a food consultant for brands such as Tetley. She is a regular contributor to the Mail on Sunday and the Net Doctor website and her advice features in a wide range of other national media. Visit her website.


Jackie Lynch
The Right Bite
£6.99, available from Nourish Books.
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