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.
- 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.
- Clever lids
Lids that “clip and seal” tend to be more secure and long-lasting than conventional lids which can warp over time.
You can find collapsible boxes that make taking your box home again easy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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