As the days get colder, sandwiches and summer salads don’t always satisfy us at lunchtime. With a little planning and preparation you can have satisfying and comforting seasonal lunches every day of the week.
- Pile up your veggies. Workloads often build up during the autumn months, and combined with chillier days means you need help fighting off any train and office colds. Try to make sure that at least half your lunch is made up of immune-boosting veggies. Soups are a great way to pack them in, and did you know you can just add a handful of leaves and stir in? Rocket, kale and watercress go well with lots of soups; just stir in a handful for a boost of vitamin C, beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Simply pack the leaves in a separate container and stir into your soup when you’re ready to eat.
- Plan ahead. Make a big batch of soup, curry or chilli one evening or at the weekend. Freeze individual portions so you always have something you can take to work. Take a flatbread with you and you have an amazing lunch.
- Squash in some nutrients. Nothing says Autumn quite like the piles of multi-shaped squash you find in farm shops and supermarkets at this time of year. Squash last for ages before you cut them open and are a really versatile ingredient. The brightly coloured orange flesh of pumpkin and butternut varieties is full of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant which plays an important role in skin and eye health. Cut your squash into chunks (skin on if you like) and toss in olive oil before roasting. When cool add leaves, feta cheese and lentils, or whatever you have in the kitchen to make a great packed lunch.
- Beet yourself up. Beetroots boast an impressive nutrient content. They are rich in anthocyanin, which gives them their crimson colouring and makes them a powerful detoxifier. Wrap them in foil and roast in their skins to keep the nutrients intact. You can then peel and slice when ready to use and add to salads. Beetroot also make a rich, earthy base for dips or soups. You can also eat their iron-rich leaves in salads but only whilst they are still crisp and fresh.
- Make a satisfying slaw. Red cabbage, carrots and apples all last for ages and make a very quick slaw. Slice a chunk of cabbage and an apple, mix in a grated carrot, add a few pumpkin seeds and mix with a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt for a delicious super-fresh slaw. As well as being easy on your wallet, cabbage is great for your tummy promoting lots of friendly bacteria. Red cabbage also contains plenty of disease fighting antioxidants responsible for its pigmentation.
- Pack smart. Treat yourself to a funky new wide-brimmed thermos flask to take soup, stews and chillis to work. Fill it with boiling water for a minute or two before emptying, then add your hot lunch; no need to microwave at work. The money you save on takeaway soup will pay for it in a week.
3 Ways With Squash
- Chop up your squash and roast with some olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add them to soups or stews for some fibre-rich slow-releasing energy and ditch your bread roll.
- Store your roasted squash in the fridge as a filling base for an autumnal salad. Place a handful into a lidded jar or container, add some sliced red onion and chopped red pepper. Crumble over 50g of feta cheese and top with two handfuls of green leaves such as rocket or watercress. A dressing of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil will perfectly complement the roasted squash.
- Blend the roasted squash with some pine nuts, butterbeans, garlic and lemon juice to make a yummy dip. Oatcakes, chicory leaves and celery sticks make tasty dippers.
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 7 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 Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC).
Becky Alexander, Michelle Lake
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