When the workday gets tough, the tough often run out for a comforting burger, nachos or dumplings. But despite appearances, there are plenty of healthy options even in an average food court.
Corporate Nutritionist head dietician Kara Landau says when looking for a healthy lunch people need to follow the rule of half salad, quarter starchy vegetables or complex carbohydrates and a quarter of or meat or protein
“If they eat other food they get high and then crash an hour or so later, when you have a big load of [simple] carbs or sugar, like a focaccia, that promotes serotonin which will make you calm but it will also make you sleepy,” Landau says.
“If you are feeling tired you might grab a muffin, but instead look for something like healthy nuts or a healthy protein source that promotes dopamine release which will make you feel more alert.”
Landau says there are several common mistakes people make when searching for healthy food.
“The average smoothie is actually the amount of kilojoules you’d find in a chicken sandwich plus a little yogurt and an apple,” she says.
Another common mistake is over-eating. Landau says, for example, while sushi is healthy in moderation, many people have three-four sushi rolls, which is a large portion of rice.
So here’s a guide on what to eat to get the most of your lunch, and out of your local lunch options.
A few are fine, but too many is way too much rice. California rolls with mayo, or any battered varieties, are best avoided.
Even though they look like health in a glass, be wary of the sugary frozen yogurts and Greek yogurt with added sugar that bump up the calories.
Yogurt (fat-free is ok)
Watch out for the sugary granola, fat-free yogurt that’s actually filled with added sugar.
Salads with too much dressing
The goodness of the greens will be annihilated by too much dressing. So ask for it on the side and control how much you add.
Landau says while people think a vegetarian foccaica is healthy – it’s a common trap. It’s too much simple carbohydrate in the bread.
Yes! Really. Suprisingly healthy with plenty of vegetables and meat, Landau says to either get the business to make it into a salad, or ask for a kids size – the large wrap (and side of chips) is what you want to avoid.
Sashimi or sushi
These are great in moderation. Try two sushi rolls or a plate of sashimi with a side salad.
Burger – the healthy way
— Grill’d Burgers (@GrilldBurgers) November 28, 2013
Places like Grill’d in Melbourne offer a healthier burger alternative. Landau recommends people seek out this type (rather than the popular American style) and ditch the top bun.
While you’ll want to avoid fried rice and rice noodles, stirfry could be a good choice particularly chicken or vegetable options without too much sauce.
Clear broth soup
Watch out for soups, says Landau. Some can be full of cream and fat and come with bread. The best ones to look for are clear broths with meat or fish and noodles – soba, udon or egg noodles are good, but it’s best to avoid rice noodles.
Breakfast for lunch
Eggs on wholegain toast is a winner in the protein and health stakes.
Yes, with the sour cream, cheese and all the other accompaniments it’s no beacon of health, but take away those ingredients, add beans and veges and you’re on a winner.
Sorry. No nachos, but a Mexican beef or bean salad with some corn on the cob is a healthy alternative.
Landau says one easy way to find healthy food is to seek out certain foods which haven’t been as westernised. Try Greek or Turkish cuisine for grilled meat and vegetables, while African cuisines, like Ethiopian have low fat curries. Above are a range of curries at African restaurant in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Nyala.