Picture this.  It’s lunch time.  You’re hungry,but you have work to do.  Lots of it!  So you grab something from the office canteen, or perhaps a Boots meal deal.  Sound familiar?  Thought so!

A quick sarnie at your desk is often the best we can manage.  You’ll all have heard me harp on about the effects of bread (and all highly refined wheat products) on your waistline.  Even the supposedly healthy granary stuff will still spike your insulin in much the same way as pure sugar.  Not ideal if you’re trying to fight the flab.

“But Amber”, I hear you cry, “what on earth can I eat for lunch?”

It’s a fair question.  Sadly lunch on the go is one of the hardest things to do healthily, when 90% of the choice is based around sandwiches, paninis and wraps.  I strongly urge people to make their own lunch (leftovers are good, frittata made up on a Sunday, portions of soup that can be reheated in the office), but I fully appreciate that this is not always possible.  Even with the best intentions and planning, sometimes we get caught short and the only option is to buy something while you’re out and about.

So for those occasions when a shop bought lunch is the only option, here are my tips for trying to keep it clean, or at least make the best choice possible.

*NOTE:  I am basing this on UK outlets.  If you live elsewhere in the globe, please feel free to add your comments and suggestions!

Where’s hot?

M&S is a winner every time.  They actually do a great range of tasty, filling salads that tick all the boxes.  Their superfood salad is one of my personal favourites and they also do a few different quinoa based ones.

Waitrose also has a good range, much like M&S.  Good quality ingredients and high on taste too.  Waitrose now has an increasing range of smaller “express” stores in town centres, so keep your eyes peeled.

EAT. serves up a half decent soup.  Truth be told they probably use a bit of wheat as a thickening agent, but compared to a cheese panini it’s not a bad bet.  Their thai chicken soup is really delicious.  Pass on the bread roll 🙂

Pret also serves soup, a decent range of salads and some sushi options.  Again, these might not all be 100% clean but they are a reasonable choice when push comes to shove.

NB:  For local Cambridge people, I can thoroughly recommend Sticky Beaks (sit down and takeaway) who have a changing menu but offer lots of tasty salads (e.g, buttnernut squash and feta) and specialise in gluten-free offerings.  Just be warned that they also have a really tempting range of homemade cakes!  And if you have time for a quick sit down lunch the vegetarian Rainbow Cafe on Kings Parade is rather good.

Where’s not?

As a general rule, the big chain coffee shops are not geared up for healthy lunches.  They love a sarnie and a pasta salad, but it’s hard to get much that is vaguely clean, except perhaps a piece of fruit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Starbucks as an occasional indulgence but when it comes to lunch they don’t have the best choice.

Starbucks does at least steer slightly away from just sandwiches.  Their Bistro boxes are the best bet if you can’t get anywhere else.  Their falafel one is pretty tasty (but does come served with mini pitta), and the tuna one also (which comes with potatoes…. not the end of the world).

Costa is one of the worst though.  I am a big fan of their coffee but they really do serve only pre-packed bread-based products.  And their one or two salad offerings are laden with white pasta.  Save Costa for a caffeine-based treat and lunch elsewhere…..

….if you’re trying to keep that tummy tight.  I’m not saying you should never eat another BLT ever again, but if you find yourself regularly grabbing lunch on the go, then try to opt for my earlier suggestion.

Here’s to a happy tummy!