Best lunchtime fast foods
Not only does using the leaves of a lettuce as a substitute for bread cut down on carbs, it ups your magnesium and potassium consumption – especially if you use the outer leaves. Mix together cooked chicken breast, beansprouts, finely diced red pepper, diced water chestnuts and some thin rice noodles that you’ve soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften them. Toss with a little sesame oil, low-sodium soy sauce and rice wine vinegar or lime juice. Assemble your rolls at work, packing leaves and filling separately, or divide the leaves of a little gem lettuce and use these as edible spoons.
Sneak lots of vegetables into your lunchbox by making muffins with equal parts grated carrot, courgette and spring onions. Make a basic muffin batter using 9oz plain flour and a level tablespoon of baking powder, into which you stir a mug-full of each of the vegetables (about 100g) before adding all the wet ingredients: 100g butter or oil, a 300ml carton of buttermilk or yoghurt topped up with about 100ml of skimmed milk, and a large egg. Mix very quickly, pour into a 12-hole muffin tin that you’ve greased, and bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade (180 in a fan oven), gas mark 6. Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan before baking for a cheesy hit.
Using unleavened bread, like a chappati, roti or tortilla, as the base for a pizza is quick, low carb, and gives you a crispy result. If you don’t have access to an oven, put it in the toaster first to crisp up, add your toppings, and zap for a minute in the microwave. Top with tomato passatta or puree, slices of fresh tomato, olives, thinly sliced mushrooms and sprinkle over a little reduced fat cheddar or mozzarella, which is one of the lowest fat cheeses. A very small amount of parmesan will up the flavour quotient without adding many calories, as will a few chilli flakes.
Rice paper spring rolls
Laying your hands on a pack of rice wrappers, which go almost transparent when soaked in water, and stick together really well, opens up a world of possibilities. If you find wraps a bit stodgy, these will tickle your tastebuds. Tuna, cooked prawns or chicken can be layered with julienned carrots, cucumber or courgette. Use a potato peeler to get fine ribbons quickly, then slice lengthways to get long strips. Add avocado slices for ‘good’ fats.
Briefly dip your rice wrapper in water or brush water over it using a pastry brush, lay your toppings across the middle, fold over, tuck in the sides and roll up. Take a dipping sauce in a small container, made from rice vinegar, chopped coriander, wasabi paste and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil.
If you’re cooking rice, new potatoes, pasta, quinoa, couscous or any other carb for dinner, cook extra and make a salad for lunch the next day. This sort of salad keeps for days and is well balanced if you don’t put too much of the starchy ingredient in there. Try to keep it to no more than half of the overall volume.
Combine pasta with a tin of borlotti or cannellini beans, lots of chopped ripe tomatoes, celery and cucumber and tinned tuna (buy it in olive oil and that’s your dressing sorted, along with a squeeze of lemon).
A tray of roasted Mediterranean veg mixed with couscous, dressed with lemon and a tin of chickpeas makes a nutritious and delicious salad. Or for a really simple mix, grate an equal amount of carrot to your couscous, add chickpeas and lemon juice, and then chop in a whole bunch of coriander, stalks and all.
Although the colour may be alarming, new potatoes, beetroot cubes, lots of spring onions and ribbons of courgette and carrot, with low fat dressing and some slices of ham or chicken, make a delicious lunchbox-filler.
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