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Delicious packed lunch ideas and breakfast on the move

5 min read

Delicious packed lunch ideas and breakfast on the move
Too run off your feet to sit down for breakfast or lunch? These packed lunch ideas will keep you fed all through the day without sacrificing health or flavour
Try to make packed lunches not only nutritious but colourful and fun to eat—suitable for public scrutiny (or peer group pressure in the case of children) and as original and varied as possible. A tall order? No, read this…

Packing good things

mixed bean salad topped with tuna and eggs
Look at the guidelines for a healthy lunch below to help you plan imaginative and well-balanced packed lunches. Here are a few tempting ideas to inspire you and end the days of boring lunches.
  • A wedge of Spanish omelette or frittata packed with capsicum strips, cherry tomatoes and radishes.
  • A baked chicken leg or thigh with homemade coleslaw and a crusty bread roll.
  • Tabbouleh (salad of burghul, diced tomato, cucumber, fresh herbs and lemon juice) topped with poached or grilled salmon or chicken.
  • Smoked mackerel dip with vegetable and fruit crudités and oatcakes, crisp bread or a wholemeal roll.
  • Mixed bean salad topped with canned tuna, with breadsticks, ciabatta or pita bread.
  • Rice salad with smoked fish, chopped orange and mixed vegetables.
  • Pasta salad with lightly cooked broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and a little cubed mozzarella.
  • Beefsteak tomatoes filled with chopped cooked prawns and cottage cheese.
  • New potato salad with pickled herrings, apple, cucumber and red onion.
  • Falafel, eaten cold with eggplant and apricot couscous salad.
  • A selection of offerings from the deli, such as prosciutto, olives, feta and fresh bread.

Travelling light

Sandwiches may be the ultimate portable meal, but there are plenty of other options that are easy to pack in a lunchbox and just as satisfying to eat.
When planning a packed lunch, choose foods that will travel well, and include a drink, preferably something simple such as water or fruit juice, unless you can buy this. Don’t forget to include a fork and spoon, if necessary, plus a serviette.
It’s important to observe good hygiene when preparing packed lunches, particularly for children. Cut food on a clean board with clean knives, and keep all foods well chilled before packing, especially those that are susceptible to food poisoning bacteria (eg, meat, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products).
If preparing a packed lunch the night before, wrap it well and store it in the fridge. In hot weather, pack the meal in an insulated box or bag with an ice pack.
It is also a good idea to freeze any drinks or yogurts—by the time lunchtime arrives, they will have thawed and be refreshingly cool.

Super sandwiches

avocado, lettuce, watercress and ham sandwiches
It’s amazing what you can pack between two slices of bread, and how nourishing and satisfying a sandwich can be. Whether you make your own or buy it, there is an endless variety of breads and sandwich fillings to choose from.

Tips for successful sandwiches

If buttering the bread, soften the butter first so it is easier to spread thinly and sparingly.
To prevent soggy sandwiches, rather than buttering the bread, put lettuce leaves between the filling and the bread.
To add extra flavour and moisture, instead of butter or mayonnaise, try a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce or lemon juice, or spread the bread with a salsa or fruity chutney.

Tasty filling ideas

Sandwiches can make a great receptacle for leftovers, such as roast or grilled meat or poultry, poached fish, grilled vegetables, and so on, or you can use pantry stand-bys such as canned fish and vegetables. These ideas are just a few of the fillings you can try.
  • Canned tuna (in spring water), canned corn kernels, green olives or capers, and low-fat cream cheese, plus crunchy leaves such as cos or little gem lettuce.
  • Sliced or mashed avocado and smoked salmon or trout (or cottage cheese) sprinkled with lime juice and black pepper, plus watercress or oak leaf lettuce leaves.
  • Tapenade (black olive pâté), sliced hard-boiled egg and sprigs of watercress.
  • Lean prosciutto, sliced ripe figs and rocket.
  • Crumbled blue cheese, baby spinach leaves and pecans.
  • Canned sardines, shaved fennel and fresh basil leaves.
  • Hummus, halved cherry tomatoes, strips of red capsicum and shredded Chinese cabbage (wrapped up in soft flour tortillas).
  • Chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, onion and capsicums) with balsamic vinegar and rocket.
  • Slices of chicken breast, minted yogurt, fresh mango and soft lettuce leaves.
  • Peanut butter, low-fat cream cheese and grated carrot (this is a favourite with children).
  • Canned salmon mixed with low-fat natural yogurt and a little low-fat mayonnaise, topped with thin cucumber slices and sprigs of watercress.
  • Diced chicken and canned corn kernels bound with a little lemon mayonnaise, plus mustard cress.
  • Canned chickpeas mashed with tahini dressing, black olives and grated carrot, plus mixed salad leaves (best in pita bread).

Breakfast on the move

Breakfast replenishes energy levels after the night "fast", and studies have shown that people who eat breakfast regularly perform better at work or school, have fewer mood swings and are less likely to have weight problems.
If you don’t have time to eat breakfast before you set out in the morning, try taking one of the following snacks with you to eat when you arrive at your destination.
  • 2 slices of lightly buttered cinnamon raisin bread or a thick slice of fruit bread, plus a couple of mandarins or an orange.
  • Oatcakes sandwiched together with a little honey, plus a banana or a tub of fresh berries.
  • An individual portion of unsweetened muesli or granola, plus a small carton of milk or a pot of low-fat natural yogurt to mix with it.
  • A tub of ricotta and a few ripe apricots.
  • A handful of mixed dried fruit and seeds/nuts.
  • A tub of fruit salad, a pot of low-fat natural yogurt, and a homemade muffin, flapjack or fruit scone.

…or brunch

Pack a wholesome snack for a combined breakfast and lunch.
  • A bagel filled with low-fat cream cheese, canned tuna in spring water, or pickled fish.
  • Irish soda bread with smoked salmon.
  • A savoury muffin (such as herb, or cheese and leek) with a tub of ricotta or cottage cheese.
  • A ciabatta roll filled with hard-boiled egg, lean grilled bacon or prosciutto, and sliced tomato.

A little something sweet

fresh fruit and yogurt in plastic pots
It’s fine to include something sweet in your lunch box if it boosts your nutritional intake. Fresh and dried fruit are obvious additions and are convenient to pack.
To prevent boredom setting in, try not to get stuck in a rut with fruit—aim to buy something different every time you shop.
Vary fresh fruit according to what’s in season: grapes, figs, apples and pears in autumn; citrus fruit, persimmon and apples in winter; cherries, bananas, pomelo and apricots in late spring/early summer; and berries, plums, lychees, mangoes and peaches in summer.
Dried fruit offers lots of possibilities, too: try prunes, mangoes, pears, peaches, apricots, figs, raisins and dates, such as the rich Medjool dates from Egypt and California. Or you could try a fruit-flavoured yogurt.
Another option is a cereal bar (check the label to be sure it is low in fat and sugar and has a high grain and fruit content) or a small wedge of panforte (an Italian cake of pressed dried fruit and nuts).
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