From protein boxes to super-charged salads: Summer lunches to keep you full — but not fill you out!
The first sniff of sunshine and suddenly stodgy sandwiches or hearty soups aren’t what we feel like having for lunch.
Fortunately, the High Street has plenty of new ‘healthy’ options, from plant-based wraps to meals boasting a high protein content to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
But are they as virtuous as they seem? We asked dietitian Duane Mellor, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, to assess a selection. We then rated them…
Waitrose Miso Roasted Sweet Potato Wrap
Healthy? Sweet potato is a good source of vitamin A, needed for healthy vision
£2.80. Per serving: Calories, 390; saturated fat, 5.1g; protein, 8.6g; fibre, 3.7g; sugar, 11.8g; salt, 1.43g
WHAT YOU GET: A chilli tortilla filled with sweet potato, spinach, carrot, mooli [a type of radish], red pepper and spring onion, and topped with chilli relish and vegan mayonnaise.
EXPERT VERDICT: You might just get one of your five-a-day. Sweet potato is a good source of vitamin A, needed for healthy vision, and red peppers provide vitamin C, for immune function.
It’s great to see the unusual mooli in here — 100g has a third of your daily vitamin C needs, but there won’t be anywhere near that here. Like many vegan options, this is slightly low in protein.
EAT Chicken, Guacamole & Quinoa Salad
Chilli chicken plus guacamole, quinoa, rice, beans, grilled peppers and crunchy corn
Price unavailable. Per serving: Calories, 507; saturated fat, 2.7g; protein, 24g; fibre, 14.2g; sugar, 5.4g; salt, 2.1g
WHAT YOU GET: Chilli chicken plus guacamole, quinoa, rice, beans, grilled peppers and crunchy corn.
EXPERT VERDICT: This is a great salad, with two of your five-a-day. The beans provide iron (for healthy blood cells), potassium (good for blood pressure) and magnesium (which supports muscle function and the immune system). This also contains a good amount of protein and almost half of your daily fibre needs, required for a healthy gut.
The only downside is this has a third of your maximum daily salt intake, but if this is all you have for lunch it’s not too much of a problem.
Greggs Mexican Chicken Wrap
Tasty: Chicken breast with chipotle chilli sauce, mixed peppers, salad leaves and chipotle chilli mayonnaise in a tortilla wrap
£2.60. Per serving: Calories, 464; saturated fat, 4.1g; protein, 21g; fibre, not given; sugar, 16g; salt, 1.9g
WHAT YOU GET: Chicken breast with chipotle chilli sauce, mixed peppers, salad leaves and chipotle chilli mayonnaise in a tortilla wrap.
EXPERT VERDICT: At 464 calories, this is under the 600-calorie guideline for lunch. It has a good amount of protein and the peppers will provide some vitamin C.
But it contains four teaspoons of sugar — high for a sandwich — which is mainly in the sauce. We should limit added sugar to 30g a day, as it releases energy faster than natural sugar in food such as fruit, and is thought to be more of a problem for weight gain and tooth decay.
M&S Asparagus & Pea Potato Salad
Peas, asparagus stalks and new potato with a linseed sprinkle and Caesar dressing
£3. Per serving: Calories, 115; saturated fat, 0.8g; protein, 4.1g; fibre, 3.8g; sugar, 2.9g; salt, 0.43g
WHAT YOU GET: Peas, asparagus stalks and new potato with a linseed sprinkle and Caesar dressing.
EXPERT VERDICT: The linseeds will add fibre and a small amount of omega 3, thought to be good for heart health, and peas are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.
Asparagus contains more iron than most green vegetables, as well as a little vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.
While some people think potatoes are not that good for you as they’re starchy, when they’re cold, the starches become harder to digest, which makes them good for bowel health. This is more a side dish — add a piece of grilled chicken or salmon to make it a filling lunch.
Costa British Harissa Chicken & Grain Salad
Chicken pieces with grains, lentils, chickpeas, peppers and a creamy dressing
£3.99. Per serving: Calories, 302; saturated fat, 1.9g; protein, 18g; fibre, 10g; sugar, 4.9g; salt, 0.8g
WHAT YOU GET: Chicken pieces with grains, sweetcorn, lentils, chickpeas, peppers and a creamy dressing.
EXPERT VERDICT: This would make a good balanced lunch. It has almost two-thirds of your recommended daily protein intake, along with slow-release carbohydrates and high fibre from pulses and grains. Research suggests a meal that combines these nutrient levels can improve satiety.
It’s also reasonably low in fat and not too high in sugar. The lentils will provide a small amount of iron, and vitamin C in the peppers helps your body absorb this. A low-sugar yoghurt for calcium and a piece of fruit would round this lunch off nicely.
Starbucks Vegan Beetroot Wrap
A beetroot and chia tortilla wrap with butternut squash, spinach, red peppers, black turtle beans and a chipotle relish
£2.99. Per serving: Calories, 368; saturated fat, 4.1g; protein, 9.3g; fibre, 4.2g; sugar, 7.5g; salt, 1.2g
WHAT YOU GET: A beetroot and chia tortilla wrap with butternut squash, spinach, red peppers, black turtle beans, sweetcorn and a chipotle relish.
EXPERT VERDICT: Studies suggest beetroot juice can lower blood pressure, but there won’t be enough here. Plant-based protein sources tend to lack one or two of the essential amino acids we need, but the varied sources, such as beans and wheat, mean those missing from one can be found in another. While not too high in salt, it contains around a fifth of a woman’s daily limit of saturated fat.
ITSU Salmon Wrap
Simple: Salmon and avocado chunks wrapped in white sushi rice
£5.49. Per serving: Calories, 392; saturated fat, 4.1g; protein, 11.7g; fibre, 3.5g; sugar, 7.8g; salt, 2.13g
WHAT YOU GET: Salmon and avocado chunks wrapped in white sushi rice, drizzled with shiso (a green leaf, from the mint family) and wasabi mayonnaise.
EXPERT VERDICT: White rice has a high glycaemic index — a measure of how quickly it raises blood sugar — but when it’s chilled, the starches become more resistant so this is mitigated a litle. Salmon provides some heart-healthy omega-3 fats, but this is not as high in protein as you might expect as the fish pieces are small. It’s lacking in fruit and veg, and there is also around a fifth of a woman’s daily limit of saturated fat, due to the mayo.
This is nutritionally equivalent to a sandwich — unusual for sushi, which tends to be lighter.
LEON Plantain Curry
Hearty: A sweet potato, coconut milk and plantain curry with brown rice
£4.95. Per serving: Calories, 482; saturated fat, 3g; protein, 11g; fibre, 5g; sugar, 7g; salt, 1.7g
WHAT YOU GET: A sweet potato, coconut milk and plantain curry with brown rice.
EXPERT VERDICT: Although the protein level here is quite low, it comes from two sources — brown rice and plantain — which provides a balance of different amino acids, needed for tissue repair. Plantain also contains some vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A.
However, as this is quite a substantial meal — with 482 calories — I’d expect there to be more protein. It only has a sixth of your recommended daily fibre intake, too.
M&S Tandoori Chicken & Pakora Protein Box
Marinated chicken pieces, fried pakora bites, cucumber slices and mango chunks
£3. Per serving: Calories, 179; saturated fat, 0.7g; protein, 16.8g; fibre, 3.4g; sugar, 6.5g; salt, 0.73g
WHAT YOU GET: Marinated chicken pieces, fried pakora bites, cucumber slices and mango chunks.
EXPERT VERDICT: You get some protein from the chicken, but other lunches here provide more, without making the ‘high protein’ claim. In fact, most people in the UK — especially meat-eaters — don’t struggle to get enough protein.
The mango will provide some vitamin C, though it’s higher in sugar than some fruits. You’ll get fewer than half the calories you’d want for a lunch. Adding more fruit and a medium salad would bulk it out for more energy and fibre.
Starbucks Vegan Mac
Macaroni pasta with a butternut squash sauce, spinach and a parsley crumb
£3.99. Per serving: Calories, 470; saturated fat, 10g; protein, 12g; fibre, 5.1g; sugar, 1.9g; salt, 1.9g
WHAT YOU GET: Macaroni pasta with a butternut squash sauce, spinach and a parsley crumb.
EXPERT VERDICT: This provides around a quarter of your recommended daily protein intake, which we need for energy as well as tissue growth and repair. The main source here is pasta.
However, this contains the highest amount of saturated fat of all the lunches, with half of a woman’s daily limit. Too much saturated fat has been linked with heart disease.
Eating this with a bean salad in a light dressing would make it a more nutritious lunch, balancing the proteins and also adding fibre.
Caffe Nero Chargrilled Veg & Supergreen Salad
Peppers and courgette with green salad, red pepper hummus, spinach and an orange and rosemary dressing
£5.95. Per serving: Calories, 120; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 3.4g; fibre, 6g; sugar, 10.4g; salt, 2.4g
WHAT YOU GET: Peppers and courgette with green salad, red pepper hummus, spinach and an orange and rosemary dressing.
EXPERT VERDICT: Chargrilling vegetables only changes their nutrient content slightly, as although it damages the cell structure, it makes some nutrients more readily available to us.
The hummus provides a little iron and fibre. While low in saturated fat, this has more than a third of your daily salt limit, and two teaspoons of sugar. You’d get more protein from a glass of milk, so eat some protein with it.
Pret Chicken Caesar and Avo Open Sandwich
Mashed avocado and chicken in a Caesar mayonnaise, topped with cheese and cress on gluten-free bread
£3.75. Per serving: Calories, 452; saturated fat, 6.2g; protein, 18g; fibre, 5.8g; sugar, 1.9g, salt, 1.5g
WHAT YOU GET: Mashed avocado and chicken in a Caesar mayonnaise, topped with cheese and cress on gluten-free bread.
EXPERT VERDICT: The chicken here provides a good amount of protein, and avocado has healthy monounsaturated fats. You also get around a fifth of your daily fibre needs. Gluten-free bread tends to have less fibre than standard loaves, but this is made this from a mix of different flours to keep the fibre levels up.
Half an avocado counts as one of your five-a-day, but there is debate over whether it is comparable to other fruit and veg as the energy is more dense — you get more calories for a small amount of nutrients. Have it with a handful of berries or a fruit salad to add vitamins.
WHAT IS THE CELERY JUICE DIET?
Anthony William – also known as the Medical Medium – is the self-titled ‘originator’ of the movement and has branded celery juice the ‘most powerful medicine of our time’.
The author has 1.7m followers on Instagram and says millions of people around the world, including in the UK, are ‘waking up’ to the benefits of celery juice and its miraculous healing powers.
He describes celery as a herb, not a vegetable, and claims some people are even ‘curing’ themselves of chronic illnesses by drinking celery juice on its own, every morning, 15-30 minutes before they eat.
On his website, he states: ‘Eating celery is helpful and should be part of your diet, but you will not be able to consume enough celery to get the benefits of juicing it.’
This is disputed by others in the health and medical industry.
Mr William says one bunch of celery, with leaves included, should give you about 16 ounces of juice.
He doesn’t believe it is a health ‘trend’ because people will still be drinking it in 20 years.
He claims that people have got rid of chronic fatigue syndrome, acid reflux and autoimmune condition from drinking the juice daily.
Kylie Jenner, just one of many celebrity fans, revealed in February via Instagram that she starts her morning off with celery juice – telling her 128m followers on the same platform that it has high levels of Vitamin C, and plays a role in preventing and fighting cancer.