Lunches that pack a punch

It’s approaching that time again; deadlines are building up and library days are getting longer. You’re surviving on caffeine and you know it’s only a matter of time before you collapse. But what is there to do? Those essays won’t write themselves and time is short.

On behalf of your body, I would like to appeal for some kindness. The days of frantically putting together cheese and stale bread as you leave the door or giving in to sad, over-priced YUM sandwiches are over. What you need is a proper nutritious meal, but one that you can eat on the go and grab in a rush in the morning. It is a cliché among students that the secret to cheap, healthy living is making big and freezing for the future; so why not take this principle on board in your lunch time preparation as well?

As ever, the answer is to make ahead. Everyone should have their go-to favourites that you can rely on when time is short, but if you are stuck in a rut and need some fresh ideas, check out these lunchbox recipes packed full of superfood sustenance. The basic aim is simple; start with a big pot of filling carbs, throw in as many healthy vegetables as you can, then sneak in some special extras that will ward off illness as the weather gets colder and nights are getting later. There’s no need to keep falling back on pasta though, as these delicious alternative will show.

Peanut and Sesame Noodle Salad

• The carbs

Whole wheat noodles. Wherever possible you should look to replace your carbohydrate – whether that be pasta, rice or bread – with the brown alternative, as these options offer more essential nutrients such as B vitamins and are a higher source of fiber, which is vital for keeping your blood sugar levels down amongst many other benefits. If making in bulk, allow one nest per day.

• The veggies

You can use your own judgement here based on what you like to use in stir fries, but some suggestions would be: Red/yellow pepper, sliced into strips; mangetout; sugar snaps; a few spring onions; beansprouts; sweetcorn; coriander.

• The superfood

Here are the wonder ingredients are in the tasty dressing. Just add a generous dessertspoon of the following to an old jar: smooth peanut butter, tahini, sweet chilli, soy sauce, olive oil, lime juice and adjust each item to your taste. Give the jar a good shake to mix it all up, and this sauce will give you an all-important dose of protein from the amazing peanut butter, and some incredible essential minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium from the sesame paste (tahini.)

Sprinkle over with some more sesame seeds as you dish up the noodles into your lunchbox in the morning and you’re good to go.

Tip: If you’ve made a big lot ahead, only put the dressing on one day at a time to keep all your vegetables nice a fresh in the fridge.

Herby Pearl Barley Salad

• The carbs

Pearl barley- higher in fiber and lower in calories even than brown rice, barley is a really tasty alternative to change up your diet. Allow 100g per day and cook according to packet instructions.

• The veggies

This one is all about fresh herbs, as many varieties as you like, chopped up really small. Basil, parsley and mint would be good options, but anything you have leftover will most likely work; tailor this to your taste-buds. Some spring onions and yellow peppers are also good, or experiment with whatever you want to use up.

• The superfood

I find the texture of this salad is quite important, and finding the right mixture of the soft, chewy barley with a bit of crunch is ideal. For this purpose, a handful of nuts will go a long way. Again, chopped up with the herbs nice and small. My favourite is blanched almonds, but walnuts or pine nuts would also work. As well as being a great source of protein, all nuts will come with their own special nutrients like good fatty acids and are well worth sneaking into your diet wherever possible. Also, a sprinkle of flax seeds are a fantastic source of omega-3 and really surprisingly tasty.

Give this all a good stir in a large bowl, and coat with the juice of one lime, one teaspoon of white wine vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper.


Cheesy Carrot Flapjack

• The carbs

150g Porridge oats-  these are a great source of slow release energy; oats are the original superfood.

• The veggies

150g Grated Carrots – Mix this with 150g of grated cheese and bind together with beaten egg. Spread the mixture into a suitable sized tin and bake at 180degrees for 20-25 minutes for a healthier alternative to the sweet version, and the ultimate on-the-go food.

• The superfood

You can add some interesting extras either in the mixture or sprinkled on top before baking, such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. As a natural source of zinc, these little immune boosters could mean the difference between staving off that end of term cold or falling at the final hurdle.

So what are you waiting for? Jazz up your lunch-boxes for a delicious and healthy way to keep your body fresh until Christmas.

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