I’ve been back at university for a few weeks now and the time has absolutely flown by. I was up to my eyeballs with assignments by the second week but, despite being incredibly busy, I have always made time to prepare food to ensure that I get all of the nutrients that I need and don’t end up skipping meals or binging on sugar to get me through my workload.
I know that a lot of people’s lunchboxes are stuffed with highly-processed convenience foods – a cheese sandwich, packet of crisps, a chocolate bar and fizzy drink are common sights – but I believe that lunches (and all meals, for that matter) should be made with real, fresh, whole foods.
A balanced meal
Eating well makes such a difference to how I feel (and look!) so I ensure that all of my lunches contain:
- A good amount of lean protein to keep me feeling full and to meet my daily requirements. My favourites are chicken, turkey and tuna.
- Healthy sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potato and rice. I love baking a batch of sweet potato wedges but if you have a microwave at work, it’s easy to zap a jacket sweet potato in 4-6 minutes.
- Healthy fats from a variety of sources such as good quality oils used for cooking and dressings, nuts and seeds.
- Lots of fresh, nourishing fruit and vegetables.
Kitchen cupboard essential ingredients
I like to keep my lunches simple so that they are easy to whip up, store and carry with me. However, I also want my food to be as tasty and varied as possible, so there are some items that I always have in my kitchen cupboards:
- Nuts and seeds that I can sprinkle on any meal, and especially salads, for an extra nutrient boost. My favourites include walnuts and chia seeds.
- Coconut oil to cook with.
- Herbs and spices will last a really long time and add endless variety of flavour to your food. A good cajun spice mix (although I often make my own) and ground ginger are my favourites.
- Good quality salt. Believe me, this makes all the difference to sweet potato wedges! I love to keep some pink salt in my kitchen cupboard and not just because it looks pretty. The different hues of Himalayan salt indicates its rich and varied mineral content.
- Desiccated coconut for healthy and easy to eat on-the-go chicken nuggets. Just dip diced chicken in egg and roll in seasoned coconut 'crumbs' before baking. Delicious!
- Honey is another great way to add flavour to prepped foods. I like glazing chicken with honey, mustard and sesame seeds for a sweet and sticky treat! It's also a great way to naturally sweeten sauces.
- Nut butters are always handy to have on hand for a snack. I stick to Meridian's natural nut butters as I know they have no added nasties.
- Something for a sweet tooth. I’m never restrictive with my diet, I just try to pick the healthiest options that I can. I tend to opt for a couple of squares of dark chocolate when I have a craving. I also recommend Beauty Sweeties, which I previously reviewed here.
Make time to meal prep
I know it can seem like a big leap to go from throwing pre-packaged foods into a bag to preparing things from scratch, but setting aside a little time once or twice a week to do it can easily become habit. Often I’ll head to my local supermarket around 11am on a Sunday morning, spend half an hour whizzing round and grabbing everything on my list, and then I’ll come home and spend an hour or so preparing everything. It makes me feel so productive and healthy, and I've noticed that overall, it saves me a lot of time and money.
I highly recommend stocking up your store cupboard with a range of flavoursome and inspiring ingredients to make preparing and eating your meals extra easy and enjoyable. Thank you to my friends at Holland and Barrett for supplying me with the essential ingredients* that I featured in this post.
There are lots of examples of what a typical lunch for me looks like over on my Instagram .
Do you prepare your meals in advance? What are your store cupboard essentials?