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What’s in your lunch box?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amidst our busy schedules and urgent meetings, do we really manage to eat a well balanced lunch? Gargi Bansod & Rhea Dhanbhoora take a quick look at the daily lunch boxes of six working people in Mumbai to check the nutritional levels of their mid-day meal

Though it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, thanks to our demanding lifestyles, most of us skip it. So, our next meal (lunch) must fulfill the nutritional and energy requirements for the day. But, is your lunch healthy enough? We often underrate our lunch and forget that this meal is going to help us survive for at least six more hours. To check whether we really meet the needed lunch diet, we asked six people from various walks of life, what they have for lunch. Nutritionists Pallavi Srivastava from Evolve Med Spa and Sadichha Kamble from Kohinoor Hospital rated their meals on the nutritional content and also tell us how they can improve it. Let’s check out the verdict...

Lunch #1: the average lunch
Monika Dhakad (22), a resident of Santacruz, who works as a Montessori school teacher needs lots of energy and patience to handle her class of tiny tots.

In her lunch box:

  •  2 rotis
  •  Mixed vegetables
  •  Cucumber
  •  Cheesecake

Nutritional Rating: 8 / 10
Healthy alternative: Pallavi says, “Monika’s lunch is healthy enough and meets your average lunch requirements.” However, she recommends that Monika adds a bowl of palak soup to her meal to help her stay active and fresh in order to handle the kids. She also suggests, “Instead of cheesecake for dessert, a bowl of low fat yogurt can be eaten which will act as a dessert as well as a protein source along with supplying calcium amongst other nutrients. She can even include a glass of buttermilk.”

Lunch #2: Side dish
Cawsi Dhanbhoora (54), a resident of Andheri who works in the freight forwarding business, believes in a very light lunch that has none of the dangers of weight gain.

In his lunch box:
l A salad with grated carrots, cucumber, green leafy vegetables, tomato and very light (non-mayonnaise) dressing.

Nutritional Rating: 4 / 10
Healthy alternative: Sadichha remarks, “Salad is extremely healthy, but it isn’t enough for an entire lunch.” She advices, “If you must have just a salad, it can be made healthier with a soup or by adding sprouts or boiled egg whites to it. Also, a grilled piece of chicken or fish can be added. This lunch might suit someone who wants to lose weight but, for a working professional who is healthy and doesn’t need to lose weight, a piece of chicken or fish along with a multigrain toast should be added. It’s best eaten along with a roti.”

Lunch #3: Must pack more sustaining food
Aruna Saldanha (34), a resident of Dahisar, works as an HR manager in a private firm. She commutes daily from Dahisar to Bandra.
In her lunch box:

  •  Jowar bhakri
  •  Dry chicken in red masala
  •  Pickle

Nutritional Rating: 6 / 10
Healthy alternative: “Again to start a meal, as an appetiser, a bowl of vegetable soup or vegetable salad made with broccoli and other greens can be included. Since the chicken gravy is spicy, pickle can be avoided,” says Pallavi. She suggests, “For dessert, a dry fruit ladoo or a mixture of dry fruits with some honey should be eaten as she needs to fuel up on energy to commute such a long distance every day. Also, the oil used should be minimal.”

Lunch #4: Add a yogurt or fruit pudding
Nitesh Tiwari (23), a resident of Matunga, has recently started working as a legal consultant in a reputed law firm.
In his lunch box:

  •  Mixed vegetables
  •  2 rotis
  •  3 pieces of apple

Nutritional Rating: 5 / 10
Healthy alternative: Pallavi suggests, “Instead of fruits for a dessert, he can either have a low fat yogurt or a fruit pudding. The fruits can be had as a snack post lunch. Also, a bowl of dal can be added to fulfill the protein source for the meal or a mix vegetable raita and a green leafy vegetable, which can be eaten along with a multigrain roti.”

Lunch #5: Balanced lunch
Anushka Mohite, (24) a resident of Bandra (E), works at a media company and believes in having a balanced lunch.

In her lunch box:

  •  2 chappatis
  •  1 serving of chicken with gravy

Nutritional Rating: 7/10
Healthy alternative: Sadichha says, “The meal is high in protein so it’s quite nutritious. Chappati itself is nutritious and two servings is enough for a good meal, but if there is ghee or butter on it, it loses a bit of its nutritious value.” She suggests a few tweaks here and there in order to make it healthy, including adding a salad along with it. “The type of chicken piece used as well as the way it is cooked matters a lot. Use breast pieces to avoid fat content and remove the skin. If you cook it in heavy oil or butter, it loses nutrition, so keep the oil light, stay away from the butter and try and keep any heavy creams away from the gravy. Make a light, water based gravy with spices to add taste. Have multigrain chappatis. They are rich in fibre so see that the dough is kneaded without sieving it first, so that it retains its nutritious value,” she says.

Lunch #6: Only protein lunches isn’t good
Burzis Patel (50), works in shipping and doesn’t have the time for an elaborate lunch.

In his lunch box:

  •  2 sandwiches of chicken Kiev in pav
  •  2 toffees for dessert

Nutritional Rating: 3/ 10
Healthy alternative: “This is an only protein lunch and so it is not healthy at all,” says Sadichha. To make it healthier she give a few pointers. She says, “He needs to add other important nutrients in his meal along with protein. This sandwich can be made with multigrain or whole wheat bread along with grilled chicken or egg whites. For dessert, instead of toffees, a bowl of fruit custard or plain fruits should be eaten. Also, for the vegetables, a portion of salad or mixed vegetable soup is a good idea. If a sandwich is what he prefers to eat or is more convenient, he should bake the Kiev or add steamed chicken to the sandwich.”

Packing a healthy lunch
Pallavi says, “Food plays a very important role in growth, development and nutrition. The energy we need for day-to-day activities comes from the food we eat. It’s very important for us to eat a balanced diet daily which should include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and fibre. So, a balance of roti, vegetables, curd, dairy and non-vegetarian food combined with exercise will help you stay healthy and active.” She gives us a lowdown on how we can make our lunch healthy.

  •  For working people, a host of balanced food can be packed such as different types of parathas with green chutney, roti and mixed vegetables, a chicken sandwich with a vegetable soup, whole wheat pasta with lots of vegetables and a bowl of soup.
  •  For dessert, a fruit custard, a mixed dry fruit ladoo, fruits, a fruit pudding, a piece of dark chocolate or a fruit smoothie made of low fat milk and seasonal fruit can be consumed.
  •  Other easy and healthy options for meals include wraps, moong dal dosa with sambhar, vegetable dalia, vegetable poha accompanied with buttermilk, brown rice pulao, vegetable cutlets with green chutney and toast.
  •  If available, the best option would be to get a balance of carbohydrates in the form of bhakri (a jowar or bajra roti) or whole wheat roti, pasta or whole wheat noodles or brown rice which has good amount of fibre. For proteins, dal, grilled chicken or a small fish or egg whites or sprouts in the salads can be added.
  •  For good fats, some amount of peanut butter can be used in sandwiches, flax seeds can be added in the salads and olive oil can be used as a dressing in the salads.
  •  Avoid carrying white rice in the form of biryanis as that might make you feel lethargic and sleepy post lunch.
  •  Instead of focusing on one nutrient you should find a balance. Along with this, 30 to 45 minutes of exercise plus a good amount of water everyday will keep you healthy, active and disease free.

Healthy Pre-packed foods
Slim a Soup Batchelors

Slim a Soup is a healthy option when it comes to ready-to-eat soups. They have a variety of delicious flavours ranging from Golden Vegetable to Minestrone and French Onion. The soups are easy to make (just add hot water) and are quite nutritious.
Price `120

Tuna salad
Bumble Bee has a range of tuna salads that you can pick up, open and eat with your lunch (or as a complete lunch if you’re on a diet). The salads are light, fat free and come with crackers. They also have a Lunch on The Run variety where you get diced pairs and a cookie as well.
Price `180

If you’ve got a craving for a full fledged rice meal but don’t want to eat rice, this is a great option that’s also very light on the pocket. Dr. Quaker Oats come in flavours such as Lemon & Veggie Mix and taste pretty good too!
Price `10

Don’t snack on wafers or biscuits in between meals. Instead, opt for Aliva Tasty Crackers. They’re baked, low in fat and much better than the other snacking options you’ve probably been munching on.
Price `12

Energy bar
Invest in a Nature Valley or Right Bite energy bar when you feel like a mid-morning snack. The bars are quite filling.
Price `15 onwards

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