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How to Choose a Healthy Lunch

Buying your lunch?

This is a short ‘how to’ guide to help you navigate what is actually good for you when you buy your lunch. 

During my early 20’s I went from being ‘that person’ creating a tasty lunch storm in the kitchen everyday, to; that person that bought their lunch every.single.day. I’m not sure where or how this happened but it did.
I reprioritised what was important to me and I got lazy, my health plummeted to the bottom of the pile along with eating at all.
I had some cash to burn too (well, I didn’t but I acted like I did).
The thing that changed was that I was being ‘sold to’ and told that what I was buying was healthy and good for me. When in actual fact it was totally the opposite.
ow to choose a healthy lunch
I think I can fairly quote that buying my lunch made me gain close to 10kg over the span of a few years. This all happened while I was buying salads. 
Especially now with the so-called ‘health revolution’ everyone is looking for healthy foods at face value without looking a little further. So how can we navigate all these claims without opting for eating cardboard crackers and a lettuce leaf at lunchtime? (ps: don’t ever do that please it’s not what health is about at all). 

Here are Lunch Lady Lou’s tips for how to choose a healthy lunch


Look for food made with love.

About 10 years ago, my bestie and I were walking the streets of Crows Nest and came across a brand new food joint we hadn’t seen on our local street before. We were skeptical about investing our pennies in a meal and a brand we knew nothing about. Until we walked in and saw a big sign on the wall saying ‘made with love’. 
And the food was. From walking in and chatting to the staff, to seeing the ingredients they were using on the menu and visibility into the kitchen and the makers – the food was indeed made with love. 
LLL’s TIP: Look at the staff, look at the menu, look at their ingredients. Does it look like food you’d want to eat there? Does it look like the people that work there eat the food?

Is it real food or whole food?

There’s so much whole foods chatter at the moment and it’s great because it’s what I believe in and the whole reason I created Lunch Lady Lou.
If you’re unfamiliar with the real food (whole foods concept) – get up to date here.
In short: how many vegetables can you spot in the meal? At Lunch Lady Lou we aim for close to 60-75% veggies per meal, with the remainder made up of good fats, a small amount of meat, nuts, seeds, oil etc. 
LLL’s TIP: Look for real food – look for meals abundant in fresh vegetables, fruits, wholegrain, nuts, seeds, good oils. 

Does it look fresh? Is it made fresh daily?

I hate to say it, but most bulk salad or lunch spots make their salads days in advance. 
Most are made offsite (by an external company), packaged in pretty bowls and/or delivered in bulk.
The food is made in bulk to save time, money and resources, then it is drawn down on daily. Meaning you could eat 3 or 4 day old products. 
Pre-made salad bars can be a real offender here or anywhere that doesn’t have kitchen space.
LLL’s TIP: If it looks soggy it probably is. Avoid pre-made salad bars.


Does the menu change?

Can you rely on the maker to feed you a balanced diet if you were to eat there for a whole week or 2 weeks?
On one hand, its so obvious to not eat the same meal everyday, but I used to do this and I know that people do. When you prioritise convenience over quality and health, you can easily slip into a pattern of making poor food choices. 
LLL’S TIP: Look for seasonal menu’s that change it up daily or regularly. To gain the most nutrients, health benefits etc from our foods we need to eat the rainbow.  


How does it smell?

Have you ever noticed how a fried food store smells? Hold out for 2 seconds past the addiction that the smell triggers in your brain and actually smell what hot chips or deep fried food smells like – you won’t want to eat it. 
We all know ‘that guy’ from your office who brings the deep fried meal deal back to his desk to eat and everyone slowly suffocates.
The smell I’m referring to could be the cafe in general or the food. I urge everyone to learn to use their nose when it comes to food. With the rare exception.. if it smells funky, don’t eat it. 
LLL’S TIP: Use your nose, if it smells funky don’t eat there.


Honest, easy to identify ingredients

I was with a pregnant friend one day and we were offered a hummus sample. She was being very cautious about what she was eating and wanted to know if it had any particular egg products in it. The staff member didn’t know, so he lifted up this giant container where the hummus came from and handed it to her to look at. There were a bunch of preservatives and weird numbers on the ingredients label… chickpeas wasn’t even the first ingredient. 
Food that comes from a whole ingredient NOT a packet. 
Whole foods and real foods ARE ingredients. 
LLL’s TIP: Look for easy to identify ingredients or when asked, the staff should be able to tell you everything you need to know about what’s in their food. Whole foods and real foods ARE ingredients.

Do the staff look happy and healthy?

This is a huge one for me. If i walk into a place claiming to be ‘healthy’ and the staff are anything but, its going to be very hard for me to believe this claim.
LLL’s TIP: Do the staff look healthy – clear skin, clear eyes, energetic, smiling. Do they look like they believe in the cause?
Did you find this useful? Share with someone who would benefit from knowing how to choose a healthy lunch.
Share your tips on how to choose a healthy lunch by leaving a comment below. 
Have a question? Email Lou!
 Lunch Lady Lou

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