lunch on desk main, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishing midday meal by healthista

5 lunch swaps – Britain’s worst lunch choices made healthier

Bored of eating the same sandwich and crisps for lunch every day? We asked nutritionist, May Simpkin to give Britain’s most unhealthy lunches a Healthista makeover

It’s official; in terms of our lunchtime food choices, we’re not showing much flair and instead, we’re going for the easy option of choosing the same lunch each day. A recent study asked if people were bored with their lunch and a whopping 81 percent confirmed they were, with 30 percent admitting that others had even commented on their boring lunch choices.

the main evening meal is the one that gets our attention with lunch the poor bystander

A common excuse is time; our quick “grab and run” approach, with saving time the top priority. It excuses the need for any further decision making and allows us to opt for a safe, tried and tested choice that will do the job. It seems that the main evening meal is the one that gets our attention with lunch the poor bystander in the queue for appeal and excitement, let alone optimum nutrition.

lunch picture, 6 easy lunch swaps you can make for a healthy midday meal by healthista

Aside from the aesthetics, the bottom line is that if you vary your choices, you will vary your nutrients and in turn, you will provide your body with the tools to function optimally. It’s that simple. Fuelling these needs during the day will have a significant positive impact on how well your body functions, boosting your concentration, memory and energy levels throughout the afternoon.

Once you’re in the routine of thinking ahead and preparing in advance, you won’t look back.

So let’s look at the worst repeat offenders in the lunch stakes; those that top your lunch choices more closely and see how we can improve them. In the first instance, I would also advise you make your own. This way you can choose good quality ingredients and consider what you can add to boost the nutritional value of your lunch. Prepping is key but once you’re in the routine of thinking ahead and preparing in advance, you won’t look back. However, don’t despair if you need to resort to the local food outlets; here’s how you can ensure good choices.

The lunch: Ham sandwich

The humble ham sandwich is the most popular repeated lunch choice. Whilst it’s good to opt for a high protein filling, the ham is likely to be processed; in other words, it has been preserved by curing, salting, smoking or chemically preserved. Experts have now agreed that there is significant evidence to suggest that there is a higher risk of developing bowel cancer in those who eat the most processed meats, as well as mounting evidence of an association with stomach and pancreatic cancers. Although eating these processed meats once or twice a week is not a problem, eating these meats on a daily basis, regularly, is not advised.

Experts have now agreed that there is significant evidence to suggest that there is a higher risk of developing bowel cancer in those who eat the most processed meats

ham sandwich, 6 healthy lunch swaps for a healthy midday meal by healthista

How can I make it more healthy?

Head for the deli counter at the supermarket, and choose a fresh ham, sliced off the bone, that has not been preserved and use it as a filling in a fresh roll or wrap that you can put together along with a ready-made salad or rocket leaves. Add colour with a few cherry tomatoes on the side.

The lunch: Cheese Sandwich

Good quality cheese such as Cheddar or Gouda is a great high protein and calcium choice and as such is perceived as a healthy choice. Indeed eaten in moderation, it is a nutritive choice, however, cheese is also high in saturated fat and salt. It is important to watch your portion size if you’re looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, to ensure you avoid eating too many calories and also to limit your salt consumption. It is important to make sure that you are not choosing a processed cheese such as cheese balls or packaged portions, which may be low fat, but will also contain higher sugar.

falafel sandwich, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishing midday meal by healthista

How can I make it more healthy?

Choose a cheese that has a strong flavour such as Mature Cheddar so that you can enjoy the taste without consuming large portions. Bear in mind that a portion of cheese should be around “matchbox” size. Grating your cheese makes it go further and you’ll end up using less. If you’re looking for a vegetarian sandwich option, how about chick pea falafels with a tahini dressing, for a fibre and protein rich alternative. Boost your veggie intake further with a homemade coleslaw or slices of tomato and cucumber which provide crunch as well as plenty of nutrients.

The lunch: Chicken sandwich

Lean chicken is a good choice if you’re looking for a high protein, low saturated fat lunch choice and will certainly keep you fuller for longer. However, on its own, your lunch will lack the fibre and nutrients that adding vegetables would offer, so consider upgrading your classic simple sandwich to a more colourful and therefore healthier choice.

falafel sandwich, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishing midday meal by healthista

How can I make it more healthy?

If you’re sticking to a sandwich then opt for a seeded wholegrain bread but even better, switch to a salad and include avocado, rocket and tomato or grilled Mediterranean vegetables with hummus. Leftover chicken from a Sunday roast is ideal to take to work the following day as part of a delicious salad.

The lunch: Salad

It’s good to see that Salad has made an appearance on the list of most common choices, but I am often surprised by the foods that make up a salad! A fresh, seemingly light salad may well be loaded with unhealthy ingredients that turn your healthy choice into a less nutritive option. Making your salads yourself will ensure far healthier choices and also allow you to vary the ingredients.

salad in a lunchbox, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishin midday meal by healthista

Try to include at least 5 varieties such as dark green leaves, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, olives, gherkins, beetroot asparagus, broccoli etc and always include good lean protein to make sure your salad sees you through the afternoon. Keep dressings to a simple drizzle of vinegar/lemon and olive oil, which can be made up at home and taken with you in a small pot to pour over just before eating. If you’re choosing from a menu, keep this in mind and ask for alternatives where possible. For example, with a Salad Niçoise, swap the potatoes for more green bean and tomatoes and avoid a Caesar salad which doesn’t provide enough nutrients and the dressing and croutons will be laden with fat.

How can I make it more healthy?

Adding protein-packed quinoa, beans and lentils or nuts will provide a perfect base to accompany your vegetable choices and will not only make your salad lunch more appealing but also guarantees to keep you fuller for longer.

The lunch: Jacket Potato

Potatoes have a high glycaemic index and therefore release sugars quickly into the blood stream. Although this will satisfy in the short term, you will be left feeling hungry once the insulin has kicked in and these blood sugars removed.

sweet potato, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishing midday meal by healthista

MORE: 3 healthy chocolate recipes that could help your SKIN

How can I make it more healthy?

Switching to a healthier sweet potato, which contains good levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene and plenty of fibre will boost your nutrient intake and as a complex carbohydrate will help with blood sugar balance. Combining the potato with a good protein such as cheese or tuna (not in mayonnaise) will also slow down the release of sugars but you will need to ensure a good portion of protein and that that the potato is small/medium in size.

The lunch: Crisps

Many meal deal options include a packet of crisps, providing interest in what would otherwise be a far more boring lunch. Munching through a packet can be mindless and dissatisfying, yet it doesn’t stop us including your favourite flavour as a “side” order to complete your lunch. Although innocent looking, a bag of crisps can contain a significant amount of fat and salt and even sugar if you’re opting for the baked versions. Always looking the make everything you eat count in terms of nutrition, crisps won’t meet the grade and best avoided.

crudites, 6 best healthy lunch swaps for a nourishing midday meal by healthista

How can I make it more healthy?

Vegetable cruditées are ideal to “mindlessly” munch away on and will ensure you’re well on your way to reaching your recommended 7-a-day. An accompanying side order of hummus or guacamole is far more nutritious and satisfying; a perfect healthy alternative.


May Simpkin is one of the UK’s
leading nutritionists

May Simpkin, MSc Personalised Nutrition, is Head of Wellbeing at Grace Belgravia, London.  She is an experienced clinician, practicing functional medicine from an evidence base, providing the latest research into nutrition. She is a registered practitioner, bound by the code of ethics in clinical practice and has met the strict criteria required for BANT, the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and the CNHCComplementary and Natural Healthcare Council, which is the council recommended by the UK Department of Health for complementary and natural healthcare services. She is also Chair of the Continual Professional Committee at BANT. In addition, she is registered with IFMThe Institute for Functional Medicine and a member of the RSMThe Royal Society of Medicine.

For more information on how to lose weight, nutrient rich repices, and ideas, visit or Follow May on Instagram: @maysimpkinnutrition or Twitter @MaySimpkin

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