Lunch Options for When You’re in a Rush
Imagine that it’s 2pm, you’ve been in back-to-back meetings all morning, and you have twenty minutes to run out the office and grab some food before your next meeting. What are the quickest lunch options that best meet your calorie targets, and have maximal nutritional value?
This is a situation many of our clients face on a daily basis, so to help you make the best choice, I have chosen 3 well-known food chains and analysed their menus, in order to present 3 of the optimal choices for a nutritious lunch at each establishment.
My scoring system is based around PGPT’s nutritional beliefs and takes into account the following:
- Calorie content
- Amount of Protein
- Nutrient content
My menu choices endeavour to be low in calories relative to their protein and nutrient content, while also being packed with flavour (as someone who enjoys their food, I will not be pointing you in the direction of anything bland and boring). Read on for my recommended choices for quick and nutritious lunches that you can grab from some of London’s top chains:
Pret a Manger
With over 230 shops across London, Pret is one of the most convenient spots to grab a quick and easy lunch. However, they can be a bit of minefield for anyone looking for an option that is filling – but not packed full of calories.
Pret’s Protein Box
The grilled chicken breast and sliced egg provide a great hit of protein while the accompanying broccoli and spinach will give a good dose of vitamins B, C & K and folate. The box is topped with a sliced avocado which will supply you with monounsaturated fat, a “good” fat that helps to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. This option comes with an ancho chilli dressing to give the flavour a boost.
Cali-style Salmon Salad
While this option is relatively higher in calories, it is very filling and should mean less snacking later on in the afternoon. A roast salmon fillet accompanied by a mango rice mix, smashed avocado & edamame beans, a pickled cabbage salad and cos lettuce – this option is packed full of flavour and nutrients. A bonus of choosing salmon over chicken is the omega-3 fatty acid content of the salmon and its anti-inflammatory properties.
Spicy Chicken Hot Wrap
The best of the sandwiches and wraps, this option packs a real protein punch. Even though it can’t be considered a low-calorie option, it will keep you full through to dinner and help to stop afternoon snacking. There are sandwich and baguette options that are lower in calories and relatively high in protein, but they do not offer the same value in terms of nutrient content and in my opinion are not as filling.
The Japanese diet has helped make Japan the fourth healthiest nation in the world (Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index), so you would be forgiven for thinking everything at Itsu is a great choice. However, a lot of what’s on offer is extremely high in calories. My three options steer you around the calorie dense meals on their menu:
Best of the sushi – Salmon Sashimi with side of King Prawn Gyoza
Calories: 336 (162 + 174)
Protein: 21.1g (14.7 + 6.4)
While the sashimi will be the best sushi option in terms of calories, it’s not always the most filling, so I have paired it with the king prawn gyoza to make a more realistic portion size. Much like the Pret salad, the salmon sashimi is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, with a single portion providing 1010 mg. If you can’t resist a rice option, the Salmon & Salmon sushi box is only 350 calories, but will likely lead to afternoon snacking as the portion is too small.
Best of bentos and wraps – Lean Chicken Zero Salad
This really is a great choice that ticks all of the boxes; the tender stem broccoli, spinach and edamame beans deliver 21% of your daily recommended iron, as well as folate and a range of vitamins. The shirataki noodles mean this option is filling while the spicy satay dressing adds a punch of good flavour.
Best of the hot food – Chicken Katsu Soup
If you want something hot, the soups at Itsu are best as the other options are quite high in calories (very high in some cases). My choice of the chicken katsu soup has slightly higher calories than two of the other soups, but in terms of flavour and protein, this one comes out on top.
Leon’s strapline of “Why can’t fast food be good food?”, and their vision to “only serve food that both tastes good and does you good” would suggest that everything on their menu is a great choice. However, a lot of what’s on offer is high in calories. There aren’t many viable lunch choices that come in under 500 calories and will keep you full for the afternoon, as the salads and lunch boxes are covered in creamy sauces and lots of fat sources. However, there are still some choices to recommend.
Chargrilled Aioli Chicken Wrap
The chargrilled chicken comes in the form of thigh rather than breast meat, resulting in a fairly high calorie wrap. The aioli also adds to the total calories. However, that being said, the tomato will give a Vitamin C boost and the rocket adds a dose of Vitamin K. My advice would be to order this without the aioli to lower the calorie count and still leave you with a filling lunch choice.
Chargrilled Chicken Burger
Very similar to the wrap above, but with 18 less calories and 1 gram more protein. The chicken thigh, tomato and rocket in this option will provide the same nutrients as it’s wrap sibling. Once again there is a creamy dressing which I would recommend foregoing in order to reduce the calories slightly.
Chargrilled Chicken Pot with Fresh Slaw
Calories: 275 (141 + 134)
Protein: 30.3 (27.8 + 2.5)
The chargrilled chicken thigh is packing the protein in this lower calorie option, while the peas and three types of cabbage provide much needed flavour, vitamins and fibre content. As it provides over 30 grams of protein, and removes the heavy carbohydrate load of the first two options (replacing it with extra veg), this would be my optimal choice from Leon’s selection.
Out of the three outlets I have looked at, Itsu is my preference for eating well and controlling calories – assuming you steer clear of getting too much rice, sticky sauces and fried gyoza. All of the options I have presented above are what I believe to be the best choices from the three different outlets; however, this doesn’t mean they are your best options entirely. These are there for when you haven’t had time to prepare lunch, which I believe is by far the best way to ensure you are eating a filling, nutritious meal that isn’t high in calories.