Master the art of al-desco without piling on pounds
Strewth! After chowing down for years on spinach and tomato wraps, it now turns out we weren't taking the healthy option at all. In fact, we might as well have ordered a spicy chicken fillet roll, or two Big Macs.
Eating al-desco can be tricky - especially if you are not one of those annoying people who has their life in order and prepares something the night before. On top of this, lots of food chains highlight when an item is "low fat", but conveniently forget to mention it's also "high sugar", which is just as bad for you - or maybe worse.
Finding food that is super healthy and will keep you sated for longer than 1.2 milliseconds can also be a challenge, especially if there are a distinct lack of charming artisan stalls in your neck of the woods. But here are some ways to stay healthy-ish on your lunch break.
1 Quinoa used to be the ultimate hipster and yoga-mum food, but these days the super grain is available in most supermarkets. Aldi have a great quinoa & falafel salad with tzatziki dressing (dubbed The Cool One) as part of their Honest Options Salad range. It's 120kcal per 100g, 5.6g of sugar and 4g of fat.
2 Hummus is high in protein and one of Natalie Portman's favourite foods - and if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me. Stuff colourful crudités into a jar, and pick up a tub of hummus in SuperValu. They also stock a tonne of Irish produce, including Nobu Dairy Free Ice Cream and The Happy Pear's Sundried Tomato and Lovely Basil Pesto. Hummus and carrots: 193 calories, 11g fat, sugar 6.1g.
3 Pack a punch with a protein-based lunchbox. Planning your own lunch is always preferable to buying bits and bobs in store. Not only is it more cost effective, but you can be sure it won't be full of sneaky ingredients such as salt and sugar. Lisa Murrin, of health food mecca Eathos, advises keeping your salads simple. "Simplicity doesn't mean no flavour," she says. "My favourite lunch is a grilled chicken breast with tomatoes, red onion, Italian seasoning, black pepper and a little balsamic," she said. "The longer you leave it, the better it tastes." Calories 220: fat 3.5g, 5g sugar, and 27g protein.
4 Subway low fat beef sub. Before you roll your eyes - listen. Deli counters and sandwich bars can be treacherous territories, loaded with butter, mayonnaise, breaded chicken and creamy dressings. All of these should be avoided as they are loaded with calories, fat and salt. However, if you are craving for a carb hit, then a 6-inch Subway low fat beef sub on 9-Grain wheat bread is a good bet. The sandwich comes with lettuce, cucumbers and onions and is 282 calories with 5.1g of sugar and 3.0g of fat. Not too shabby.
5 Juice it. Vegetable based juices are a great way to get loads of vitamins, and there are a multitude of Irish companies delivering nutritious blends: Green Beards, Sprout & Co, Dublin Juice Delivery, The Juice Store and Alchemy - all juice mountains of kale and beetroot. The Juice Store's Power Green Plus is made with pak choi, spinach, apple, avocado, and wheat grass. It's filling and contains 185kcal per 500ml, 8g fat and 20.5 g of (healthy) sugar.
6 Marks and Spencer's Crayfish & Mango Salad with Coconut Chilli Dressing comes in at 230 calories, 13.0g of fat and 16.6g of protein per pack. Much better than Caesar salad.
7 Avocado and feta smash on rye bread. This mushed up miracle tastes heavenly, and is filled with healthy fats. Top it off with some cracked pepper and some rye crackers. Calories: 287, fat 17g.
8 Cully and Sully vegetable soup. This filling soup may contain cream and butter but it is less processed than its competitors and tastes great. "Soup is a great option if you're trying to lose weight," Dr Donal O'Shea says. "Go for soup with the least number of ingredients. It's filling and less calorie high than a sandwich or wrap." Cully and Sully veg soup: 124 calories for 200g, 8.8g of fat and 5.2g of sugar.
9 If you're craving an indulgent takeaway then Vietnamese and Thai foods are your best bet. Think broths, lemongrass salads and rice paper rolls. Award winning restaurant Saba recommends slurping on Pho Bó Soup which contains just 188kcal.
10 There seems to be an Insomnia café on the corner of every street in the country. Avoid all those glistening pastries and sugary sweet cakes and opt for a Moroccan Medley with cous cous and feta. With 151kcal, 4.8g sugar, and 7g of fat - it's practically guilt free.