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Aim For At Least 15g Of Protein
“The first question you should ask yourself is: how much protein does this contain? Protein helps us to stay fuller for longer and supports blood sugar balance, which plays a crucial role in our health. Each day you should aim to consume around 1.5g of protein per kilogramme of your body weight, so aiming for around 20g per meal is a good target. Getting a decent amount of protein will mean you avoid the 4pm slump, too. A lunch rich in complex carbohydrates – such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta and sweet potatoes – will also help with this, as opposed to white carbs. If you’re craving a sandwich, one of the best choices is a chicken and avocado sandwich as it contains good amounts of both protein and healthy fats.” – Janine McGee, nutritional therapist
Don’t Fixate On Calories
“Try not to obsess over the calories a pre-packaged salad, sandwich or wrap contains – instead, focus on how much nutrition it contains and how you’ll feel after eating it. As well as the protein content, think about how many portions of fruit and vegetables it contains – will it count towards your daily intake? Also think about sugar and fibre. Sugar levels can be particularly high in pre-packaged supermarket foods. Some dressings can contain around 15g of sugar per serving – if you see this on a label, choose something else.” – Janine
Steer Clear Of Meal Deals
“A classic meal deal consisting of a sandwich, crisps and a fizzy drink may seem like a cost-effective option, but as a rule, these foods are highly processed and should be avoided, even if the crisps and drink are low fat or zero sugar. Low-fat crisps may seem like a healthier option, but they still contain saturated fats and high levels of salt, and provide poor levels of nutrients such as protein and fibre that can sustain you throughout the afternoon. Instead of a packet of crisps, opt for nuts or carrot sticks.” – Esther Baylis, founder of Wellswood Health
Add To Your Salad
“A salad is a great way to get some fibre and colour into your diet, but if it has less than 10g of protein per 100g, consider adding an additional source of protein. A pack of M&S Marinated Chilli & Coriander King Prawns has nearly 25g of protein, while a pack of M&S Sliced Chargrilled Chicken Breast Slices contains nearly 35g of protein. For a veggie option, half a pack of M&S Greek Lighter Salad Cheese contains just over 200 calories and nearly 19g of protein.” – Rachael Sacerdoti, PT & nutrition coach
Make Your Own Sandwich
“If you love a sandwich for lunch and have access to a kitchen at work, consider making your own. One of the best nutritious swaps for sliced bread is a seeded or wholemeal wrap, which you can easily find in M&S. Add a pack of M&S Scottish Smoked Salmon Flakes and a couple of tablespoons of M&S Hummus With Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add some watercress for crunch – you can use the rest of the bag of watercress in a salad another day with mixed peppers and tomatoes or Cook With M&S Wholegrain & Edamame grains, which can be eaten hot or cold. Stock up on carrots to eat with the remaining hummus, as well as a packet of nuts and seeds to sprinkle on your salad.” – Esther
Mix Your Own Lunch Bowl
“Mixing and matching a few nutritious items is my top tip for a healthy lunch. Start with a base of complex carbs – the Cook With M&S Wholegrain & Edamame and Rice & Quinoa pouches are great –then add a few lettuce leaves before topping with a couple of additional vegetables. Most M&S branches do individual servings of garden peas, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots and mixed beans – these are a good way to add fibre and plant variety. Then, add some protein – my top picks include M&S Sesame, Chili & Coriander Tofu, Honey-Roast Salmon or Roast Chicken – and sprinkle with pumpkin and sesame seeds (M&S do these as a pre-blended mix) for healthy fats.” – Gabi Zaromskyte, nutritionist & founder of Honestly Nutrition
Be Careful With Dressing
“Dressings, sauces and condiments often fall under the ultra-processed food category, as their long ingredient lists are made to keep the products shelf-stable for a long time. This unfortunately means adding strategic ingredients that are often detrimental to gut and overall health. As a rule, the shorter the ingredients list on a dressing, the better, and you should be able to recognise what it’s made of – look for olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and citric acid (this is just lemon juice). Limit or avoid products made with emulsifiers, sweeteners, fructose syrup and palm oil.” – Gabi
“There’s nothing wrong with snacking, but it needs to be done in a way that’ll keep your blood sugar balanced for better mood and energy levels. Avoid cereal and protein bars and instead opt for a pack of carrots and hummus and guacamole, or for something more substantial, the M&S Oven Baked Three Seed Crispbreads are great. A punnet of mixed berries and a small pot of Greek yoghurt is also a good option if you fancy something sweet, as is a couple of squares of M&S 85% Dark Chocolate. If you can keep food at work, buy a jar of M&S 100% Crunchy Peanut Butter and have a tablespoon with an apple or a crispbread.” – Gabi
Here, the experts share their opinion on some of the most popular lunch options at M&S
Hot Smoked Salmon With Potato Salad, £5.75
“Salmon contains omega 3, which is great for brain, hormone and skin health, so I’d automatically pick this up to look at the nutritional values,” says Janine. “What lets this meal down, however, is that it doesn’t contain a huge amount of protein or fibre and is quite high in sugar. To improve it, add more protein and omit the dressing to reduce the sugar content.” Esther agrees this salad may leave you reaching for a mid-afternoon snack. “The main ingredient is potatoes, which, without sufficient protein to balance them out, can cause blood sugar to spike. This salad could benefit from additional protein to balance out the carb-to-protein ratio,” Esther says.
Super Green Salad, £2.80
This salad is a healthy balance of green vegetables and herbs for a dose of plant-based nutrition, and the seeds provide healthy fats and fibre, but with only 160 calories per serving, it’s not enough on its own to keep you going, says Esther. “This salad needs more protein, so pick up a pack of chicken, tofu or flaked salmon,” she recommends. Janine advises steering clear of the dressing, which contains nearly 15g of sugar. “To make this healthier, I’d avoid the dressing and add some apple cider vinegar. I’d also pair it with an M&S egg protein pot for additional healthy fats and protein,” says Janine.
Plant Kitchen Nutty Super Wholefood Salad, £3.90
All the experts say this is one of their top M&S lunch choices. “It contains a lovely balance of macronutrients, which is essential for stable blood sugar levels and satiety,” says Esther. “It’s nutritionally dense and can be eaten on its own without anything added for a balanced meal.” Janine is also fan: “This is my favourite M&S lunch choice – it’s very low in sugar and contains a decent amount of fibre to support gut health. The only thing that lets this option down is the addition of rapeseed and sunflower oil, but it can be tricky to buy a lunch on the go without it containing at least one of these. If you eat this salad regularly, just make sure you’re mixing it up with other salads that use olive or coconut oil.”
Black, Borlotti & Flageolet Bean Salad, £2.80
With three types of fibre-rich beans, this salad gets the nutritionists’ approval. “Beans are an excellent source of plant protein and fibre, making this a great choice for an energy-boosting lunch,” adds Esther. “The peppers and sweetcorn provide a good source of vitamin C, too. To further improve the nutritional value of this salad, pair with additional greens, which should ideally make up a quarter of your plate at every meal.” Janine also recommends adding some greens for a low-sugar lunch. “With good amounts of fibre and protein, and minimal sugar, this salad will keep you full all afternoon.”
Greek Feta Side Salad, £3.20
“This is a healthy side dish, but it’s not enough on its own for a complete meal,” says Gabi. “It’s very low in carbs, which also makes it low in fibre, so it won’t fill you up. I’d pair this with M&S Grains and Greens for a fibre and protein boost.” Rachael agrees, saying you’d need to add at least 20g of protein to make this into a meal. “Add a packet of cooked chicken, prawns or salmon, and if you’re very hungry, add a wholemeal pitta or a slice of roasted veg tortilla. It could also be worth picking up a protein-rich snack – an individual portion of Greek yoghurt and a punnet of berries would make this a rounded meal,” Rachael says.
Avocado & Feta Grain Salad, £4.75
“As a rule, a shorter ingredients list is better, but this salad is the exception,” says Gabi. “All the ingredients here are recognisable and ones you’d find in your home kitchen. Slight drawbacks include a higher level of saturated fat from the creme fraiche and salt, but overall it’s a balanced option.” With reasonable amounts of protein, complex carbs and fibre, this salad also gets Janine’s vote. “It’s also very low in sugar, so it ticks all the boxes. If I was being picky, I’d buy some additional protein – perhaps some cooked meat or a boiled egg.”
Orzo & Roasted Tomatoes, £2.80
The nutritionists agree this salad lacks protein and needs some considered additions to make it a balanced option. Rachael tells us she’d have half of the orzo and pair with some roast chicken or M&S smoked salmon, while Janine would skip the dressing, add a large handful of nuts and a side of hummus to increase both the protein and fibre. “I’d also buy a bag of rocket or spinach for some greens, she says.” If you love a pasta salad, the experts say an even better option would be to make your own with wholewheat pasta, which is significantly higher in fibre and nutrients to keep you fuller for longer.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.