Lunch options at the workplace

Lunch is the second most important meal of the day. However, this is the meal that is often neglected because of poor planning, poor shopping practices, work constrains and most often lack of allocating some time to sit down and enjoy the meal. Ria Catsicas offers lunch options at the workplace to avoid skipping this meal.

Lunch should be planned to take all lifestyle practices, environment as well as practical facilities available to you in consideration. Lunch ideally should be consumed no later than 15h00 in the afternoon.

Work cafeteria or make use of the kitchen at the workplace

The best lunch meal to consume in summer is a salad bowl. The challenge is to keep it interesting and varied.

A nutritionally balanced salad bowl should consist of a healthy source of protein, carbohydrate, vegetables and fat. This balanced combination will provide you with the sustained energy required to perform throughout the afternoon. By combining the following menu items shown below, you can achieve this objective:

One portion of lean protein: boiled egg or chicken (use leftovers from supper) or canned fish (tuna chunks, mackerel, salmon, tomato pilchards, sardines (oil/water drained)) or low-fat cheese (ricotta/cottage) or sliced lean cold meats (ham/pastrami). (Ideal for their low saturated fat content and the fish for their high omega-3 fatty acid content).


One portion of starch: corn kernels (canned/frozen), brown/wild rice (leftovers) or chickpeas or lentils or all types of beans (canned). (Ideal for their high fibre content, low-glycaemic index).


A variety of vegetables: beetroot, tomatoes, broccoli florets, green beans, gherkins, cabbage, carrots, mange tout, variety of lettuce, cucumber, leftover vegetables e.g. peas, roasted butternut etc. (Ideal for their content of fibre, vitamins, minerals and phyto chemicals).


One portion of fat: “Lite” mayonnaise or avocado pear, olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar or commercial low oil vinaigrette dressing. (Ideal for their high content of mono unsaturated fats). 

In winter, the salad bowl can be swapped for a bowl of chunky vegetable soup. Once again keep it interesting and varied by creating different combos, combining a variety of lean proteins (cut up chicken breast or canned lentils or beans or lean beef and marrow bones) and whole grains (canned corn wild brown rice or barley).

For those of us who love cooking, there is nothing better than cooking a delicious beef barley vegetable soup on the weekend, ready to bring to work during the week. Alternatively, buying a pre -prepared vegetable soup and creating combos at work, easy to mix and to warm in the microwave oven is recommended. Examples are a Lentil corn vegetable soup or Bean brown rice vegetable soup.

Lunch on the road or no kitchen available at the workplace

The lunch box menu shown below will provide you with the necessary carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals your body requires. Eating a well-balanced lunch box daily will ensure that you achieve optimal blood glucose control throughout the afternoon. In addition, packing your own lunch box is more economical.

A balanced lunch box consists of the following: starch, protein, fruit and a portion of vegetables.

FRUIT Strawberries


Sliced pear Fruit kebabs Sliced pawpaw Orange
STARCH Health bread filled with Wholegrain crackers spread with peanut butter Whole wheat pita bread filled with Pasta tuna salad Durum wheat pasta (penne) mix with Carrot and bran muffin served with
PROTEIN Egg, boiled and sliced 1 x 175ml low-fat fruit/plain yoghurt Chicken breast-sliced and mixed with Canned tuna chunks (oil drained) Low-fat grated cheese
VEGETABLE Sugar-snap peas, baby corn, baby carrots Cucumber sticks, baby tomatoes chopped tomato and lettuce Mix with a variety of vegetables Baby carrots and gherkins
FAT Lite mayonnaise Peanut butter Lite mayo Low-oil honey-mustard dressing Lite margarine
TREATS (optional) Handful cranberries 6 Dry apricots 1 handful of biltong (fat removed) Dry fruit bar 1 handful of nuts

Emergency ‘back-up’ lunch

It is recommended to always keep a few items in the cupboard at work as a back-up in case you don’t have time to pack your lunch box. Easy nutritious foods are canned fish, or John West tuna packs, chunky flavoured low-fat cottage cheese or lean cold meats (pastrami or turkey) served on whole grain low-fat crackers, such as Provita or Ryvita. Enjoy the fish/cheese and crackers with a mug of vegetable soup (canned) in winter. In summer, the soup can be replaced with one portion of fresh fruit.

Healthy fast foods

If you are spending your lunch time on the road and you forgot your lunch box at home, you should choose a healthy fast food meal. The following fast food choices are lower in fat and have lower glycaemic load than the unhealthy options:

Something Fishy, Fishaways – order a portion of grilled fish, ½ portion of rice and a double portion of coleslaw.                                                        

Nandos: order a small portion ¼ chicken (remove skin) combined with spicy rice, Portuguese salad, vegetables and coleslaw or the Vitality meal that consists of ¼ chicken portion, corn on the cob and a green salad.                                                                                    

Sushi bars: limit the rice portion of sushi by ordering Miso soup or edamame beans combined with sashimi and sushi pieces (limit sushi portions to 3 to 4 per meal).                                  

Chinese: order healthy choices such as beef or chicken chow main. Ask for ½ portion steamed rice and double portion vegetables.

Indian: order a bean or chicken curry as well as a vegetable curry with a ¼ portion rice (avoid the Naan bread and Roti).    

Note: larger portion of starch can be enjoyed if you are doing carb-counting and adjust your insulin accordingly.

Unhealthy fast foods include burgers and chips, pizzas, wraps, shawarmas, vetkoek, boerewors rolls, pap and meat, Bunny chows, fish and chips, Russian and chips and Prego rolls.

MEET OUR EXPERT - Ria Catsicas

Ria Catsicas
Ria Catsicas is a dietitian in private practice and completed a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a special interest in the nutritional management of chronic diseases of lifestyle and authored a book The Nutritional Solution to Diabetes.