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What’s wrong with a ham sambo?

  • Surveys show that the ham sambo on white bread is still by far the most popular option for lunchboxes. However industrial sliced bread has up to 20 ingredients, most of which belong in a lab rather than a kitchen.  It’s lower in fibre than it’s wholegrain counterpart and we know that the majority of Irish people are not eating enough fibre
  • Most processed meat is reformed from less desirable cuts of meat held together with a range of gels, gums, additives and preservatives – yuk! The World Health Organisation have warned that eating processed meats such as ham, bacon and salami can increase our risk of colon cancer.  Once in a while is not a problem, but if that is your go-to lunch option, you could be forming food habits that are detrimental to your health in the long term.  Swap ham for egg, fish, hummus, peanut butter or leftover meat e.g. roast chicken
  • Instead of a sandwich try a slice of quiche, vegetable soup (home-made or a good shop bought version), chilli or other hot meal, wholegrain rice cakes with dip, sushi, falafel…..


What should be included in a lunch box

  • At least one portion of vegetables – We should all be eating at least 5 portions of veg per day, so squeeze at least one into your lunchbox to boost fibre and nutrient intake
  • One portion of fruit – fruit are good sources of vitamins including vitamin C. Make sure to have a variety.  Try grapes, berries, melon / pineapple chunks, wedges of kiwi / orange, apples, pears….
  • Healthy protein – including eggs, fish (try tinned wild salmon), cheese, yoghurt, nuts and nut butters, seeds, roast chicken, falafel. 
  • Wholegrain – for fibre and to provide sustained energy. Try wholegrain bread, wholegrain wraps and pittas, wholegrain crackers, oatcakes, rice cakes…


What to drink?

  • Always have water to drink. 
  • Research suggests that just a 1% to 2% body water loss can lead to significant reductions in concentration and mental performance
  • Avoid sugary drinks including fruit juices, cordials and yoghurt drinks. Have water instead and try flavouring it with fresh fruit

Shopping staples

While in an ideal world, we may all be sweating over a hot stove, in the real world most of us want short cuts.  

Some better buys include:

  • Pack with some veg sticks, wholegrain pitta strips and hummus
  • Sliced cheese. This is usually a better option than cheese strings or other heavily processed cheese
  • Fresh pesto. Spread on a wrap or mix with full fat yoghurt to make a healthy dip
  • Chose a variety with a short ingredient list and avoid any that contain sweeteners
  • Fresh, vegetable-based soups. Just Food, Happy Pear and Fusion Kitchen are good brands to try
  • Mini packs of nuts and seeds are a great addition to your snack list and full of healthy fats
  • Sugar snap peas – no chopping required, just wash and go!
  • Wholegrain crackers – oat cakes, rice cakes, Ryvita…. Many are packed in small packs of 3 or 4, ideal for a healthy snack


Top tips

  • Always include a portion of vegetables
  • Try to plan ahead e.g. keep some roast chicken from dinner to make sandwiches
  • Vary what you include
  • Have a healthy option e.g. soup ready for when they get home

About the author : Aine Ryan

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