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Experts share smart lunch solutions for on-the-go nutrition

Updated on: 30 August,2023 07:45 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Phorum Pandya |

Time-strapped Mumbaikars have a lot going on, and often, their meals take a beating. Four working professionals share their home-made lunch plans that make for practical and healthy options

Experts share smart lunch solutions for on-the-go nutrition

Representation Pic

On a working day, meal timings and plans can go for a toss. When hunger strikes while one is on the go, the most likely option would be to indulge at a food joint, and that’s when the nutritional balance is compromised. A chef who has no time to cook himself a meal, a fitness expert who conducts back-to-back sessions, a businessman who travels long hours by train and a communications professional who ends up eating at her desk while poring over her day’s work tell us how they prepare their work lunches.

Prepare a balanced lunch
Lakhan Jethani, chef

As soon as chef Lakhan Jethani arrives at his Bandra restaurant Mizu, his shift begins with a tasting of all the fresh preparations of the day — checking sauces and setting pace for lunch service. His own lunch is a different story, he laughs. “Most days, I don’t eat until 4 pm. By then, all you want to do is clean up and get out of the hot kitchen,” confesses Jethani, who prefers to have something ready to eat — as basic as a salad, chicken avocado or a chicken tomato sandwich from home.

(Clockwise from bottom) Jethani packs a salad, chicken curry and protein shake. Pics/Atul Kamble(Clockwise from bottom) Jethani packs a salad, chicken curry and protein shake. Pics/Atul Kamble

“Mostly, my dinner is at the restaurant. Home food is a breath of fresh air, it helps to maintain nutrition balance. Anything that is not laden with cheese and mayo is ideal. Keeping something handy and non-fussy helps,” he says. Usually, he carries a home-made salad with lots of leaves, some fruit, boiled egg and cooked chickpeas or quinoa. Lunch always has to be a balance of protein, leaves (salad) and some vegetables,” he adds. The cherry on the cake is when a dabba arrives from his mom’s house, which is usually a scrumptious meal of Sindhi home-cooked food.

Lunchbox tip: Ensure you have handy ingredients to dig into after a long shift. Delayed meals are no reason for unhealthy food habits

A balanced meal on the go
Shirin Kapadia, yoga and fitness instructor

For Shirin Kapadia, planning a protein-packed, nutrient-dense lunch and snack box is key. “That way, you are less likely to binge on junk when hunger strikes.”

The Vikhroli resident’s day begins at 7.30 am in a gym or a yoga studio where she conducts strength training and yoga classes. “Back-to-back sessions mean long gaps between meals,” says Kapadia, who commutes by road. “There are days when I eat in the car or during the bumpy auto rickshaw ride,” she says. “Having food ready means I don’t waste time hunting for meals to fit my health requirements, taste and budget,” she explains.

Kapadia’s lunch of fruits, salad, thepla made with grated veggies and finely chopped methi leaves, curd and protein shake. Pics/Sayyed Sameer AbediKapadia’s lunch of fruits, salad, thepla made with grated veggies and finely chopped methi leaves, curd and protein shake. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

She carries snack-style meals to avoid spillage. This includes a bowl of roasted makhana, a bottle of butter milk, handful of dried fruits, fresh fruits, and a scoop of whey protein in a shaker that she can add to chilled water. “My top on-the-go meal options include frankie or sandwich (with a filling of chicken or paneer), or theplas made with grated veggies and finely chopped methi leaves,” she shares.

Lunchbox tip: Pack a balanced proportion of veggies, protein and good fat. Yogurt can be eaten with the meal or as a snack. Add protein balls for those sugar cravings.

Nutritious flavours and variety
Renuka Nadkarni-Hattangadi, communications professional

Tardeo-based Renuka Nadkarni-Hattangadi, who is a communications professional, eats most of her meals at her desk. She has been advised to eat balanced meals with a focus on protein and vegetables. “I don’t like repeating my meals! This means the meal needs to tick a lot of boxes. Carrying my own lunch means I can make the necessary permutations and combinations to ensure that whatever I eat is big on flavour,” she adds. Her lunchbox spells variety: Maharashtrian fare, dishes from Tamil Nadu and even Middle Eastern cuisine. 

“My favourites are dosa and chicken curry, jowar roti wraps, and hummus and one-pot noodles with pasta and veggies,” says Hattangadi. She opts for a dry or semi-dry gravy or sauce to avoid spillage. A good stir fry with a side of mushrooms and eggs makes her day. “I also enjoy grilled chicken/pan-fried fish with simple bhaji and some millets/rice or a bhakri. For instance, during the summers, curd rice features often in our meals along with grated cucumber/carrot/ginger and a colourful salad or maybe even some dry chicken dish,” says Hattangadi who packs her own dabba with help from her husband. 

Noodles with veggies, cucumber sticks, fruit and eggs. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Noodles with veggies, cucumber sticks, fruit and eggs. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

“Our house help makes delicious veggie and chicken/seafood dishes in addition to bhakris, so the main components are taken care of.” She works within a framework of essentials and fits in comfort food wherever possible. For example, I am not very fond of beetroot, so I grate it into a raita.”

Lunchbox tip: Make the week’s menu in advance

Discipline is key
Vishal Sheth, self-employed businessman and photographer

Vishal Sheth is disciplined about his fitness.  While most days he drives to his office in Goregaon, once a week he takes the three -hour-long train journey to Vapi, to visit his factory. He also moonlights as a photographer. “To be able to workout regularly, good food habits are crucial. My lunch is a mix of salad, butter milk and some protein in the form of paneer/daals and a small bowl of rice or healthy jowar roti. I also add a protein shake to supplement my daily protein requirements,” Sheth tells us.

Juhu-based Sheth gives clear instructions to his cook. “He is not to use butter or oil in anything I consume, and if at all a dish needs it, he knows how many drops to add,” Sheth says, adding, “On days that I have a photography assignment which can go on for long hours, I keep a protein bar handy.”

Sheth packs his box with bhindi sabzi for lunch
Sheth packs his box with bhindi sabzi for lunch

Sheth follows a set food pattern on weekdays to ensure discipline. Weekends and travels are for experiments. “If I am ordering in, I selectively order healthy food with good nutritional value. Eating packed home food is better than ordering from outside on a regular basis,” Sheth signs off.

Lunchbox tip: Keep the experiments and cravings for the weekend. Follow a fixed meal pattern for discipline

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