Brown-baggin’ It!

What can you bring for lunch on the go? When all we have time for is to pack a brown paper bag or an insulated lunch box, it can be tough to find some tasty, portable options. While it sounds like a simple problem, it does take some thought , a trip to the grocery store, and some serious brainstorming. Luckily, the work has been done for you (well, except the grocery shopping!). Here are a few suggestions:

Sandwiches and Wraps

Chicken, turkey, lean cold cuts, and low-fat cheese on 100 percent whole-wheat bread (“whole grain” must be the first ingrediant in the package’s list) are all great options. Wraps, whole-wheat pita bread, and tortillas (not fried) are also good, but always check the number of calories. A 1-ounce corn tortilla has about 70 calories. Avoid mayo,tartart sauce, creamy dressings, and full-fat cheese. Use mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, or vinegar.


Use whole-wheat pasta add vegetables and low-calorie sauce (50-60 calories per half cup). Pack the pasta in a container like GladWare or Tupperware. One cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has 170 calories.


Buy prepackaged bags of salad and keep them in a cooler, then add your low-calorie dressings at lunchtime. Avoid nuts, croutons, noodles and creamy salad dressings.


Hot (in an insulated container) or cold soups are great, especially because research shows that low-calorie soups (fewer than 120 calories for 8 ounces) are very filling and help you eat less. But soups can have a lot of sodium. Your best bets are those with less than 600mg per serving, such as those made by Healthy Choice and the low-sodium versions of Progresso and Campbell’s soups.

Snacks and Sides

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, nutritious, and filling, and they don’t have to be refrigerated or reheated. Apples, pears, grapes, and cut-up melon are durable and portable. You can also tote unsweetened all-natural applesauce packs or a small box of raisins. Other good choices:

  • Nonfat yoghurt is a great portable snack, but it’s perishable, so pack it in an insulated bag or freeze it the night before.
  • Low-calorie cereals work well in a sealable bag. Choose cereals with no more than 160 calories per cup and avoid added sugar and partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Hard-boiled eggs pack well, and you can eat only the whites or go for the entire egg, for about 80 calories.
  • Whole-grain rice cakes vary widely in calorie and fat content but are a better alternative to candy bars. One bar shouldn’t exceed 200 calories.
  • Soy chips and baked chips are available in 1-ounce portions. Look for brands with fewer than 120 calories per ounce (potato chips have about 160).
  • Nabisco has created 100-calorie portion-controlled snack packs (oreo Thin Crisps. Wheat Thins Minis and others) that have no trans fat. They’re a decent snack once in a while, but don’t use them to replace fruit.

Check Out Chocolate This Easter

Easter might conjure up images of fluffy chicks, daffodils and hot cross buns. But for slimmers, chocolate is likely to be the first thing that springs to mind. With numerous opportunities for indulging in the odd egg, Easter is a time of temptation, especially for dieter’s who’ve avoided chocolate in an effort to loose weight.

According to Jason Vale, author of Chocolate Busters, in the UK we spend a massive 4 billion GBP a year on chocolate. This averages at 65 GBP per person and 53,000 extra calories – enough to help us gain 15lb in a year!

With figures like these, it’s clear that many of us have a real love affair with the dark stuff. Indeed, some surveys reveal that many woman would choose a chunk over a hunk any day , opting for chocolate rather than sex!

Surprisingly, there may be a good reason for this. Chocolate contains a naturally occuring chemical called phenylethylamine, which allegedly stimulates the same reaction in the body as falling in love does.

Meanwhile, a second chemical in chocolate called theobromine is thought to trigger the release of “feel good” endorphins, giving us a sense of pleasure. And of course, the caffeine in chocolate can act as a stimulant, potentially providing the “lift” in mood that many chocolate lovers claim to experience. However, there’s little evidence that chocolate truly has any physical effect on our emotions and most health experts agree it’s a psychological effect. In other words, it tastes and feels good in our mouths! No wonder chocolate gift baskets are such a popular choice amongst Gift Tree customers – it’s just too good!

Chocolate Nutrition

It’s not just our emotions that appear to be affected by chocolate. Research shows chocolate may not be bad for our health as we once thought – and small amounts may even be good for us! First off, the cocoa bean – a major component of chocolate – is a good source of naturally occuring plant compounds called flavonoids, which may keep the heart healthy and reduce our risk of diseases like cancer. Flavonoids act as antioxidants and help to mop up an excess of free radicals that if left unchecked, can damage cells, increasing the risk of health problems like heart disease and cancer. Chocolate can also work as a great aphrodisiac too if you’re looking to switch over to a site like and get frisky with your partner, exercise is always good for your health too…

But before grabbing a huge bar of Dairy Milk, it’s worth bearing in mind that plain chocolate is richer source of flavonoids than milk or white chocolate, as it’s less processed.

There’s even evidence that the fat in chocolate may not be too bad for our heart! There’s no doubt that chocolate is high in fat – a 50g bar contains around 15g fat. However, around a third of the fat in chocolate is oleic acid – a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that’s also found in olive oil. The remaining fats in chocolate are predominantly saturates, risk factors for heart disease. But research shows that one of the main saturated fats in chocolate – stearic acid – appears to have no impact on “bad” or LDL cholestrol levels, neither raising nor lowering it.

Meanwhile, chocolate is a reasonable source of some nutrients, including bone-building calcium and magnesium. But bear in mind you’d need to eat large amounts to make any significant contribution to your diet. Ultimately you’d be better off getting these nutrients from lower -calorie foods such as skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt.

Chocolate lovers Tips for Easter…

  • Down size your eggs – if someone is planning to buy you an Easter egg, ask for one designed for small children – it will be smaller, so you’ll be less likely to overindulge. Even if someone has presented you with Easter gifts consisting of chocolate, it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it completely. Just try not to eat everything in one go. Like people say, everything is good in moderation. Plus, by eating small portions at a time, this means the chocolate and treats will last longer.
  • Enjoy the accompanying chocolates or bars and give the egg to someone else. It’s an easier way to control the amount of chocolate you eat and you’ll be more likely to have easy access to calorie information.
  • Ask for an Easter egg that’s filled with fruit sweets such as jelly babies reather than more chocolate – they’re virtually fat free and so lower calories.
  • Go for plain chocolate – as well as containing more heart-healthy flavonoids, the more intense flavour will satisfy your taste buds more easily so you won’t want to eat as much.
  • Don’t “guestimate” the number of calories in a chocolate egg. Instead, try to work it out. Many eggs now give calorie information per 100g and the weight of the egg itself.
  • To calculate the calories in the wholel item , multiply the calories per 100g by weight and then divide by 100. For example, the calculation for an egg that contains 530 calories per 100g and weighs 175g is as follows: (530 x 175) = 92,750 ÷ 100 = 927.5 calories.
  • Beware of constantly nibbling at chocolate eggs – you’ll find it easy to polish off the whole egg. Instead, break off a piece and put the rest out of reach.
  • Keep chocolate in the fridge – as well as keeping it out of sight, chilled chocolate will last longer in your mouth.
  • If you do overindulge, cut down the next day or up your exercise intake to compensate.
  • And, if you really want to be good, ask people to buy you flowers instead of chocolate.

Source: Dietitian , Juliette Kellows Bsc RD

Hot Chips

Full Portion of Hot Chips

Calories 900kcal
Carbohydrate 100g
Protein 12g
Fat 48g
Saturated Fat 15g
Sodium 1489mg

=2.5 unbalanced meals


  • A full portion of hot chips, about three fistfuls, provides more than double the energy recommended for a light meal.
  • Potatoes are not a vegetable. Apart from having no colour from salad or vegetables, a meal of hot chips is far too high in fat and concentrated starch.
  • A single fistful of 10 chips or 100g (the preferred portion for women), is actually equivalent to two starch portions and three fat portions.
  • Potato chips are deep-fried in oil and therefore very high in fat. One full portion of hot chips in fact contains almost your daily fat allowance.
  • Frying food in oil that is kept hot continuously, may greatly increase the trans fatty acid content of the fried food. Trans fatty acids are implicated in many diseases.
  • As hot chips are salted, one full portion contains three times the sodium recommendation for a healthy meal. Not ideal for those with high blood pressure.


One Fistful of Chips With a Large Salad Topped With Some Protein and No Dressing

Calories 440kcal
Carbohydrate 38g
Protein 22g
Fat 20g
Saturated Fat 6g
Sodium 528mg


  • Hot chips are the biggest culprit in making meals away from home unhealthy. In most cases chips are unnecessary as they only add excessive calories and fat.
  • To make hot chips part of a balanced meal, you need to add a large salad topped with some lean protein such as grilled chicken strips, grilled calamari, tuna in brine, low-fat cottage cheese, a boiled egg, ham, smoked salmon or trout. Serve this salad with only one fistful of chips.
  • Oven chips, baked in the oven without added oil, contain half the fat of regular fried hot chips. However, the correct serving size would still be a fistful of oven chips as one medium potato would make one fistful of chips.
  • Eating only a few hot chips from somebody else’s plate may be equivalent to a whole starch portion with fat. Think twice before nibbling on those hot chips.




One average wrap

Calories 560kcal
Carbohydrate 52g
Protein 37g
Fat 25g
Saturated Fats 8g
Fibre 4g
Sodium 978mg
=1.5 unbalanced meal

Food Facts

  • The energy content of an average wrap is equivalent to one-and-a-half meals, which means that most wraps are 50% more than we need at any one meal.
  • Wraps are usually  filled with adequate protein but minimal vegetables or salad. Usually only 5% of a wrap is vegetables.
  • In general wraps are too big and contain too much refined, concentrated carbohydrate. Wraps should be the diameter of a side plate, rather than the size of a dinner plate.
  • Sweet-chilli sauce, barbeque and other sauces may be fat-free, but are thickened with refined starches resulting in a high carbohydrate and sugar content.
  • The fat content of most wraps is almost double the recommendation for a healthy meal. What is more, most of the fat is the less beneficial, saturated kind.
  • Eating half a portion of chips with a wrap adds the equivalent energy of another full meal, as well as doubling the already high fat content.


Half a wrap with a large tossed salad and no dressing

Calories 300kcal
Carbohydrate 31g
Protein 20g
Fat 13g
Saturated Fat 4g
Fibre 4g
Sodium 500mg
= 1 balanced meal

Optimising the smart choice

  • To make a balanced meal of a wrap, you will need to share it with a friend or eat only half and include a large French-type salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
  • When choosing your wrap, watch out for hidden fats in wrap fillings such as fried halloumi cheese, sausages, bacon, avocado, hummus and mayonnaise-based sauces.
  • Ask for sauces not to be included in the wrap, but served on the side so that you can drizzle on just enough sauce to add flavour, if you choose to do so.

Men’s Corner

Strictly speaking, men should have three-quarters of a wrap with salad served with an oil-free dressing. However, this is not practical so make sure you add a large salad to your wrap without any side order, crips or chips.



Fried Chicken & Chips

Three pieces of fried chicken and a full portion of chips

Calories 1204kcal
Carbohydrate 65g
Protein 70g
Fat 73g
Saturated Fat 15g
Sodium 2308mg
Fibre 6g

= 3 Unbalanced Meals


  • Three pieces of fried chicken with a full portion of chips is equivalent to more than three meals. The energy provided by this meal, is the total daily calorie allowance for a woman on a slimming diet.
  • The crumb coating on the chicken pieces is equivalent to a whole slice of bread and together with the chips, the amount of starch provided is double what it should be.
  • As chicken is a very concentrated source of protein, the protein content of this meal is more than three times the recommendation for a healthy meal.
  • As with all takeaway foods, the sodium in this single meal provides all the sodium recommended for a day.
  • Three battered chicken strips are equal to one chicken breast.
  • A fried chicken wing and a drumstick are equivalent in nutritional value.


One piece of fried chicken with a large tossed salad and no dressing

Calories 390kcal
Carbohydrate 12g
Protein 39g
Fat 21g
Saturated Fat 5g
Sodium 1063mg
Fibre 2g

= 1 Balanced Meal


  • Choose one piece of chicken and to balance this meal, drop the chips and order a generous side salad with an oil-free dressing. Note that by not eating the chips, your fat consumption will be 60% less. Despite this, the fat in the meal is still above the recommendation of 15g per meal.
  • Coleslaw is not a good salad choice as it adds a lot more fat to an already high-fat meal.
  • For those not watching their weight, a small serving of mash or sweetcorn can be ordered with this meal.

Men’s Corner

Men can add either a second piece of chicken or a small side order of chips. Do not leave out the salad. The smart choice would be to have one piece of chicken with a large salad and a serving of mash or sweetcorn.





One cheeseburger with a side order of chips

Calories 781kcal
Carbohydrate 67g
Protein 34g
Fat 41g
Saturated Fat 15g
Sodium 1281mg
Fibre 3g

= 2 Unbalanced Meals

Food Facts

  • One cheeseburger with only a side order of chips is equivalent to two high-fat meals without a serving of vegetables.
  • The hamburger roll and the chips make up double the starch recommendation for a healthy meal.
  • The fat content of this meal is almost three times the recommendation for a healthy meal.
  • The sodium in this meal provides half of the sodium recommendation for a day This is quite acceptable as long as the other meals for the day are not also takeaway meals or high in sodium.
  • Vegetarian burgers can contain as much fat, if not more, than meat or chicken burgers. In addition, their sodium content is often higher.
  • Chicken fillet burgers are not necessarily a healthier option, as the chicken fillet is usually cooked with oil and larger in size than a hamburger patty.
  • Chicken patties are as high in fat as beef patties.
  • Ostrich burgers are the leanest of all.


Open cheeseburger with a large tossed salad and no dressing

Calories 441kcal
Carbohydrate 22g
Protein 31g
Fat 25g
Saturated Fat 10g
Sodium 831mg
Fibre 5g

= 1 Balanced Meal


  • An open burger, using only half the roll and without any chips, will provide the correct amount of starch and protein. To balance the meal you still need to add vegetables.
  • A generous salad with a fat-free dressing such as lemon juice or balsamic vinegar should be added or eaten as a starter to make a more balanced meal.
  • Despite leaving out the chips, the fat content of this meal is 25g, which is almost double the recommendation.
  • Be sensible about your beverage choice and choose water or a sugar-free cold drink, rather than a milkshake, sugared cold drink, fruit juice or smoothie.

Men’s Corner

As men require more energy, this hamburger meal can be optimised by simply leaving out the chips and including a large salad with an oil-free dressing. Even without the chips though, this meal is strictly speaking too high in fat for men.





One large 30cm four seasons pizza (1 protein topping with 3 vegetable toppings and cheese)

Calories 1367kcal
Carbohydrate 140g
Protein 72g
Fat 61g
Saturated Fat 33g
Sodium 3067mg

= 4 unbalanced meals

Food Facts

  • A large pizza is equivalent to almost four high-fat meals without vegetables
  • Pizza bases are made from flour, a super-concentrated, refined form of carbohydrate. Thus one pizza provides the equivalent amount of starch of four meals.
  • The protein in pizza is usually high in fat, for example cheese, salami, spare rib meat, bacon, mince, chorizo or other sausage.
  • All the fat is found in the toppings. Choosing mostly vegetable toppings will therefore reduce the fat content. The high fat content of pizza is doubly detrimental to health as it is mostly in the saturated form.
  • The daily sodium recommendation is 2500mg. One large pizza provides more sodium than what is recommended per day.


Two slices of a large pizza with a large mixed salad and no dressing

Calories 362 kcal
Carbohydrate 40g
Protein 18g
Fat 15g
Saturated Fat 8g
Sodium 766mg

= 1 Balanced Meal

Optimising the smart choice

  • Two slices of pizza is the recommended serving size for women. This only provides the recommended carbohydrate, protein and fat for a healthy balanced meal, but not the vegetables. Adding a generous salad without any dressing or protein will complete the balanced meal. Order a large salad for two to share as a starter and then it will be easier to eat only two slices of pizza.
  • Take the remaining pizza home and have one slice as the starch for your next meal. Balance this meal with a generous salad that could even contain a little dressing and some protein topping.

Men’s Corner

Men should have no more than three slices of pizza, provided they also include the large mixed salad without added protein and use a fat-free dressing such as lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.