Nutritionist Rob Hobson shares his favourite lunchtime recipes that will keep our bodies nourished and resilient – and are so much tastier than a meal deal. Plus they're all under 400 calories
And just like that, we're working from home again. While we miss office chatting and post-work drinks, one of the biggest working from home benefits is the time it affords to make a healthy, nutritious lunch. Here, nutritionist Rob Hobson shares five healthy lunch ideas, all of which fall into his NIMBLE eating plan , which serves as a reminder for us to eat healthier in the pandemic. In this case, nimble stands for Nutrients, Immunity, Mind, Budget, Local and Eating Routine. These six interrelated areas of health can be used as an overarching approach to eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and building resilience.
Read on for Rob's five health lunch ideas.
Spicy prawn and tomato pasta recipe
395 calories per serving
This simple dish is simple and quick to put together while also containing a good source of zinc which is important for many reasons including immunity. Using wholemeal spaghetti over white helps to increase the overall nutrient density of the dish by adding more fibre to your meal which can help to maintain fullness between meals.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 garlic cloves, chopped
100g cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
120g wholemeal spaghetti
250g peeled raw king prawns
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
A pinch of crushed dried chilli
Reserve some of the drained pasta water
1. Set a medium-sized non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and add the oil. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes until slightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium and add the ground coriander and garam masala. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the garlic, tomatoes and 50ml water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are completely soft.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the pasta with 1 teaspoon salt and boil for 7–8 minutes until cooked. Scoop out half a cupful of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Tip it back into the empty pan and add the reserved cooking water.
3. Add the prawns to the tomato sauce and cook for 4–5 minutes until they are completely pink.
4. Add the prawns and tomato sauce to the pasta along with the fresh coriander and chilli. Toss over a low heat for 2–3 minutes before serving.
Healthy beans on toast recipe
190 calories per serving
This is a simple and cost-effective alternative to canned baked beans and offers additional nutrition by way of using fresh tomatoes. Using cannellini beans as well as dried spices makes this dish high in iron which required for immunity and is a useful nutrient for women, many of whom are lacking this mineral in their diet.
300g large vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp runny honey
400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Season with salt and pepper
Serve with your bread of choice or even on top of a jacket spud.
1. Put the vine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, ginger and oregano in a blender or food processor and blitz to a fairly loose, smooth texture.
2. Pour into a saucepan and add the honey and 4 tablespoons water. Set on a medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture starts sticking to the pan, just add a splash more water.
3. Now add the beans, stir and heat through for a couple of minutes before serving.
Green shakshuka recipe
255 calories per serving
This alternative to a traditional tomato-based shakshuka is absolutely loaded with nutrient-dense green vegetables and herbs. Using frozen peas is a good way to save on the budget and you can adapt the fresh green vegetables you choose to use to fit in with the seasons or whatever is available locally.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
200g bag of spinach
200g frozen peas,
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
Handful each of flat leaf parsley coriander and mint, roughly chopped
200g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp harissa
Pomegranate seeds (optional)
1. Heat the oil in a large wok over a medium heat then add the leeks with a pinch of salt and cook for 4 mins. Once softened add the spinach in handfuls to wilt.
2. Stir in the peas, garlic, coriander seeds and herbs then season. Cook for a few mins for the mixture to become fragrant. Now make 4 wells in the mixture and crack two eggs into each one. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 mins or until set to your liking.
3. Dollop natural yoghurt and harissa over the mixture and throw over pomegranate seeds to garnish. Serve alone or with wholemeal flatbreads.
Spicy butternut squash soup recipe
348 calories per serving
This is an incredibly simple soup to make and given the cost to make will help to make your food budget stretch a little further. Squash is rich in the antioxidant beta carotene which is the pigment responsible for the bright orange colour of the vegetable. Choosing soup for lunch is also a good option if you’re trying to lose weight as the high water content can help to signal fullness to the brain on fewer calories.
1 butternut squash, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 tsp crushed dried chilli
1 red onion, finely sliced
600ml vegetable stock
200ml tinned coconut milk
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
2. Spread the butternut squash pieces on a non-stick baking tray and roast for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the tray from the oven and scatter the chilli and onion over the pieces of squash. Roast for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
4. Pour the stock into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn the heat to low. Stir in the coconut milk and warm for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Put the squash, onions and chilli in a blender and add the coconut milk/stock. Blitz until smooth, then season to taste. Serve hot.
Veggie lentils with tahini dressing recipes
Lentils are big on the NIMBLE menu as they a so highly nutritious offering a lot of bang for your buck. A serving of lentils can add as much as a third of your daily intake of fibre which is lacking in the diets of many people. Lentils are also rich in zinc and iron which are useful for those following a vegan diet (you can make this dish vegan by switching to soya yoghurt).
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
200g broccoli, cut into small florets
100g shredded kale (cut off the woody stalk)
Handful of frozen peas
250g pack of pre-cooked lentils
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp light runny tahini
½ lemon, juiced
½ tsp ground cumin
1. Add the oil to a large frying pan set over a medium heat.
2. Add the onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes to soften. Turn up the heat then add the remaining vegetables and fry for 5 minutes until they all become tender.
3. Add the lentils to the pan and stir to heat through.
4. Take off the heat then stir the dressing through the warm mixture before serving.