Making your own sandwich for lunch is cheaper and healthier for you. Picture: Supplied

From fizzy drinks that contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, to spending up to R90 on a lunch that cost the chain no more than R16 to make, journalist Becky Alexander and nutritionist Michelle Lake have shared just how bad your shop-bought lunch is for your health and your budget.


1. Too much fat, salt and sugar

If you’re a fan of a high street 'meal-deal' and choose a sandwich and a packet of crisps every day, you are probably eating more fat and salt than you really need something which over time could lead to heart disease.

Throw in a fizzy drink or fruit juice as well and that could be, on average, an extra 10 teaspoons of sugar that you really don’t need every day.

Diets high in refined sugars can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.


2. Too many refined carbohydrates 

If you always choose a pasta salad thinking it's healthy or will keep you full for longer, think again.

Shop-bought pasta salads are generally made with lots of cheap, white pasta, a source of refined carbohydrate that your body burns through very quickly  leading to an energy crash in the afternoon.

3. Not enough protein

Even if you choose leafy salads, they are usually too low in protein.

We've seen salads containing just half an egg, how mean is that?

Most shop-bought salads contain very little of the 'expensive', nutritious ingredients and a lot of cheaper lettuce.

We need enough protein to feel satisfied, so if you find that you need chocolate at 3pm, then your lunch hasn't given you what you need.


4. Not enough vegetables

The current advice is to eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day and only two of these should be fruit.

Be honest are you eating any veg with your lunch?

Eat at least two portions of veg in your lunch to be on track, and vary it every day.


5. Bad gut health
If you buy lunch from the same outlet day after day, it’s unlikely to give you enough variation in your diet to keep your gut happy.

Eating a wide variety of fresh, unprocessed foods helps to cultivate rich and diverse gut microbes, which are vital for a healthy immune system and help to balance your mood, energy and appetite.

Do you often feel bloated and uncomfortable after your lunch? Chances are you have insufficient friendly gut bacteria to efficiently breakdown your food.

If so, it’s time to ring the changes and get some new foods into your lunchbox.

Change it up or make your own

Why not take some time this lunch break and explore what else is out there?

Swap cheese and ham for tuna, salmon, prawns, falafel, eggs, tofu or turkey.

Make a salad with lentils, kidney beans or brown rice instead of a sandwich.

Opt for a veggie soup, chilli or curry when the weather is cold. You’ll feel much more satisfied, and you'll get lots more veggies into your diet.

If there is nowhere near you where you can buy lunch each day and lots of us work in schools, industrial estates or at home – you might need some new ideas to mix things up.