LUNCHBOX

Sandra Carey, 29, freelance journalist Ciabatta bread filled with mozzarella cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and side salad. Glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and espresso coffee
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"I'm a strict vegetarian and always choose my meals carefully, especially if I'm eating out," said Sandra. "Many of the staff in sandwich shops don't clean the knife after cutting sandwiches which contain meat, so I usually take my own lunch rather than relying on sandwich bars. But today I had lunch with a friend at a local cafe."

According to Juliette Kellow, state-registered dietician and deputy editor of Slimming magazine, such a meal contains 970 calories, of which 39 per cent come from carbohydrate, 15 per cent from protein, and 47 per cent from fat, of which 13 per cent are saturates.

"This lunch is absolutely loaded with fat, with almost half the calories in the meal coming from this nutrient," says Juliette. "General healthy eating guidelines recommend that overall no more than one third of our calories should come from fat, so for the rest of the day it would be a good idea to keep the amount of fatty foods eaten to a minimum.

"Although a third of the fat in this meal was provided by mozzarella cheese, the sun-dried tomatoes were the greatest contributor to the high fat content. This is because sun-dried tomatoes are often preserved in oil. But as well as being high in fat, they are also a poor source of vitamin C. Fresh tomatoes contain good amounts of this important nutrient.

"This meal didn't contain much fibre, just 3g, despite being served with a small side salad. On average we should be aiming to have around 18g a day. The fibre content could have been improved by choosing granary or wholemeal bread rather than ciabatta. Alternatively, having a bowl of fresh fruit salad instead of orange juice would have boosted the amount of fibre in the meal and would still have provided plenty of vitamin C as well as several other nutrients.

"On the positive side, this lunch provides good amounts of many different minerals and vitamins, especially the B group of vitamins and vitamin C. In general, vitamin B12 is found only in the animal foods, such as meat, fish, cheese, milk, yoghurt and eggs. However, some other foods, such as bread and breakfast cereals, are fortified with this vitamin. Dairy products are particularly important sources of vitamin B12 for people who follow vegetarian diets. This meal provided plenty of this nutrient, as cheese was one of the main ingredients of the sandwich. However, if all animal foods are excluded from the diet it is important to eat plenty of fortified foods and to take vitamin B12 supplements"n

Glenda Cooper

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