You’ve probably learnt through experience how important a real breakfast is, and get out of bed early enough to feed yourself well. This first meal is indeed going to help you through the day, but for the best energy make sure you eat a good quality lunch as well.
Whether you’re packing your own, or buying lunch out, check for the five components that will give you solid, sustainable energy: Protein, fibre, carbohydrates, fats, and little or no sugar. Each of these components will support you in different ways:
First, good quality protein in the right quantity helps supply amino acids, which build brain neurotransmitters (they make thinking happen). And because protein molecules are tough to break down, your digestion progresses slowly, causing a gentle rise in blood sugar, and an equally gentle decline as the afternoon progresses; this helps prevent energy slumps and mood swings.
Fibre is important too: not just because it helps your intestines function more effectively, but because it helps you feel fuller for longer.
You also need carbohydrates – the right sort – because they’re your energy food, providing cell fuel to keep your brain operating sharply. The ‘right’ carbohydrates are slow release (low GI) type like wholemeal or multigrain bread, starchy vegetables, brown rice and other unprocessed grains. This type of carbohydrate will release its power steadily, resulting in steady energy for you through the rest of the day.
Good quality fats, like those found in avocado, nuts, and oily fish help your cell membranes stay flexible, and like fibre, their presence will help give you a feeling that you’ve really been ‘fed’. That means you’ll be able to walk straight past the chocolate vending machine mid-afternoon without buying.
The food type you want to avoid is sugar (like in fruit juices, soft drinks and lollies). That’s because this type of fast release (high GI) carbohydrate will give up its energy quickly. Sugar gets you feeling good in the moment, but lets you down again fast. Consuming sugary foods is the fast track to an energy slump soon after.
A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be complicated: Even a simple avocado, chicken and salad sandwich on multigrain constitutes a ‘good’ lunch: The chicken provides protein, the salad supplies fibre, the bread is a good source of carbohydrate, and the avocado contains good fats. If you’re eating out, look for the salad on the menu, and pair it with some animal protein. Need more ideas for a healthy lunch? What about vegetable frittata, or leftover fried rice with tuna?
Just one more tip: You’ll enjoy lunch more, and experience better appetite control, if you stop working long enough to eat it consciously. The almost-spring weather here is spectacular right now, so why not take your very healthy lunch out to a park re-connect with nature while you eat. You’ll return to work feeling well fed, rested and refreshed.
Looking for inspiration? Take a look at these healthy lunch ideas: