An energy-boosting lunch can keep your energy levels up, helping prevent mid-afternoon fatigue. Many healthy dishes are easy and quick to prepare at home.
Make it part of your routine to focus your meals around proteins, veggies and healthy fats – these dietitian-approved recipes can help!
Carbohydrates provide energy, while protein helps slow digestion and keeps you feeling full for an extended period. Fruits and vegetables offer essential nutrition and fibre – aim to fill half your lunchbox with fruits and veggies to increase the likelihood that you meet all your daily nutritional requirements.
Try including a variety of nonstarchy vegetables in your daily diet, such as salad greens, tomatoes, pepper strips and cucumbers. Add colourful fruits like berries, melons and baby carrots as well. Vegetables contain high amounts of fibre which helps prevent constipation while supporting digestive health.
Aspire to consume at least five servings of nonstarchy veggies each day – particularly nonstarchy ones rich in potassium, folic acid and vitamin C. They’re also an excellent source of fibre which has been linked with lower cholesterol levels and weight maintenance.
Vegetarian meals can be both healthy and delectable. Carroll suggests making an enticing sandwich filled with ricotta cheese, beet slices, or winter squash roastings and balsamic vinegar drizzle for a savoury bite. Or use veggie spread like hummus in place of mayonnaise to reduce fat intake!
Prepare a salad bowl by selecting your choice of grain, massaged kale, legume, roasted vegetable and raw or pickled vegetable such as olives. Next add avocado – an excellent source of fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats; or for an additional protein boost add shredded chicken, crumbled tofu or fish for extra protein boost. When snacking replace salty or sugary snacks with some nuts, yogurt or fruit.
Protein foods provide long-lasting energy, help build and maintain muscle, and support immunity. You can find both animal and plant lean protein options to fit into a healthy diet – look for options low in fat and calories so you can feel full without adding to your weight gain. In addition, some protein sources like beans and nuts also offer fiber, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Try to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight throughout the day for optimal satiation and to provide the basis of either a weight-loss plan, muscle-building diet or both.
Fish, poultry and lean meats are excellent sources of protein; however if you’re trying to limit animal products you can still find great amounts from other sources – quinoa being one such alternative source that provides fiber, iron and folate in addition to being an excellent protein source.
Milk and yogurt are other excellent sources of lean protein. When selecting versions that are low-fat or skim, the fat intake can be reduced accordingly. Yogurt provides calcium that can promote bone health. Milk contains eight grams per cup as well as vitamin D and calcium for added benefit.
Vegetarian and vegan eaters alike can find high-protein options, like tofu and tempeh, that provide delicious yet protein-rich food options without meat consumption. Add shelled edamame from Japanese restaurants for an added nutrient boost of fiber, protein and iron; frozen sections in supermarkets often carry it!
Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, helping reduce cholesterol and manage weight. Plus they contain B vitamins, vitamin E and other anti-oxidants which may provide added protection from certain cancers and heart disease.
Most grains begin as whole seeds before being processed into flour, but during milling to produce flour key parts of these seeds can become lost in the milling process. A grain is considered whole when all three key parts – bran, germ and endosperm – remain intact in its structure. You’ll find these in cereal grasses such as wheat, oats and barley as well as non-grass pseudocereals like quinoa and amaranth.
The USDA has defined what constitutes a healthy whole grain. When shopping, look for food labels marked “whole grain” and aim to consume six or more servings daily from these categories – such as breads, tortillas and pastas as well as puffed rice and popcorn!
Try including whole grains into your daily lunch routine each week by including something like a whole-wheat bagel for breakfast, whole-wheat bread sandwich for lunch, or bowl of quinoa topped with veggies and protein for dinner. For additional ideas check out RD-approved recipes:
An efficient lunch can provide essential refuel for both breakfast and midday snack consumption, and help prevent afternoon energy slumps. A well-planned, balanced meal will also ensure you receive sufficient fibre, vitamin rich fats and other sources to support a healthy metabolism.
Add healthy fats to your lunch to increase its satisfaction and avoid blood sugar spikes and drops that leave you feeling fatigued. They may also help slow the digestion of carbohydrates, helping avoid blood sugar peaks and valleys that leave you exhausted.
Healthy fats can be found in food sources like nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil – perfect additions to salads, sandwiches and grain bowls alike! Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids vital for brain health as well as hormonal regulation, skin health and cardiovascular well-being.
Avoid processed meats like salami and ham as these contain high amounts of saturated fat, salt and added sugar. Instead opt for lean meat such as chicken or fish as the protein source in your lunch; dairy options could include milk yoghurt or cheese for a dairy option. When packing a lunch for children be sure to pack an insulated container along with an insulated freezer pack to keep their lunch cool (for items like cheeses yoghurts & some salads).
Maintaining healthy options at hand will ensure you don’t grab whatever is first in the fridge or nearest to your desk. Plan your menu and shopping list early to give yourself the best chance of making smart choices at lunchtime. And don’t forget a portable snack to keep going until your next break!
An energy-boosting lunch can be one of the key tools for staying energized throughout the afternoon. Unfortunately, when people rush out the door without planning for their midday meal it can be easy to make quick decisions that don’t lead to healthful options.
Avoid making common lunch mistakes such as skipping meals, packing the same foods every day or selecting quick and easy options high in salt, added sugar and processed fats that could result in an energy crash or digestive discomfort.
Pack a balanced meal instead of opting for fast and convenient options; include protein, grains, vegetables, and fruit in each of your meals so your body receives all of its essential vitamins and nutrients for optimum performance.
At every meal, try to include at least three of MyPlate food groups — fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains — while minimizing high-fat or high-salt snacks or sides, like chips or pretzels, that contain both high levels of salt and saturated fat as well as added sugar such as granola bars or dried fruits that might add sugar to your plate.
Try to select fruits from various colors when choosing fruit options. Each fruit and berry carries important phytochemicals that may provide protection from cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases; blackberries contain vitamin C and antioxidants while kiwis provide vitamins minerals and fiber.