Let’s face it, Lunch goals are real. If you’re caught in the perpetual trap of being unprepared and unsatisfied with your lunch choices, you are not alone! Studies show that there is widespread irregular lunch consumption by both children and adults (1) but skimping on lunch can disrupt our eating patterns for the remainder of the day. Whether it’s balancing blood sugar levels, weight management, or keeping your focus, a midday meal has the potential to influence your wellbeing.
Here are our top tips to make lunch count.
1. Make it Brunch on Weekends
A cooked breakfast might feature on your weekend menu but consider pushing it out to an early lunch – aka brunch! Eggs are a great protein source and pair well with many vegetarian options like homemade baked beans, spinach, mushroom, tomato, avocado, rocket, sweet potato rosti… the list goes on!
2. L is for leftovers
Not all leftovers from dinner are as appetising to eat cold the next day in the workplace – so if you don’t have a way to reheat your food then rethink what leftovers you can utilise. Your best bet in the warmer months is to grill extra chicken, steak or fish to use in a salad the following day.
3. Avoid the sneaky snack attack
Finding your satiety sweet spot at lunch can be tricky – too many carbs and you may hit the wall feeling a little sleepy in the afternoon, too light a meal and you may be easily tempted by sugar-laden snacks when peckish at 3 pm. Sometimes texture will do the trick – think ‘Crunch at Lunch’ and try adding a side of raw veggies or nuts, roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds.
4. Prep and Plan Like a Pro
Always think one step ahead so that you don’t get caught out! It’s not about spending hours in the kitchen on a Sunday for the week ahead, just make dinner prep count for the following lunch too. A healthy Caesar salad can be easily prepared in advance by boiling eggs and poaching chicken the night before. Whole cherry tomatoes can be tossed in at the last minute no chopping required along with a bag of lettuce. Parmesan cheese optional – skip the croutons and bacon.
5. Rotate your Plate
Variety is the spice of life so try to have at least 10 different options to rotate through rather than being stuck in a food rut at lunchtime. Avoid the trap of a salad featuring lettuce, tomato and cucumber every time and bulk it out with cooked veg, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
6. Lunch is the new Dinner
If you can arrange it, treat lunch as a main meal as much as possible. Studies show that the consumption of higher energy intake at lunch compared with at dinner may result in favourable changes in weight loss and may also offer clinical benefits to improve insulin resistance. (2) The trick here is to still have it feel like a ‘light’ meal – easily digested and lower in carbohydrates.
7. Protein and green should always be seen
Lunch is always a winner if there are vegetables in sight. Ideally, base your meal around protein and a green vegetable as the priority ingredients and go from there. Remember that quinoa, tofu, tempeh and legumes count as vegetarian proteins and can bring exotic flavours to your lunch plate.
8. Keep a quick fix or two – but don’t eat too quickly
Ok, so a smoothie on the go or a couple of sushi rolls are forgivable every once in a while – just remember if you are eating in a short window of time not to rush to avoid indigestion – and treat your meal like 5 minutes of mindfulness.
9. Light but not too light – just right!
Lunch size may influence cognitive functioning, with a study showing that people who had a larger lunch made more errors on focussed attention than those who had a normal-sized lunch or smaller than normal. (3) With the right food choices it’s easier to work out proportions and as mentioned earlier you can still treat it like a main meal – just not a ‘heavy’ meal.
10. Invest in a Meal Plan
Here at Livewell, our Nutritionists, Naturopaths or Dietician can design a meal plan for you while taking into account your health goals and nutritional requirements. It’s a great way to cover all of your bases and to be inspired by new recipes. We’re here to help you live well at lunch!