It's past noon and all of a sudden you realize that you're hungry and must have sustenance, and sustenance now. All too often this realization is followed by a quick, calorie-filled bite on the run, an ongoing snack-a-thon that continues until dinnertime or an uninspired peanut butter and jelly sandwich... yet again.
Breakfast may bask in all the attention for being the most important meal of the day, but if you don't choose a lunch that energizes you onward, you could find yourself crashing hard during the mid-afternoon slump, a circadian lull that affects humans around 2-3 pm. Power through your afternoon and set yourself up for a healthy, reasonable dinner when you choose a lunch that energizes you for hours.
LEAVE YOUR DESK
And, if possible, leave your building. This can be difficult to do, especially when no one else at your office does, or when you have a pile of work that must be done today. But guess what? That work will always be there, and so will the people with unhealthy habits. You can't let either determine how you take care of yourself. The number one way to have an energetic lunch is to actually take a lunch. Remove yourself from your work environment – even if it's just for 15 minutes – and give your brain and body the break you need to return refreshed, energized and ready to tackle your afternoon.
Unless you have been sipping 3-4 glasses of water throughout the morning, you are probably already dehydrated, and even more so if you are a morning coffee or tea drinker. Our bodies are 2/3 water, and without replenishing your supply, you will feel tired and worn out – and you will look like it, too. Every energetic lunch should include a large glass of water. Soda, juice, coffee and tea have no place at your lunch table; you should regard these items as treats, not as your usual mealtime beverage.
Without lean protein on your lunch plate, you will not be able to sustain energy until dinnertime. Grilled chicken or grilled fish are great choices for lunchtime and can be easily gleaned from last night's leftovers and perched atop a salad (see below) for maximum energy levels. No leftovers and no time to cook? Keep a few organic boiled eggs on hand for those times that you need protein-to-go.
Fiber is filling and beneficial to your digestive system, and a lunch salad is an ideal way to give yourself the vitamins and minerals you need. Pack your salad the night before, and pile on the leafy greens, other fresh vegetables, walnuts and almonds, stout cheeses – craft a colorful salad that you will look forward to and enjoy. To save time, prep all your veggies before the week begins so they are ready to go when you are. Carry salad dressing in a small plastic container, or just stash a whole bottle at your office if you have access to a refrigerator.
Add a washed piece of seasonal whole fruit to your lunch box: Apples, bananas, oranges, plums, nectarines and peaches all work well. This piece of fruit can be saved as an afternoon snack for those of us who like to eat all day long – just make sure to eat a handful of nuts along with it. Eating carbohydrates alone without any protein or fat will make your energy crash shortly thereafter; strive to never eat carbohydrates alone.
A small piece of good chocolate at the end of your lunch will elevate your mood without delivering a whopping dose of sugar that will upset your body's balance. After such a healthy lunch, you can indulge. Choose a small square of dark chocolate and have some antioxidants along with your cocoa fix.
The trick to enjoying an energetic lunch is to plan on it. Healthy lifestyles don't just happen, and if you want to have energy throughout the day, prepare a lunch that will sustain you long before the hunger pains arrive.