Derived From: Natural News
Original Author: Isabelle Z.
If you find yourself experiencing a mid-afternoon slump, you’re not alone. If you’re sitting at your desk at work craving sugar and caffeine, or you’re nodding off in front of your computer and struggling to keep your eyes open when 4 p.m. rolls around, the problem could be your lunch.
Lunch is a meal that is almost an afterthought for many people. Some diligent workers scarf down a sandwich in front of their computers, while social butterflies might make a habit out of ordering greasy takeout with the rest of the office. Skipping lunch altogether is even worse, as your body will lack the energy and motivation needed to focus and get through the afternoon.
Here are seven essential tips for choosing the right lunch, so that you can give your body everything it needs to conquer what’s left of the day.
1. Structure your lunch around a protein
If you want your body and brain to feel satisfied after you eat, you’ll want to ensure that your meal contains protein. Some of the densest sources of protein from animal foods are fish, meat, eggs and goat cheese, while dairy is also a good choice. Vegans can turn to plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and beans.
2. Don’t forget about plants
You’ll want to include at least two portions of vegetables or salad with your lunch. (One portion is about the size of the palm of your hand). That is because plant fibers slowly release energy that can help keep your mood even and your brain supported throughout the day. In addition, their antioxidants can help keep you healthy even when confronted with stress. The more colorful your vegetables are, the better, and be sure they are organic!
3. Use fruit to satisfy a sweet tooth
If you’re in the habit of finishing off lunch with a dessert, bring some fruit instead to satisfy your sweet tooth. Eating a sugary dessert will only cause an energy crash later, whereas fruit is sweet and will also provide you with fiber. Fruit is also highly portable, making it the ultimate convenience food. Just be sure to stick to organic fruit so you can avoid the dangerous pesticides typically found on conventionally grown fruit.
4. Don’t shun the fat
Fat gets a bad rap, but this can be unwarranted, since healthy fats are great food for your brain which is mostly made up of fat! If you want to boost your mental function and stave off sugar cravings, opt for nuts, fish, butter, avocado, olive oil and coconut in moderation. In addition, the omega 3 oils found in oily fish are crucial for the brain; failing to get enough can cause your memory, cognitive function and attention span to suffer.
5. Enjoy your food
Remember that you’ve earned your lunch break at work, and you deserve to enjoy it. You want to savor what you eat, and you want your brain and body to register that they have gotten what they need. If you want to ensure maximum wellness, eat mindfully by acknowledging your food, considering where it came from, chewing every bite thoroughly, and using every one of your senses to enjoy it.
6. Seek variety
They say variety is the spice of life for a reason. If you are always eating the same thing for lunch, you’re likely to get bored, and that’s when you are vulnerable to making poor choices like heading for the drive-through just so you can avoid eating yet another chicken sandwich. Aim to try a healthy new dish or recipe at least once a week to add some excitement to the lunch hour. It’s about more than just boredom; switching it up will ensure your body gets a well-rounded variety of nutrients.
7. Avoid processed foods
Lunch can be a hectic time, especially if your lunch break is really short. Resist the temptation to grab convenience foods, as these tend to be laden with preservatives and sugar that will only make you feel sluggish later. If you know you’ll be pressed for time, prep in advance. For example, you could chop up some vegetables, pack them up with some hummus, and leave your lunch ready to grab and go in the morning. Or you could cook some extra vegetables with dinner the night before so you can toss them in your lunch bag in the morning.
Finding healthy lunches that work for you might take some effort, but it is a worthwhile endeavor. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat, including any afternoon cravings and even how well you sleep. Keep track of the things that work so you’ll always have some reliable choices in your arsenal to turn to when you’re feeling uninspired, or simply don’t have time to experiment.