A balanced lunch can enhance work performance and mental clarity and prevent sweet cravings by stimulating key brain chemicals and stabilising blood sugar.
Do you suffer mid-afternoon sweet cravings or struggle to concentrate after 3pm? Or get to lunchtime and cave in to buying a cafe pasta because that same-same soggy ham sandwich is so boring? These are classic signs that your lunches are letting you down. In fact, a lunch lacking certain elements can cause everything from energy slumps and fatigue to mood swings and impaired concentration and focus (just like athletic performance, your best mental performance depends on giving the brain its required and preferred fuel). An unbalanced lunch (e.g. fast-release carbohydrate such as white bread with little or no fibre or protein) can also cause blood sugar to rise and drop sharply, provoking the notorious ‘vending machine run’.
If you’re thinking, ‘yes, but that all sounds too hard’, here’s a simple formula you can adapt for endless exciting combinations that will fill you up and keep you satisfied and firing on all cylinders until dinner time.
5-step ‘full ‘til dinner’ work lunch formula
- Carbohydrate base: rice, couscous, polenta, pasta, wholegrain bread, bread roll, wrap, pita bread, potato.
- Protein: skinless chicken breast, lean ham with fat removed, tinned tuna or salmon, sliced roast beef or lamb (deli or leftover). Vegetarian options may include tofu or chickpeas or kidney beans.
- Selection of colourful salad vegetables: capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, baby spinach leaves or rocket leaves, asparagus, corn kernels, carrots, roasted or steamed pumpkin or sweet potato, red onion.
- Dairy item: feta cubes, grated hard cheese, goat cheese, cottage cheese or ricotta.
- Flavours: Choose a flavour-punch ‘punctuation’ food: olives, capers, pickles. For extra interest, match with a herb such as coriander, basil, parsley or chives. Top with a small amount of dressing, sauce or dip: salt-reduced soy sauce, chilli sauce, olive oil or vinaigrette, mustard, mayonnaise, hummus, tzatziki or paste avocado.
Get creative and experiment. If you’re looking to meet specific health goals through nutrition or just wish to realise your best physical and mental wellbeing, consider consulting an accredited practising dietitian (APD).