While breakfast is an important way to start our day lunch also plays a key role in keeping our bodies fit. Eating regular, well-timed meals throughout the day can help keep our blood sugar level stable. If we skip lunch, our blood sugar level drops and we may become irritable, sluggish and lose concentration.
Adelle Davis, one of the country’s best known nutritionists, is known for the saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Many cultures have their biggest, heartiest meal at lunch.
As with a good breakfast, you want to make sure to get enough protein to carry you until dinner. While salads are a great way to get your vegetables, a salad by itself is not going to sustain you for long. You’ll end up needing a snack or hitting the candy machine later in the afternoon. Skipping lunch or eating too lightly at noon can also cause binge eating at night. The body is designed to eat frequent meals throughout the day. If it doesn’t get what it needs at some point it is going to demand food and that means eating all your calories at once.
If you skip meals in an attempt to lose weight you may find it has the opposite effect. Your metabolism will slow down because the body thinks it is being starved. Rather than losing weight, the metabolic rate will slow down and the body will stop burning fuel. The body also knows to store extra calories as fat if it thinks it isn’t going to get food again for a long time.
In addition, lunch is a great time to be sociable and to have a much needed break from a busy day!
What are some healthy lunch ideas? Here are some suggestions:
Salads: A big bowl of fresh, organic salad greens (avoid the iceberg lettuce!) with lots of raw and cooked vegetables is a great base for a salad. You can add grilled or roasted vegetables, organic cheeses, nuts & dried fruit, cooked salmon, or sliced chicken or turkey for a hearty meal. Watch your salad dressing. Most commercial dressings are full of unhealthy fats and added sugar and salt. Make a quick and easy dressing by adding a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of sea salt or Herbamare. Here are two easy homemade dressings to try: Creamy Caesar Dressing and Basic Vinaigrette.
Sandwiches: Fill a sprouted grain tortilla wrap or a sandwich made with whole grain bread with hummus and raw or grilled vegetables. Other filling ideas include sliced organic, grass-fed meats, organic cheeses, avocado, sprouts, - be creative!
Soups: Hearty soups especially in the winter make perfect lunches for on the go. Purchase a thermos and bring homemade soups from home for lunch. Homemade chicken, beef, and vegetable broths are full of enzymes, minerals, and gelatin and make a great base for soup. See our recipe section for a number of soup ideas. There are also good canned soup choices at your local health food store. Amy’s, Healthy Valley and Sheldon’s are a few good brands. Watch for the sodium content in canned soups, as they tend to be high and use canned soups only on occasion. Homemade soups are healthier, heartier and taste better!
Leftovers: Any foods leftover from dinner the night before can easily be packed for the next day’s lunch. Investing in a good thermos or glass containers can make transporting and heating leftovers easy.
Seafood: Other quick lunches for on the go include canned salmon, sardines, mackerel, or tuna. The best source of canned seafood is Vital Choice. They offer low-mercury tuna and their cans are BPA-free. These items are a good source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and can be easily added to salads or other dishes. Canned salmon (or tuna) can be made into delicious salmon cakes.
Lunch items to avoid or eat sparingly: Meals with a lot of bread, pasta, or grain can cause us to be tired and sluggish later in the afternoon. You’ll also want to avoid heavy sauces and fast food items that are high in fat, sugar, salt, and trans fats. Watch the labels on packaged and convenience foods items. If you can’t pronounce it or spell it – don’t eat it!
Bottom Line: Be sure to break for lunch everyday sometime between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Make this the main meal of the day. Choose good protein sources and plenty of fresh vegetables. Limit simple carbohydrates and avoid dessert unless it’s a small piece of dark chocolate. Find a quiet place to eat lunch so you can enjoy your food and chew slowly or spend lunch with friends to connect over a delicious meal.
Rebecca Haines, Certified Nutritional Consultant & Certified Holistic Health Coach