Ahh, lunchtime, that magical hour when all work comes to a grinding halt, and we slowly savor a hearty, healthy meal while basking in the sunlight.
Oh, right, this is the real world, and there’s a good chance you’re working through your lunch. Or at least eating at your desk and trying to resist the lure of checking your email on your phone.
I totally get it.
I used to eat through my lunch hour. Without getting paid for it, might I add…such a good office worker. Pats self on back.
I used to think a good lunch was a frozen meal with a Diet Coke.
I used to think it was totally normal to hit the wall in the afternoon.
Man, I used to dread lunchtime.
If you’re anything like me, you might have a little lunchtime anxiety as well.
What do I eat? When do I eat? How do I sneak away from my desk undetected?
All valid questions, and the first two are pretty easy to answer pretty quickly. I have some ideas for that third one that we can talk about later (insert shady look here).
So, eat when you’re hungry, not when it’s “lunchtime,” and have a nutritious and delicious meal that won’t leave you yearning for nap time or running for the bathroom.
(P.S. No shame if lunchtime is 10:30 a.m., totally been there, especially if I worked out that morning. Not to be a broken record or anything, but listen to your body).
But what makes a healthy lunch?
A balanced meal that leaves you full and won’t spike your blood sugar and make you crash hard.
We’re talking about those boring old square meals you may or may not have learned about in health class - protein, carbs, and fats. Are you sensing a pattern here?
And why is this important, you ask? I mean, you’re just sitting at your desk, right? (Or maybe trying to escape, which brings us back to that third question again somehow…)
Sure, but you don’t want to feel tired and hangry when 2:30 rolls around. I’m betting your colleagues would prefer if you kept your crankiness to a minimum.
Besides, if you let your blood sugar get all wonky, you’ll feel tired, you might get fat, and you might become a real-life cookie monster. Must have sugar!
Left to its own devices for a long enough time that blood sugar can start to do some real damage. It’s been linked to strokes, comas, and even death. Apparently, some people need to have a limb cut off, too, all thanks to poorly managed blood sugar.
Food is fuel, my friends, so your lunch will give you energy to grit through the second half of your day.
I don’t know about you, but I always used to be super motivated in the morning, knocking out tasks left and right.
Then, I got back from the other side of my desk (I totally had a placemat set up on one side so I could just roll from my work area to my lunch area…laziness for the win!), and all thought of doing any work whatsoever stopped.
Sad to say, those microwaveable meals and those break room leftovers you snagged probably aren’t doing you any favors.
If you’re overloading on carbs or sugar (think lots of processed carbs like white bread and pasta - oh, hi, PB&J on not-so-wholesome bread - and refined sugars like the kind added to just about every packaged food out there), you are setting yourself up for a nasty post-lunch crash.
That’s because these foods will spike your insulin levels and then send them plummeting very shortly thereafter. Your body can easily break down the sugars in these carbs, so your blood sugar goes up pretty quickly. Then, when your body has processed all the sugars and is looking for its next source of energy, your blood sugar drops dramatically.
And, like we talked about earlier, this blood sugar tower of terror will seriously mess with your mood. Like, you’re so excited you just gave that abandoned pizza in the break room a nice home in your belly and then all of a sudden you’re pissed off that said pizza is throwing a party, complete with bass and surround sound.
So, making sure you’re eating a meal full of complex carbs, protein power, and filling fat will stave off the hangriness and prevent that afternoon asshole attitude you’ve developed a reputation for.
If you’ve been relying on frozen dinners or leftovers from meetings, or you’ve been hopping on that order in or dine out bandwagon because you’re so not prepared, here are my three go-to lunches that make me feel unstoppable, like a sports car with no brakes.
I’ve talked before about the green goodness. Salads are easy to digest, an easy way to get lots of vegetables, and easy to fill with healthy fats and protein.
How easy is this:
Chop up a bunch of veggies to create a veritable salad buffet in your fridge. Fill your to-go container with a crap ton of leafy greens and toss in your chosen fixings. Put your crunchier toppings and your dressing in separate containers so everything stays crisp.
Or...Mason jar salads!
Let me tell you the mistakes I’ve made with Mason jar salads: not packing them tightly enough, not putting enough dressing on the bottom, and not having a big enough bowl to dump it all into.
Here’s the not-so-secret formula:
- Put your dressing on the bottom because no one likes a soggy salad.
- Then, layer in your hard veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and peppers so they create a barrier between the dressing and more vulnerable ingredients in the next layer - beans, grains, or protein.
- Now we’re on to your soft veggies and fruits. If you want some avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, or strawberries, this layer is the place to put ‘em.
- Moving right along, sprinkle in your nuts and seeds. You might also consider putting your grain here, depending on how absorbent it is. Quinoa and millet are a bit on the fluffier side. (It’s like we’re talking about toilet paper…how absorbent is your grain?)
- Top with your leafy greens. Make sure you really cram them in there.
- When the time comes, make sure you’ve got that gigantic bowl handy and just dump all that junk into the bowl. Voila - lunch.
No brainer, am I right? This is a surefire way to save some time. After you’re done making dinner, just scoop some of those leftovers into a to-go container. You can portion some out for a couple days’ worth of lunches if you’re flying solo.
If not, consider doubling that recipe so your efforts in the kitchen go further.
I saved the best for last! You’re probably getting tired of hearing me wax poetic about how freakin’ amazing smoothies are. But let’s be real.
What other meal packs so much goodness in such a convenient and easy to digest and drink package? And, no, an IV doesn’t count. We want to enjoy our food, thank you very much.
For me, smoothies are a great answer, thanks to my super sensitive digestive system. Combine that with the stress of a deadline or just plain old job hatred and I need something that goes down and stays down. Smoothies have been a savior. (It’s almost getting blasphemous up in here…)
Just make sure you’re adding enough protein to your lunch smoothie. You definitely don’t want to overload on the fruits and underdeliver on the protein - otherwise, you face a blood sugar meltdown and a very unpretty crash just mere moments later.
Some (clean) protein powder, nuts, nut butter, and hemp seeds are all stellar selections.
Now, do me a favor, and step away from the computer while you’re eating.
P.S. Stumped about what to actually put in your salad so it’s a meal and not a side? Grab the Build a Satisfying Salad cheat sheet below.