If your weekday lunches are bringing you down and decreasing productivity, consider switching them up for more nourishing alternatives that reduce afternoon lulls, not your focus. A little planning ahead is essential for your Monday to Friday lunches at the office. If time isn’t on your side, you can still eat well by avoiding these food coma culprits, replacing them with lean proteins, low-starch vegetables and filling healthy fats. Here’s what to avoid and what to chow down on midday.
Pasta with Meat Sauce
Refined carbohydrates and heavy meat sauces are a recipe for a food coma. Expending all of your energy on digestion means that you’ll be less likely to focus at work, having you dreaming of an after-work nap instead of a trip to the gym or brisk walk. Try high-fibre, low-carb zucchini noodles and brain-friendly salmon to leave you satisfied and energized.
Most pre-packaged sandwiches feature processed white bread, sodium-laden meats and other unhealthy preservatives and additives. Instead of opting for store-bought, make your own sandwich with fibre-rich whole-grain bread, fresh veggies and organic meat.
Looking for inspiration? Here are our 20 Best Sandwich Recipes
Fast Food Pizza
A quick slice piled high with greasy toppings combines white flour, cheese, meat and sugary tomato sauce. Opt for a thin crust, Neapolitan style pizza where simple, lean toppings dominate. Or spruce up sprouted grain toast with filling avocado and eggs for a much healthier lunch.
Get the recipe for Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs
Cream-based soups are usually loaded with, you guessed it, heavy cream, not to mention a variety of quick-energy starches, like potatoes. Some even have cheese and bacon! If you can’t stick to just a small side of creamy chowder, consider broth-based or pureed vegetable soups with a source of protein, like chicken or chickpeas, in its place.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
This “meal” although tasty, is quite unsatisfying, leaving you searching for vending machine snacks all afternoon. Natural peanut butter and banana on a piece of sourdough or sprouted grain toast, along with a side salad, is a healthier lunchtime alternative. Or, opt for protein-rich black bean beet hummus spread on a whole grain pita.
Cheese and Crackers
There’s no denying that cheese and crackers make for a delicious duo, but the snack pairing lacks sufficient nutrients to get you through the day. The good news: you can turn this appetizing snack into a nutritious lunch with a few simple tweaks. First, reach for crackers that are high in fibre (to keep you satiated), limit the amount of cheese, and add in healthy fats (like avocado) and protein (like tuna).
Frozen Microwave Meals
Expensive, loaded with unfamiliar ingredients, unsatisfying and heavy, pre-made microwave “dinners” are best left in the past. Pack homemade dinner leftovers from the night before, or use Sunday to meal prep a big pot of veggie chili to heat up instead.
Processed buns, cheese, meat, plus sugar- and fat-laden condiments do not make for a power lunch. They often come with fries (because who could resist?) and a pop. You’ll be asleep by 2 p.m.! Try juicy homemade turkey burgers instead. A great trick is to use a sprouted grain English muffin in place of the burger bun, which digests at a slower rate and, we think, tastes great, too. Or add your turkey patty on mixed greens along with avocado, cucumber, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
While cold-pressed juices and smoothies can pack a nutritional punch, they’re often high in fruit sugars and lack fibre, which spikes blood sugar. While it’s better to chew your lunch instead of sip on it, if you’re pressed for time, upgrade a smoothie with fibre-rich vegetables, protein (like Greek yogurt or protein powder) and healthy fats (from avocado to flaxseed oil).
Bagels and Cream Cheese
Bagels and cream cheese, though delicious, offer little in the way of nutrition. Eaten for lunch, the pair will leave you in that strange midday limbo of unsatisfied-but-bloated. If bread and cheese are your lunchtime soulmates, turn to cashew cheese, the vegan alternative on gluten-free or whole-grain toast.
If you didn’t pack a lunch and are opting for takeout, be mindful of portion sizes. Meal options like burritos, stuffed with all the goods (like cheese, rice and sour cream) can clock in nearly a day’s worth of calories and sodium. Instead, make your own at home with more wholesome ingredients – or at the very least, go easy on the cheese.
Iceberg Lettuce Salads
While iceberg lettuce makes for a stellar low-carb wrap and backyard burger topper, as salad, it falls flat in terms of nutrition, and is usually loaded with cheese, creamy dressings and bacon. Up your lunchtime salad game with make-ahead grain salad that offers a range of nutrients to keep you going all afternoon.
See here for 15 Healthy Meal-Sized Salads You’ll Actually Crave
Mac and Cheese
Workplace stress, business and plain ol’ cravings can have us reaching for convenient (boxed) mac and cheese. But you don’t need to deny your urges: Reach for gluten-free brown rice pasta and load it up with better-for-you ingredients, like rapini, beans and walnuts. You can make it ahead and heat it up at work, or devour the dish as a cold pasta salad.
While noshing on baked goods for lunch is an obvious no-no, eating a doughnut or muffin an hour before mealtime (hello, office treats) is also not ideal. Instead, have a piece of fruit or homemade granola bar to curb cravings and save your appetite for a more nutrient-dense lunch option.
Not sure where to start? Here are 20 Healthy Lunches to Bring to Work