Whether you are working in an office or work from home, people look forward to lunch time for a variety of reasons. It is the perfect time to meet with friends; to take a powernap; to take a quick walk; or sit in the sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. Lunchtime can also be a great time for catching up on the latest news while surfing the web or playing a quick game of Solitaire on your computer. Others enjoy spending time with coworkers and a little lively conversation.
The problem with lunch time is that many people rush out of the office to grab an unhealthy meal at a restaurant or a nearby fast food establishment without a single thought about the potential harm they are doing to their bodies.
Fast food places have sprung up on every corner, which makes them extremely convenient. As a result, most Americans eat up to three meals a week at near-by fast food establishments.
The health danger comes from the fact that fast foods are filled with salt, sugar, fat, additives, and calories, which means that you are ingesting a huge number of empty calories with minimal nutrition; plus putting harmful chemicals into your body on a regular basis. In addition to the negative impact on your health, these foods contribute to the mid-afternoon slump.
A well-balanced and well-planned lunch can actually help you get through the work day without feeling tired, bloated or irritable. The first thing you have to do when you decide to develop a healthier lifestyle, is to plan your meals – including healthy lunches.
Healthy meal planning takes some practice.
For lunches, the first step is to select several recipes that really appeal to you. (I will be sharing some of my favorites in the next post.) Nutritious foods are easy to add to your lunches if you have them on-hand when you are ready to pack your noonday meal. Focus on increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet in order to ensure that you are getting all the necessary nutrients your body needs for good health.
Fruits and veggies are filling, satisfying, and low in calories so they are perfect as the main source of lunch time calories. Eliminate processed meats in order to avoid extra fat, sodium and additives. Additives are dangerous to your health, while fats and salt tend to make you feel bloated and irritable by mid-afternoon. When you keep the salami and processed ham or turkey out of your sandwiches, you will feel much better toward the end of your workday. For sandwiches, stick with real cheeses, tuna, egg salad, roasted chicken or turkey, leftover steak or roast, etc.
Once you have an idea of the different types of lunches you want to eat each day, the planning is pretty simple. Create a menu of healthy recipes for all your meals, including lunches; and make your shopping list from the menu.
Delicious hand-packed lunches do not have to cost a fortune or come from a take-out restaurant. Many restaurant foods that you enjoy can be made at home without all the salt, fat, sugar, and additives. Great lunches do not have to consist of sandwiches only either. There is a whole world full of wraps, salads, mini pizzas, etc. that are available to spice up your lunchtime menu.
Healthy lunches make a huge difference in your physical and emotional state, especially during the late afternoon. High-sodium meals will make you feel bloated, thirsty, and cranky toward the end of the workday. People often feel fatigued or moody when they have eaten foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium.
On the other hand the healthy lunch will make you feel full without the bloating and moodiness because you can choose foods that give you energy and do not have the bad side effects.
Low blood sugar is usually the cause of fatigue in late afternoon. A high-sugar lunch, which includes most fast foods, can cause a spike in your blood sugar and then a sudden drop that leaves you feeling exhausted and irritable. It is amazing how much one small meal can affect the rest of your day.
The challenge with lunch is that you are hungry and have very little time – you rush out of the office and grab something to quell the hunger and then rush back. Creating a healthful, nutritious lunch at home and taking it to work will eliminate all kinds of problems – including the hectic rush and bad food choices for lunch.
If lunchtime is social hour with your colleagues, focus on restaurant meals that are fruit and vegetable-based. Dishes that are primarily vegetables rather than meat tend to include less sodium and fat.
Homemade lunches can become a part of your office socialization, as well. Try creating a lunch menu with several other coworkers and decide who will bring which item to the office. This is a great way to try new recipes and share good healthy food with others. You could bring a salad while someone else brings freshly made wraps. By taking the responsibility for a healthy meal, you will be encouraging friends to enjoy a more nutritious lifestyle . . . and, it will be easier for you to stick to your dietary changes. A well-balanced lunch can actually be a fun part of your workday when it is shared with friends.
The ideal lunch break for the working person includes plenty of water and a little exercise. When you bring a good lunch from home, you save time because a quick trip to the fast food place is not required. That means there is extra time for several laps around the building (inside or out – I have to stay inside because Phoenix weather is far too hot for outside walks in the summer). Another option is to walk up and down a few flights of stairs. Small efforts like these can lead to dramatic changes in your health.
One final note – drinking water instead of coffee at lunchtime will also benefit your health and your sleeping habits. Many people believe that the caffeine pick-me-up at lunch is necessary to carry them through the day. This is not really true. Caffeine at one o’clock can actually make you feel more tired by the end of your workday. One of the worst habits I see regularly at my workplace is people sucking down “energy drinks” which are loaded with caffeine and sugar – both incredibly harmful to your health.
Lunchtime is an exceptionally important meal when it comes to overall health and how you feel throughout the afternoon and evening. A healthy and well-balanced lunch will help you to get through your work day without those energy dips that are often difficult to struggle through. You will not only feel better, you will be more productive.