Stay productive all afternoon with a healthy lunch
If you're prone to that tired feeling that creeps up on you after lunch or find yourself struggling to stay awake in those mid-afternoon meetings, did you ever stop to think that your lunch choices could be to blame? We're encouraged to eat a healthy lunch, but just what does 'healthy' mean when it comes to the right nutrients to keep us fuelled until home time? You want to ensure you're satisfied without feeling snoozy, and the right lunch can keep your productivity levels high all afternoon.
Did you know that eating a piece of fruit could actually make you less productive than if you enjoyed a slice of turkey for a snack? That's because fruit is high in sugar, even if that sugar is 100% natural. Foods that our bodies can break down quickly lead to a flood of glucose in the system, which causes your body to release insulin. That's what causes the 'crash' you get after eating sugary foods, so by eating some carbs for energy together with some protein and/or fat, you can slow down your digestion and avoid the crash and dipping energy levels that we so commonly feel after lunchtime.
The right carbs
We're not suggesting you need to eat bread, pasta or rice every lunchtime - remember that carbs can be found in fruits and vegetables as well as in grains. Excellent sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, beans and tofu, and combined with healthy carbs such as salad vegetables, you have a lunch that will fuel your body and brain. Here are a few examples of a healthy lunch that won't give you that post-lunchtime crash:
- Tuna Nicoise salad - tuna with olives, salad leaves, cucumber and dressing
- Turkey or chicken salad
- Ham salad wrap or half a wholegrain bagel or roll topped with ham salad
- Hard-boiled egg salad (packed with protein!)
When it comes to snacking, combine some protein with your carbs, so an apple with some almond butter or cheese would be perfect. Remember that unrefined carbs, such as brown rice and wholegrain bread, take longer to be digested by the body, so they're less likely to cause a crash and leave you feeling sleepy mid-afternoon.
Eating out at lunchtime
We all have those days where you can't avoid going out with your co-workers for lunch, but there's no reason that your healthy choices can't work for a meal out. Choose protein and healthy vegetables for a light lunch, and if you do fancy something heavier off the menu, ask for a smaller portion or divide it into two and take half away for later. Eating smaller meals more frequently (every three to four hours) can help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you energised until it's the end of the day!
Get some fresh air
As well as a healthy lunch, remember that you shouldn't spend your whole lunch hour eating. That hour is there to give you a break from the office and re-energise you for the afternoon, so get out and go for a walk, squeeze in a yoga class or run around the block. Even 15 minutes of fresh air and sunshine can wake you up, and if you eat your lunch in the park, you're likely to feel more motivated when you return to work. We recommend getting some exercise first, then eating, as you'll work up an appetite and find it easier to make healthier choices.
Do some prep
When it comes to healthy lunches, being prepared is the key to sticking to your guns. If you haven't brought lunch from home, you could easily be tempted by unrefined carbs and high-fat options at the sandwich shop. We like to prepare grilled chicken or turkey on a Sunday - you can use a range of different marinades if you like, for variety - and then add some vegetables and rice/quinoa for 4/5 weekday salads. Divide into tupperware containers, keep in the fridge and you have lunches sorted for the week! Try not to add vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumber until the last minute, as these could make your salad soggy - the same goes for salad leaves. A grain or rice based salad works best.
Sugary, fatty snacks
It goes without saying that fatty or sugary snacks are a no-no if you want to stay feeling energised at work. Chocolate and cakes will give you a buzz followed by a serious blood sugar crash, whilst fatty snacks can do the same - and they're bad news for heart health. If you're craving something sweet, try one of our refined sugar free treats, a piece of fruit or some trail mix with dried fruit and cacao. For savoury snacks, a handful of popcorn, trail mix or nuts are all good options, and nuts are packed with protein which will help to fill you up.
If all else fails and you find yourself feeling tired between 3 and 4 every afternoon, it might be a good idea to have a health check up with your GP - it could be that you're suffering from iron deficiency or hormonal problems, or something else could be causing your tiredness. Try chatting to your boss and seeing if you can take a 10 minute break for some fresh air or a drink at this time as even 5 minutes away from your desk could give you the boost you need!