September 2, we talked about fast and simple breakfast options to avoid skipping our morning meal. And while the first meal of the day is important for our health, so is lunch! In addition to the physical benefits – raised blood sugar and fresh energy – there are mental benefits as well. Taking a break out of your day reduces stress and allows for a mental recharge. And your midday meal doesn’t have to be complicated to be nourishing and delicious.
So first, some quick rules for lunchtime to make sure you get the full benefit.
- Sit down – avoid eating while standing up. Sitting down allows your parasympathetic system to take over, improving digestion and relaxing your body.
- Avoid eating at your desk – the temptation is to hide in our cave, at times. While there may be times when you do not have choice, try to get out of the office. If the sun is out, grab some extra napkins and enjoy a picnic outside. But even enjoying your meal in the office break room is an improvement.
- Breathe deeply – This might seem like an odd reminder, but we can go all day without taking a deep breath. And breathing is critical for our best health. So take a moment, before and after your meal, to inhale deeply, and slowly exhale.
Now, onto some delicious recipes that can make your lunch healthy and enjoyable! Somewhere along the way, we embraced the sandwich as the only noon-meal option. Well, we left some room for the salad, but otherwise, we’ve limited ourselves to protein between two slices of bread. Let’s branch out!
Bento box – this is a new craze that is surprisingly easy and fun. Whether you take advantage of leftovers, or simply use fresh foods to create your meal, bento boxes offer an opportunity to have a different lunch daily. So pick up a few and see what you think!
Veggie wrap – so if a sandwich is hard to give up, try a twist. Take a large whole grain wrap, add a thin layer of homemade mayo or dressing, layer some low-sodium deli meat, then top with a few slices of cheese or avocado, and a handful of spring lettuce leaves or kale. You can wrap it up in foil for easy transport.
Stews and soups – okay, so this one requires a teeny bit of prep time, but not as much as you think! Often, Sundays offer the best opportunities to prepare food, but find what works best for your schedule. Depending on the recipe, stews and soups can take less than a half hour to prepare, and then you can forget about your food until you pack it up for the week. Check out my article on slow cookers for some great recipe suggestions.
Flexibility – I know, flexibility is not an actual food idea, but it’s still critical to making sure you are able to eat. Some days, the stars will not align. Life will not provide enough time to make a healthy lunch. But there are other options, including picking better choices at fast food restaurants, enjoying a potluck with coworkers, and (gasp!) letting go of the worry and indulging on occasion. When you’ve created good habits in your life, you can afford to step outside the lines now and then.
We may miss meals because of too little time, not enough options, and lack of ideas. But you don’t have to feel frustrated or trapped. Make small changes – perhaps start with only one lunch per week. And baby-step your way into your healthier habits.
What recipes have worked best for your lunches? Share them down below!