Lunch rarely gets the attention it deserves. Busy workers, mums and students often eat this midday meal at 2 or 3pm, grabbing sushi, wraps, rolls, stir-fries and other quick options full of processed carbohydrates.
A heavy, high-carb meal at this time not only means consuming a significant number of calories in the second half of the day when you are usually less active, it also plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, often resulting in cravings for sweet food.
Eat lunch at the right time
Eating many hours after the first meal of the day also fails to take advantage of your natural metabolism. For this reason, the earlier you eat lunch, even in place of a late morning snack, the better it is for fat burning. So, if you‘re hungry at 11 or 11.30am, eat your lunch then, rather than holding out. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up binging on a late lunch and sweet foods at 3 or 4pm because your blood glucose has dropped significantly, leaving you ravenous and prone to overeating.
Dietitian Susie Burrell shares her top five healthy lunches to enjoy at work or at home.
1. Soup and a sandwich
The vegetable bulk in soup keeps you feeling full, while the serve of carbs and protein in an egg, tuna or chicken sandwich or wrap satisfies your hunger for several hours. Just make sure your sandwich or wrap is small, and not the jumbo size usually offered at food courts.
2. A substantial salad
Pair two or three cups of fresh salad ingredients with a palm-sized portion of protein (chicken breast, lean lamb, salmon, a couple of eggs), a decent serve of carbs (a slice of wholegrain bread or ½ cup brown rice, sweet potato or beans), and some good fats (avocado or olive oil) to keep you satisfied for several hours. And remember, you’re always better off making your own salad because food court options tend to be packed with extra fats and calories in the form of cheese, nuts and lashings of dressing.
The perfect mix includes two brown rice rolls served with raw fish, edamame and seaweed salad. This is a low-calorie, high-protein lunch that will satisfy you until late afternoon.
4. Leftovers from dinner
As well as being cost effective, the beauty of leftovers for lunch is being able to enjoy a decent serve of carbs via rice, pasta or potato, without it impacting your weight-loss attempts. Enjoying a hot meal at lunch is also more satisfying than the usual salad or sandwich you’ve been eating for ages. Good leftover options include stir-fry with brown rice, a serve of pasta with tuna and salad, or mini frittata muffins with salad.
5. Stuffed potato
Chances are you never thought about eating a potato for lunch at home, let alone at work. A single potato is a perfect portion of carbs and you can cook it in minutes in the microwave, then fill with your favourite protein (tuna, salmon, chicken, beans) and finish with a delicious topping like avocado, cheese, a little sour cream, chili or mayo. Served with salad, a stuffed potato is one of the cheapest and most filling lunches there is.