Making time for lunch is so important no matter how busy your day is. Having a nutritious lunch can refuel you after breakfast and increase your blood sugars when concentration is decreasing. It’s recommended you snack in-between breakfast and lunch at around 10am or 11am and in between lunch and dinner at around 3pm – 4pm. However this time may differ for individuals.

The most ideal time to have lunch is between 12noon and 1pm, which is usually 4-5 hours after breakfast and this can renew your energy keeping you more alert for the next few hours. Your metabolism is kept going by eating regularly epically if it’s a reasonable sized meal. I have spoken before about eating little and often and how beneficial it is (I have video on this topic) going too long without eating in-between large meals actually makes your metabolism sluggish.
Not eating lunch?
If you are trying to lose weight skipping lunch or any other meal is not advisable and it rarely results in weight loss. Similarly by skipping breakfast those who skip lunch will weigh more than those who regularly eat these meals. You are not cutting calories in the long run as your appetite will increase later in the day, causing you to binge on foods which are not nutritionally balanced or healthy. If you skip meals you can be doing a huge amount of damage to your metabolism slowing it down dramatically.  To know more about the effects of skipping meals read this blog post 

There are some foods which are more beneficial to eat during lunch than others, it’s advisable to include complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, vegetables) along with lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey) this will ensure you sustain the energy from that meal over a longer period of time.  To get the healthiest lunch make sure to include foods such as, vegetables, grains, dairy, fruits and protein.


Eating the right foods
Lunch is so important because it offers you the fuel you need to be more dynamic in work, school, college and at home before you wind down at the end of the day. Adequate nutrition will increase your productivity throughout the day so always make sure you don’t miss a meal and that you get the right foods in. No matter how busy you are make sure to stop and eat!

The best foods to eat during lunch are whole grains, vegetables and fruits these will provide you with more energy and make you feel more revitalised throughout the rest of your day.

Fish – This is your well known brain food as its rich in omega – 3 fatty acid, this essential fat is vital for development and functioning of the brain. Eating oily fish will help with concentration throughout the day and make you feel more alert.

Nuts and seeds – Nuts and seeds are a brilliant food to include in a healthy diet as they contain fibre, potassium, vitamin B6 magnesium and vitamin E, providing added protection against cardiovascular disease. Although they contain healthy monounsaturated fat by eating the right portion of nuts and seeds (one handful a day) you can lose weight and satisfy your appetite. Nuts and seeds are also great at stabilising you blood sugar levels and if eaten regularly can help lower your cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce the risk of type two diabetes.

Whole grains – Whole grains provide dietary fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants like vitamin E and trace minerals such as Iron, copper, magnesium and zinc.  Eating whole grains at lunch and other times of the day has been known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type two diabetes, some cancer and they are also ideal for keeping your weight under control.  Whole-grains also help to keep your bowel regular and improve overall bowel health.

The worst foods to eat at lunch

Fast food – This is an obvious one for all of us health conscious people. Chips are very difficult to digest due to the amount of fat present in them, they drain you energy levels and reduce productivity for the rest of your day. Having a burger on its own is not the worst thing you could eat, but it’s the bread, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup that we add which makes it unhealthy. Eating fatty fast food at lunch can mean you are ingesting anywhere between 800 – 1300 calories on average and 43 – 60g of fat. We should not be eating more than 70g of fat a day. This food will offer little or no energy and can increase cholesterol and weight if eaten regularly.

Premade sandwiches – In the majority of convince shops such as spar, centre etc. pre-packaged sandwich are sold. They may seem harmless enough and what can be wrong with a sandwich you may think. The issue is that these types of sandwich usually contain preservatives to prolong their shelf life and keep them intact until they reach the shop. Some varieties of pre-packaged sandwiches contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat. There are some sandwiches on the market that contain as much fat as a McDonalds big mac burger as much as 25g of sugar (if containing chutneys etc.) and more than 4.7g of salt. It’s recommended to buy a sandwich that needs to be prepared at a deli or make your own at home, at least you know exactly what is in it.

White breadThere are a number of us who are not aware of how unhealthy white bread actually is. It is a processed bread after all and contains high levels of sugar, and empty calories (offers you little or no energy or nutrition).On the glycaemic index (I have an article on this topic coming soon) glucose is 100 this is what we compare all other foods to. White bread has a reading of 79 a white roll has a reading of 95 on the GI scale.  Opt for multi grain or whole grain bread which is lower GI at a reading of 48 and or corn tortillas with a ready of 52. These will keep fuller for longer and you will avoid spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels.

Additional foods to avoid overeating at lunch: Muffins, white bagels, pizza slices, big dinners (go for the half portion option), fried food, packet soup (high in salt).

Lunch Ideas
Option 1. Salmon sandwhich
-       60g Smoked salmon 
-       Lemon juice
-       Thin sliced red onion
-       30g light Philadelphia with garlic and herb
-       Slice of tomato
-       60g wholemeal bagel or two slices of whole-wheat bread (Mc’Cambridge bread)
      Green salad - Iceberg lettuce, rocket, chopped cucumber

Option 2.  Low – Cal vegetable soup (serves 4)
-          450g vegetables (carrot, leek, parsnip, turnip, onion, celery)
-          600ml vegetable/chicken/beef stock (knorr stock cube or oxo)
-          Flavour with mixed herbs (optional)
-          Simmer for 30minutes

Option 3. Chicken and salsa pitta
Chop and mix cucumber, onion, lettuce, and peppers with some tomato salsa and 1 tbsp low fat mayonnaise. Add 100g of cooked diced chicken. Grind over some black pepper. Fill large whole meal pitta bread.

Option 4. Turkey, Corn, lettuce and Tomato Wrap
Have with some carrot sticks, sliced bell pepper or other crunchy vegetables (added fibre) and a tablespoon of philadelphia garlic and herb cream cheese. 

Option 5  Tuna salad
-          1 tin of tuna
-          Iceberg lettuce
-          1 stick of celery chopped
-          plum tomatoes, chopped
-          sprinkling chopped red onion
-          6- 8 black olives chopped
-          Lemon Juice
-          Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The healthiest foods can be the simplest ones don't over complicate your lunch. I love couscous or quinoa with mixed veggies. I often make a salad with beetroot, rocket, small amount of cheese and ham, tomatoes, slice of brown bread, hard boiled egg and cucumber. The lunches I eat are quick and easy to make and highly nutritious. 

Don’t forget to incorporate a small snack 2 – 3 hours after your lunch to keep you going before dinner. This can be anything from a yoghurt and fruit, to a handful of nuts, or a ryvita crackers and spreadable cheese. Just make sure like with your breakfast, lunch and dinner that the snacks you eat are healthy. 

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