Do you eat the same thing for lunch day after day? Do you need a break from your lunch break, some fresh ideas on what to eat and the motivation to try out new and healthier foods that will give you energy to tackle the afternoon with vigour? Here is some quick and yummy lunch ideas for you.
This is the simple and effective method I use to ensure my patients get a healthy, varied and tasty lunch, every day. It gives you the flexibility to make your own choices based on what you love. Your colleagues will be envious.
The healthy eating puzzle
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Firstly, you need to know which foods to select, so that you can have them to hand when hunger strikes. The Healthy Eating Puzzle, launched this year by The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, gives you a great overview of what a healthy plate should look like. It is based on the most current scientific research into nutrition and biochemistry.
All you need to do is select a food from each part of the puzzle to create a healthy meal. Let’s look at it more closely.
Leafy greens and salad
This is the part we tend to leave out, but it is the most important food on your lunch plate and should make up almost half of your plate. There is an abundance of green and leafy salads and vegetables to choose from- watercress, kale, broccoli, tomato, spinach, cabbage, the list goes on.
These foods provide us with a multitude of benefits – minerals and vitamins, alkalizing minerals such as magnesium and potassium to keep bones strong, valuable fibres to feed gut flora, keep us regular and eliminate excess cholesterol and hormones. These are the healthy ‘carbs’ because they keep our energy levels stable.
Root and starchy vegetables, and grains
The starchy vegetables such as carrots, potato, swede, pumpkin, butternut, parsnip, beetroot, winter squash and sweetcorn are the more satiating carbohydrates and should be eaten in smaller quantities (up to a quarter of your plate) due to their higher sugar content.
Grains are a contentious food as they cause inflammation for many people. The allergenic grains tend to be those that contain wheat and gluten – wheat, barley, rye, tritacle, spelt and kamut. I recommend eating the less allergenic grains, such as millet, corn, quinoa, rice, oats and amaranth. Grains are found in various forms – pasta, breads, crackers, tortillas.
Select a wholegrain option, that is not white and refined, in order to receive all the benefit of the nutrient-rich part of the food such as vitamin E, B-vitamins and fibre.
Protein is a must have food on your lunch plate. It will keep you full and your energy levels stable throughout the afternoon. Select a good quality protein such as fish (salmon, mackerel, white fish), lean chicken and game meat, shellfish, pork and less frequently (not more than once a week) quality lamb or beef.
Processed meats, such as ham, and Vienna sausages will leave you feeling the way they look – limp and lack-lustre. They contain very little protein and lots of starchy fillers and preservatives, and are best avoided.
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and contain valuable nutrients such as vitamin D and special fats called phospholipids needed for healthy cells and brain function. They should not be fried but rather boiled, poached or scrambled.
Organic cheese is acceptable but dairy is one of those foods high on the allergy list for many people, and should preferably, not be eaten in excess.
Plant proteins such as beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, butter beans) are a wonderful source of protein and fibre and I recommend popping them into salads, soups or used as spreads on sandwiches such as hoummous, daily.
Fats are no longer considered to be the enemy they once were, as they are needed for many important functions in the body, including brain function and hormone production. The healthiest fats are cold-pressed plant and seed oils, avocado, olives, and natural, saturated fats such as fresh butter, coconut oil and ghee. The oils that are damaging to the body are those that have been heated during processing, such as margarine, shortenings and hydrogenated seed oils. These trans and hydrogenated fats are toxic and should be avoided.
Don’t forget fresh herbs and spices
Mix it all up
Now that you have the principles of how to eat healthily, you can mix and match these foods to create many different healthy lunch options – salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta, mix ‘n match platters, and much more.
Craving something sweet
If you are craving something sweet after lunch, a block or two of good quality dark chocolate (80% or more cocoa solids) should do the trick to satisfy a sweet tooth and will provide you with antioxidants, or you could also have a small portion of fruit.
I hope this gives you the tools and the motivation you need to make lunchtime a tasty and nutritious experience!
Loved the tips and suggestions? Kick-start your clean eating lifestyle with a full 7-day diet and workout plan.