As we stated in our previous blog post, Mom always told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, Mom also made sure we ate lunch. She packed our lunch daily, including snacks, in our He-man, Star Wars or Hello Kitty lunch box.
Planning lunch can be difficult. Many of us skip lunch, eat quickly at our desk and/or grab fast food and unhealthy snacks. This blog post will discuss how we can overcome lunchtime bad habits and focus on making healthier lunch choices.
Many people skip lunch because they get too busy at work–we all know someone who only eats once or twice per day. Most likely he or she is not in great shape and is unaware of the harmful effects this has on the body.
Skipping meals during the day can cause overeating in the evening, resulting in harmful metabolic changes in the body. When you skip a meal your fasting glucose levels increase, which causes your metabolism to slow down and cling to fat. According to The American College of Endocrinology, if this behavior continues long-term it could lead to diabetes.
Another bad habit many people struggle with is eating quickly while working. According to the Business Dayton Journal, a new survey reveals that fewer than half of all employees leave their desk to take a lunch break each day, and one out of every five workers polled said if they do take a lunch break, it is eating at their desk. What is the harm in that, you’re eating lunch right?
Wrong. Let’s face it; it’s hard to enjoy lunch if you have to eat in a hurry at your desk. Desk dining means that you are probably eating while distracted and your brain does not register that your body is eating. “Eating at your desk encourages mindless eating, and overeating,” says Susan Moores, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Most cultures take a mid-day meal to enjoy food as well as a physical and mental break.
Eating on the Fly
Under constant stress, your body will start to crave rich and sugary foods. That is why many people end up going to the pizza parlor down the street or grabbing a donut from the vending machine in the office. However we all know that this behavior will end up having long-term health consequences. On the other hand, taking time away from your desk may go a long way toward relieving stress and boosting energy. Now you need to plan ahead and apply basic rules for healthy eating.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” –Benjamin Franklin
Planning meals ahead is not rocket science. It simply means carving out one or two hours a week. Just like bad behavior can become habitual, so can good habits. Prepare your lunch and snacks at night. Maybe use dinner clean-up as a time to make your lunch with leftovers. If you are a parent, make your lunch at the same time you make your children’s. Our family uses the Mr. Lids containers to pack our meals and snacks, this way we can eat balanced, hot meals.
Lunch doesn’t have to consist of a sandwich, salad and fruit. Make complete meals you will actually enjoy and keep you satiated. Most of time we eat leftovers from dinner, or since sandwiches are not my favorite, I grab something prepared in the refrigerator section of the grocery store such as a quinoa salad. No matter what food category/diet you consider, it is essential to understand you need a balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein to live well.
What To Eat
We all need fat and there are three main types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The right fat is good! It coats our cells, joints and keeps our brain functioning. Every fat or oil contains a mixture of all three, which you need to be healthy. You can get adequate amounts in seeds, nuts, fatty fish, avocado and oils. We should aim to get between 25-35% of our calories from fat. However, you should treat trans fat like the plague! If the food has a shelf life of 60 years like the Twinkie, imagine what it can do to your insides.
Fiber-rich carbohydrates are also necessary for our body’s main source of energy and metabolic boost. Without it our muscle tissue would break down and our brain would turn to mush. We should aim to get 45-65%of our daily calories from carbs. Avoid processed carbohydrates and eat fresh vegetables and fruits. If you eat grains such as rice or bread, remember they are calorie dense, meaning it has a large amount of calories in relation to the amount of space it takes up. You can easily inhale a large portion without realizing it. It’s better to eat calorie dense carbs during breakfast or right after workouts to make use of the energy source. Try to stick to veggies and some fruit the rest of the day.
Last and not least–why is protein so important? Proteins are essential for forming bones, collagen, cartilage, fuel, stabilizing blood sugar, helping control weight, and are responsible for building, repairing and maintaining muscle tissue. We should aim to get 10-35% of our daily calories from protein. Although protein is important, people go overboard and take in too much. This can cause an increase of fat, toxins in your kidneys and you can lose muscle and bone calcium as well as have muscle weakness. Healthy proteins come from many food sources whether you eat meat, are a vegetarian, vegan, gluten free or on a paleo meal plan. Here is a sample list: eggs, milk, meat, nuts, beans, avocados, dates, figs, bananas, cherries, apricots and grapes. There is something for everyone, just keep track of the amount you consume.
A few years ago, a couple of staff members at Epicurious decided to create a healthy lunch challenge for over 1300 aspiring child chefs, choosing a winner from each state. Click HERE for the winning healthy lunch recipes to get some great lunchtime ideas. The grand prize for the winning chefs and their parents was an enormous celebration at The White House to meet Michelle Obama (read about it HERE). Very inspiring!
Where to Eat
Vow to yourself that you will get up from your desk to eat. Walk to a bench down the street, sit at a conference room table, or eat with some colleagues. Take 15 to 30 minutes to eat and chill out. If you are at home, eat with the TV and computer turned off. Enjoy the time with your family to share both food and conversation.
In the End
So what did we learn? Never skip meals, step away from your desk, plan your meals or grab a healthy, balanced, prepared meal, exclude trans fats, always eat healthy fat, fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and healthy proteins.
Our bodies function best when we eat healthy and balanced meals every two to four hours. Please feel free to share your favorite healthy lunch ideas!
“Eat like a king in the morning, a queen at lunch and a pauper the rest of the day.” –Adelle Davis
Yours in Health,
Pascha at The Fuse Fitness