With the hustle and bustle of work building up over the week, we feel like there’s less and less time to prepare lunch for work. It comes as no surprise when we grab something convenient from the nearest food outlet.
The downside? These options can come served in large portions with excess added salt, sugar and unhealthy fats instead of the nutrients we need to stay energised and full for the rest of the day. Buying lunch also takes time to line-up, order and wait for our food to be made. This leaves less of our lunch break to sit, chew and enjoy our food, a key experience that starts the process of proper digestion and lets our brain know we are full.
To solve this dilemma, use this four-step guide to pack a filling, healthy and delicious lunch, fast.
Take advantage of pre-packed salads or microwavable vegetable bags and fill half of your lunch with a good hit of fibre that adds “bulk”. The stretching of our stomachs from fibre signals to our brain we are full, making our meal much more satiating. Certain fibres, like those in asparagus and beetroot, also feed our good gut bacteria. When well-fed, they release appetite-regulating chemicals that can stave-off hunger-pangs and unnecessary snacking too soon after our lunch.
STEP 2: PROTEIN
Next, include a serve of lean protein. This is essential for longer lasting satiety as protein increases the production of hormones which signal long-term fullness to our brain. Aim for a palm-size and look for quick options like canned tuna or salmon, boiled eggs and ready-to-eat lean roasted chicken or falafels.
STEP 3: LOW GI CARBOHYDRATE
Round out your meal with carbohydrates that have a low Glycaemic Index (GI). This means it is broken down into glucose slowly, providing our brain a sustained stream of fuel to power through the 3pm slump. Make use of high-fibre wholegrain breads and wraps, microwave grain cups and even canned legumes.
STEP 4: HEALTHY FAT
Finish with a dash of healthy fat for flavour (i.e. fun). Ensuring your packed lunch is tasty gives it a fighting chance against highly-palatable takeaway options. Healthy fats are also needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like those found in tomato, capsicum and leafy greens. Sprinkle a handful of nuts for crunch, spread a creamy hummus in your wrap or whisk extra virgin olive oil-based with balsamic vinegar to perfectly coat salad vegetables.
Next time you plan to head to the food court, try these four steps and see how you feel. You might just find the staff kitchen cookies aren’t calling your name come mid-afternoon.