Lunch is such a crucial meal – and during a busy day, one that’s so easy to miss. Neglecting to eat during the day not only means that you get home ravenous or resort to unhealthy snacking, but it also causes your metabolism and blood sugar to dip. We’ve spoken to some experts to find out what you should be packing for lunch to keep you sharp of mind and strong of body, all day long.
Bananas have a vast array of benefits, according to Liam Burke, a Clinical Nutritionist based in Cape Town. They contain vitamin B, which provides energy, and a fibre called pectin, which gives the feeling of being full for longer, as well as moderating blood sugar levels. Bananas also contain anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, and potassium, amongst all sorts of other good stuff. No preparation is needed, and they already come in the perfect snack-sized portion!
“Choose more fish,” recommends Abby Courtenay, a registered dietitian in Johannesburg. Eat oily fish two-to-three times a week if possible. “When saturated fat is replaced with plant or fish fats, we see an improvement is insulin sensitivity,” explains Courtenay. This means that your blood sugar levels will stay more stable throughout the day. We know nobody wants to be ‘that’ person who warms up their fish in the office microwave, so why not try these alternative ways of getting the good stuff in? Mix some tuna with chickpeas, olive oil and lemon juice, for a scrumptious salad, or make a tuna mayo mixture to have on corn or seed crackers, or rounds of cucumber (which make an excellent cracker replacement if you’re trying to get more veggies in!). If you’re feeling a little fancy, go for smoked salmon/trout and cottage cheese on crackers – with a side of veggie sticks.
Go nuts for nuts!
“Here is a food that not only keeps you fuller for longer, but is rich in protein, fibre and anti-oxidants,” says Burke. Nuts are high in nutrients, and are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats – in fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. Almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts are all great choices – pick raw and unsalted wherever possible. Eat them on their own for a good snack on the go – or, mix it up by tossing some into your salad for added crunch or have some with unsweetened yoghurt and fruit.
Comforting cottage cheese
High in protein and low in calories, cottage cheese is also a source of calcium and phosphorus. Courtenay recommends choosing the low fat kind and adding plant fats like olives or pesto to spice it up. Eat it with veggie sticks or a salad, or on top of your favourite crackers for a delicious and satisfying lunch.
Blueberries are known as a ‘superfood’ due to their low calories and high nutrient value, says Burke, adding that the fruit is also recognised as the queen of antioxidants. They are great as a lunchbox snack and also scrumptious when paired with granola or with mint leaves and other fruit and made into a smoothie.
Here are some other things to bear in mind at lunch time:
• Have a sturdy lunch bag with a cooler block if needed to ensure your lunch isn’t one big mess.
• Leftovers are great for lunch and require minimal effort .
• Drink lots of water to keep you hydrated and your body functioning well. Keep a water bottle on your desk, and try to get through 8 to 10 glasses of H20 per day.