For some time breakfast has been considered the most important meal of the day. While there is no doubt that starting the day with something nutritious is a great way to give your metabolism the kick start it needs after the overnight fast, there are plenty of reasons why lunch could also claim the honours. Not only does what we choose for lunch dictate how we eat for the remainder of the afternoon, but a nutritionally balanced lunch is the key to optimal mental performance and energy regulation for the remainder of the day. So here are the most common reasons your lunch is failing you and the easy ways you can alter your lunch to help you be your best productive self all afternoon.
1. You are eating lunch too late
In busy lives, lunch is often pushed or forgotten until 2 or 3pm each day. If you consider that for many of us breakfast was before 8am, it is likely you need to refuel by 1pm at the latest to ensure your blood glucose levels are restored and you are at your best cognitively. For both the metabolic benefits and the performance edge, aim to eat lunch as early as possible. In fact it is better to enjoy an early lunch at 11am than it is to resist the hunger, snack and then eat your next substantial meal late in the afternoon.
2. It does not contain enough vegetables
A sandwich, stir fry, leftovers or soup will only fill you for a couple of hours unless you have the 2-3 cups of salad or vegetable bulk that will also offer the fibre to help keep you full for several hours after lunch. Remember you can add a low calorie soup, salad or serve of vegetable to virtually any lunch choice without worrying about calories.
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3. It has far more calories than you think it does
Cafe and food court lunches can have double the calories of a similar lunch you have prepared at home thanks to the extra sauces, fats and extras that comes with prepared and fried lunch choices. Even popular salads can contain more than 800 calories and 40-60g of fat per serve. To keep your lunchtime calories controlled and between 350-500 calories, where possible bring your lunch from home or check nutrition information that is available at popular outlets
4. It has no carbs
Often we think that cutting the carbs is the way to go when it comes to fat loss and weight control but too few carbs in the day can leave you feeling tired and craving sugars late in the day. Even if your goal is weight loss including a serve (1/2 cup) or two of good quality carbs such as legumes, sweet potato, wholegrain bread or brown rice will help to keep you full and satisfied throughout the afternoon.
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5. You eat it at your desk
Inactivity as well as mindlessness are both linked to weight gain. In fact, a study found that individuals who ate their lunch in front of the TV ate more calories at afternoon tea. Even if you can only manage a 20 minute lunch break, use the time to get some sunlight and steps and some much needed time away from a screen to mindfully enjoy eating your lunch.