Healthy and filling lunches are simply gold in the middle of your day. They can sustain you for a busy afternoon of work and prep you for an afternoon training session. A healthy and balanced lunch will ensure you don’t get to the end the day feeling depleted and heading for snacks before dinner. Tucking into a lunch that is full of both flavour and nutrients will have you feeling satisfied and ready to tackle the afternoon.
What’s in a healthy lunch?
It’s easy to have a lunch that is out of nutritional balance by skipping one of the important macros you require during the day.
Protein is a good example, as your body needs a range of proteins spread throughout the day rather than one big steak at dinner time.
Protein also gives a feeling of satiety, and so a lunch that has a balance of carbs, protein, and fats with plenty of fibre and nutrients will set you up for success for the rest of the day.
Plan your lunches
If you are training for any endurance event, time can become a precious commodity. Getting hangry – that combustible mix of hungry, angry and a bit tired too – can be all too common if you are not fuelling yourself well.
Planning out a balanced lunch can make a huge difference to this. If you are working from home, it can stop pantry grazing for last minute ideas, and if you are going out to work it means you can take a healthy lunch with you which is not only better nutritionally but also financially too.
Prep your healthy lunch
Having some basics ready to pull together for lunches makes life so much easier. Think in terms of the macros required and prep them.
For carbs, you could steam brown rice or quinoa and roast some sweet potatoes. For protein, you could hard boil eggs and grill some chicken breast to slice ready for salads.
Adding healthy fats can be as simple as making a lemon and olive oil dressing in a jar and toasting some seeds to add to salads.
While the oven is going, add a tray of roast veggies such as cauliflower and beetroot to the oven and you have plenty of tasty veg options too. In less than an hour on the weekend you can have all the basics ready to go for a week of healthy lunches.
So, what’s for lunch?
Here are our favourite lunch ideas:
1. Protein Salad Bowl – these are simple and easy to build your own. Start with a serve of carbs eg quinoa, add your protein eg two eggs or sliced chicken, then add plenty of salad and veg.
Try a mix of steamed broccoli and cauliflower and fresh salad eg cherry tomatoes and cucumber for that added crunch and range of textures. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.
2. Egg, avocado and spinach sandwich on rye bread: Use boiled eggs plain or add some curry powder too if you like. If you are at home, you could soft boil the eggs for extra deliciousness!
3. Soup – lentil soup must be one of the best meals ever! Packed with veg and protein from the lentils, with lots of filling fibre, it is the perfect one-bowl-meal! Serve wholegrain bread or sourdough for wholesome carbohydrates.
4. Freezer lunch – this is a super-fast option! Heat a steamed brown rice cup, add a serve of steam-fresh veg from the freezer, and add protein eg boiled egg or sliced tofu. Top with some dressing, fetta and salad seeds and you have a very delicious, quick, and healthy lunch.
5. Bean and rice Burrito wrap – Ok this takes some prep, but if you have been meal planning and have some chilli beans in the fridge (see recipe here) then go for a quick wrap with beans, rice, avocado, corn, and spinach for a delicious and satisfying lunch.
What’s with the 4pm slump?
Having a healthy and balanced lunch will go a long way to avoiding the 4pm slump. But if it does strike, have a think about what’s going on. Are you mostly tired? Or are you hungry?
If you’re tired, look back at your lunch to check that it included enough carbohydrates. If you’re hungry, check that your lunch included enough protein, as this is what keeps you satisfied for longer.
And bear in mind that it may be simply time for a snack, especially if you are prepping for an afternoon training session.
Next blog we will look at healthy snack options to get you through the afternoon and as pre-training fuel. Until then enjoy those healthy lunches!