Often, it’s your main evening meal that gets all your attention, with your lunch being second in the queue for importance. However, your lunch should make-up a good proportion of your daily nutrient intake. Therefore, making it a priority is important for long-term health and weight control.
For optimum health, the aim each day is to consume around 4-5 portions a protein (23g per portion), 5-8 portions of fat (18g per portion), 10-13 portions of veg (80g per portion) and limited carbs (70g-110g). If you divide these portions into a 1/3 for breakfast, 1/3 for lunch and 1/3 for dinner, that would mean that each lunch choice needs to contain 1-2 portions of protein, 1-3 portions of fat, 3-4 portions of veg and less than 2-4 portions of carbs. That is a lot more protein and veg than most people eat for lunch, and a lot less carbs!!!
However, as long as you are organised, achieving this aim is much easier than you may think. All you have to do is ensure that your lunch plate contains ¾ veg, ¼ protein and add in some healthy fats. I call the lunch choices that make this recommendation easy ‘The S-Meals’, and these include:
Soups: Vegetable based soups with protein, sprinkled with flaxseeds.
Stews: Vegetable based stews with protein.
Stir-Fry’s: Stir-fried veg with protein. Served with avocado.
Slow Cooked Meals: Slow cooked meals made with grass-fed butter and protein.
Salads: A colourful plate of veg served with protein, drizzled with a flaxseed vinaigrette.
Steamed Veg: ¾ of a plate of steamed veg served with protein and avocado.
Smoothies: Vegetable based smoothies with avocado and protein powder.
Super Traditional Meals: Take a traditional meal, such as bolognaise, curry, pasta sauce, stroganoff, and reduce the portion to ¼ of your plate then add ¾ of cooked or raw veg. Leave out the carbs that normally go with these meals (pasta, rice, bread, etc).
‘Second Hand’ Meals: Prepare double dinner and leave half for lunch omitting the carbs.
If your goal is to lose weight, then fasting for breakfast (or only eating good fats) will help you achieve your goal quicker. However, if you follow this recommendation then this means that your lunch plate needs to contain even more protein and veg, to consume all the necessary daily portions. Therefore, the best advice I can give you is make veg your friend, and add in some protein and a small portion of healthy fats every time you eat.
In relation to unhealthy lunch choices, the higher the carbs and fats, and lower the veg and protein, the more unhealthy it will be. This is because the carb/fat combination initiates insulin secretion, fat storage and poor health. Examples of poor choices include: wholemeal sandwiches, wholemeal rice & pasta based meals, Ryvita, fruit smoothies, fruit salad, wholemeal muffins and bean salads. However, the worst lunch choices of all are the convenient processed foods such as: white sandwiches, white rice & pasta based meals, pizza, pot noodles, fried & fast foods, crisps, crackers, chocolate, sweetened drinks and processed meats.
Apparently (according to research), 32% of office workers eat the same thing for lunch every day and have done so for an average of more than 4 years. The most popular option by far is the cheese sandwich. Second is the ham sandwich and third is the chicken sandwich. Only then, comes salad in a disappointing fourth position, followed by other sandwiches; so it’s no wonder that we are a nation of expanding waistlines.
A common excuse for eating an unhealthy lunch is a lack of time. Saving time is a top priority and this desire often prevents us from eating healthily. The humble cheese sandwich is therefore a sign that we value our work much more than we value our health, and that we simply eat to ‘get the job done’ rather than concentrate on refuelling our bodies. However, ironically the problem with these quick fix choices is that they affect our blood sugar control and cause us to lose concentration, lack energy or feel bloated later in the day. Therefore, you may think that you are being conscientious by grabbing a quick bite to eat at your desk, but you are probably significantly reducing your overall productivity; not to mention defeating your weight-loss goals. In contrast, if you take the time to eat a good lunch you are much more likely to get more done.
In summary, to help you achieve your health and weight-loss goals, take the time to prepare and eat a healthy lunch each day. Healthy lunches consist of veg, protein and healthy fats, while poor choices are high in carbs and unhealthy fats.
BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy, memBANT, memNT, memCNCH
For more information on health and weight loss see ‘The Meta-Keto Diet’. This book is available as an eBook (£6.99), or in paperback (£15.99), via the Secret Healthy Eater Shop; www.secrethealthyeater.com/shop.
drawing by pigwire