10 lunch ideas to improve focus
The clock strikes 12noon and, right on cue, the brain fog sets in. Your blood sugar starts dropping and your tummy starts rumbling. It’s time for lunch – but you’re busy, so you need a fuss-free, fast meal that is healthy and packs an energy boost. But what does that perfect meal look like?
The concept is simple. Aim for one-third of your plate to be low-GI carbohydrates, which release energy slowly into the bloodstream to supply a constant stream of ‘brain fuel’. The other two-thirds of your plate should include high-fibre vegetables, proteins and healthy fats, which are slow to digest, helping you to stay full and focused between meals.
Stuck for ideas? Here are some perfectly balanced lunch ideas that are easy to prepare, quick to eat, and most importantly, will keep you productive for rest of the working day.
1. Microwave brown rice and quinoa pots with a frozen veggie pouch and a tin of tuna
The ultimate convenience option, with no prep required – just a microwave! In fact, frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh vegetables, and the microwave steaming pouches protect the vitamin and mineral content.
2. Wholegrain wrap with roast beef, cheese, avocado and three salad fillings
Wraps are a lighter option compared to sandwiches, and a great choice for people with lower energy requirements. Just make sure to check the packet and aim for brands that are high in fibre or go gluten-free if required (such as buckwheat or sorghum wraps).
3. Multigrain corn thins with sardines, cucumber and tomato
Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with improved mood and brain activity. Usually cheaper than salmon, buy them tinned in spring water or tomato. Multigrain corn thins are low in salt and high in fibre.
4. Fresh vegetable soup pouches and a slice of multigrain toast
A great ‘in case of emergency’ option for the work pantry or fridge. Select a brand that has a higher percentage of vegetables, legumes and ‘real food’ ingredients. Plus, ideally aim for less than 420mg sodium per serve.
5. Shredded roast chicken salad with 1 medium tin of chickpeas and ¼ avocado
You can buy pre-shredded chicken from some supermarket delis, or you can buy or prepare a roast chicken and shred it yourself. You’ll have half your lunch sorted for the week!
6. Pasta salad with sundried tomatoes and tinned salmon
Leftover pasta? Great – make a salad out of it! Pasta is an excellent source of low GI carbs, which our body and brain need to keep all cylinders firing. Buy the wholemeal variety and you will benefit from more protein and twice as much fibre!
7. Beans on multigrain toast with chopped carrot and cucumber sticks
Baked beans are a perfect combination of protein and low GI carbs. Go for the salt-reduced option, or make your own bean salad by combining four bean mix and tabbouleh.
8. Two poached eggs on multigrain toast with spinach and tomatoTeaming eggs up with veggie sides ensures the iron is best absorbed, keeping a steady oxygen supply to your brain and muscles.
9. Spuds with at least 3 salad toppingsSalad and spud bars are popping up all over town! Spuds are great in winter, but keep them light by using a smaller spud, and carefully select your toppings. Pass on the butter and sour cream, and choose lots of fresh salads and vegetable toppings instead. Be sure to add a protein component like eggs, beans or tuna.
10. Sushi and sashimi packs with seaweed salad
A mix of sushi and sashimi will help to keep your rice intake in check, while seaweed is one of the richest dietary sources of iodine, as well as being rich in fibre, iron, calcium and magnesium.
Written by Samantha Cowan - a Melbourne based Accredited Practising Dietitian and Sports Dietitian who believes that healthy eating should be flavoursome, fast and fuss-free.