Lunch is a welcome respite in the middle of the day. Lunch is coveted because it provides a break from work and a chance to sit down and refuel the body until dinnertime.
Feelings of fatigue after eating a “hearty” lunch are not uncommon. Kim Yawitz, LD, a registered dietitian/nutritionist in Missouri, says it’s natural to get a little tired in the afternoon due to circadian rhythms and the release of melatonin between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. But choosing the wrong foods at lunchtime may exacerbate afternoon fatigue, compromise an individual’s ability to concentrate and even result in hunger pangs. According to nutrition experts, certain food combinations at lunch can satisfy cravings and keep anyone energized through the commute home.
• Grain bowls: Complex carbohydrates tend to be high in energizing B vitamins and whole grains will keep you feeling fuller longer due to their high fiber content. Look for complex, protein-rich grains, such as quinoa, farro or brown rice. Balance the grain with plenty of vegetables.
• Salads with nuts: Salads are a go-to healthy lunch provided they’re not covered with fatty dressings or cheeses. Add chopped nuts to salads for added texture, protein and nutrition to fill you up and provide energy.
• Smoothies: Smoothies aren’t just breakfast fare. They’re delicious and nutritious any time of the day. You can add high-protein items, including plant-based protein powders or ground chickpeas and kale, to smoothies for an additional energy boost.
• Crackers and hummus: Purchase whole-grain crackers or ones made from almond flour for added nutrition and pair them with a healthy hummus dip. Hummus usually is made with chickpeas, garlic, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), and olive oil. It provides healthy protein and fat sources to keep you satiated.
• Overnight oats: Create a lunchtime or snack parfait using an overnight oats recipe. According to the Food Network, overnight oats are made by mixing old fashioned oats, milk (dairy or nut milk), yogurt, and other add-ins and letting the ingredients sit and thicken for at least five hours or even overnight. Change the flavor profile by experimenting with nuts (or nut butters), fruits and spices. This nutrient-dense meal will provide plenty of energy without bogging you down.
When dining out for lunch, fill up on vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, such as a quality white fish like wild cod. Starchy, cheesy and fast foods can contribute to fatigue that compromises afternoon productivity.