We’ve all been there. You had to rush through lunch to get back to work, but within an hour you’re falling asleep at your desk.
The time savings hardly seems to help when the rest of the day feels like slogging through a swamp to get anything done. The culprit is most likely your lunch.
Even if you think you made a healthy choice, it may not have been the ideal thing to get you through the rest of the day.
We’ll let you know what to avoid if you want to stay in top gear, and how to choose better lunches.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wraps, but they give you the wrong idea about a reasonable portion size. They are often stuffed with double the meat and cheese in a standard sandwich.
Tortillas, though thin, have way more calories than are found in two slices of whole wheat bread. Eating an entire wrap can bog you down significantly. It’s better to just eat the sandwich, or cut your wrap in half to eat over two meals.
2. Buffet Meals
Buffets can be iffy because you don’t know how long the food has been sitting there, and how many people have handled it before you arrived.
But a bigger issue is that the prolonged heating of these foods degrades the nutrients inside and begins to break down the fiber, too.
It’s almost as though the food has been partially pre-digested, and because your stomach doesn’t need to work very hard to extract glucose from it, your blood sugar will spike. That primes you for a crash shortly after getting back to work.
Pasta is a filling comfort food, but it is nearly all refined carbs. These break down very quickly in your gut and leave you feeling both hungry and sleepy again in very short order.
Your sauce of choice may also contain a heavy load of sugar, sodium, and fat, overtaxing the organs and exacerbating your foggy brained, exhausted state.
Unless you live in a country where siesta is the norm, it’s best to save pasta dishes for a time when you’re free to rest afterward.
4. Burger & Fries
Most fast food combo meals contain nearly as many calories as you should eat in a whole day, and certainly top the RDA for sodium.
Once you down a burger, fries, and soda, you’ll be tanked up on the most dangerous ingredients out there, including saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. It stands to reason that your body will struggle as it tries to process all that stuff.
You are also likely to have painful gas, which is not the best addition to an afternoon staff meeting.
5. Premade Sandwiches
Sandwiches can be a healthy midday meal, but they have to be made right. Grocery store or gas station offerings are made to sit in the case for days on end, so the individual components are often soaked in some sort of chemical preservative.
When you buy a pre-made sandwich, you also don’t have the chance to swap fatty mayo for healthy avocado or add a handful of nutrient-rich sprouts.
When you make your sandwich at home, you can customize it any number of ways, and end up with a meal that delivers the kind of slow-burn you need to get through the day.
6. Vegetable Soup
Veggie soups can be nutritious, low-calorie meals (provided you pick a low sodium version) but they aren’t likely to keep you feeling full until dinner.
Even though the vegetables are healthy, there’s no protein in the soup, and that’s what you need to stay satiated until dinnertime. When you get hungry again after the lunch hour has passed, what do you do? Go to the vending machine.
If soup is your preferred lunch, just be sure to choose a variety that contains some lean protein, such as turkey or chicken. Have an apple or a whole grain roll on the side to introduce some complex carbs. Now it’s a balanced meal.
7. Garden Salad
Just like with soup, garden salads don’t offer a wide enough variety of nutrients to be truly filling. You really need some form of protein for that. Choices like salmon, white meat chicken, or chickpeas can meet the need without busting your diet.
But in order to be a truly satisfying meal that will keep you going until 5, some healthy fats are recommended. Nuts, seeds, and avocado are all yummy choices that truly make a salad a meal.
8. Granola Bars
Granola bars are super convenient if you’re not able to leave your desk for lunch, but even with the presence of oats, they aren’t very nutritious.
Makers rely on sugar to make you feel as though you have been nourished, but with little protein and fiber, granola bars just can’t deliver sustained energy. If you really can’t get away for lunch very often, look for granola bars made with whole ingredients like nuts and seeds – these will mean more protein and fiber.
And if you find one with less than 10 grams of sugar per bar, you’ll avoid the sugar crash. Even easier than reading all those labels is simply down a quarter cup of your favorite nuts and a serving of fruit.
9. Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is a sneaky food that is often considered healthy, but may in reality contain as much sugar as a soda. Flavored yogurt also has very little in the way of protein or fiber.
Plain Greek yogurt is a bit better on the nutritional scale, and a great base for a homemade parfait. Add berries, chopped walnuts, and just a drizzle of honey for a satisfying meal with more fiber, protein, and healthy fat, but much less sugar.
10. Sugary Drinks
Not just soda, but also energy, fruit, and sports drinks come loaded with added sugar. You may be tempted to grab one to compensate for a nutritionally void lunch, but this will just trap you in a vicious cycle of sugar rush and energy crash as well as load you up on a ton of empty calories.
And because calories that are drunk don’t make you feel the same way as calories that are eaten, you are very likely to overeat when you finally get to dinnertime. Skip these beverages to also protect yourself from weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and tooth decay.
11. Co-worker Birthday Cake
Obviously no one would consider birthday cake an actual lunch, but diet conscious people may be tempted to skip their real lunch in order to justify the splurge later on. Don’t do it!
You’ll be getting no nutrients, only a load of sugar and refined white flour that sets you up for an epic crash. So even if you do eventually indulge in some cake, don’t skip lunch. Instead, have that balanced salad we talked about earlier. That should prepare you much better to stick to just one piece of cake.
Between the fast food and soda you already know is a bad choice, the junk food masquerading as health food, and the healthy choices that aren’t quite balanced enough to be a meal on their own, it’s tough to eat right at the office.
We hope we’ve helped you narrow down some better strategies to make sure your body gets the optimal balance of vitamins, fiber, and healthy fat to sustain you all afternoon, every afternoon – and maybe even make you a shoo-in for that promotion.