Centuries ago, dinner was slated as the main meal of the day and was often consumed in the late afternoon to early evening. As time progressed, people realized that their bodies needed some sort of nourishment earlier in the day to sufficiently sustain them. Hence “dinner” eventually became an evening meal and “lunch” entered the scene. Today, moms stand in front of the kitchen pantry contemplating what they can pack their child for school because they recognize the importance of a good, healthy lunch. Men quickly grab some leftovers from the previous nights dinner to take to work so their bodies have energy to make it through an eight-hour shift. Lunch may seem to come in second to breakfast which has always been touted as the “most important meal of the day” but it remains a vital meal and is often overlooked. Breakfast certainly has its place, but lunch offers a midday energy boost. A healthy lunch really is an important part of healthy living and can ultimately help you accomplish much more during the second half of your day.
Benefits of eating lunch
Like clockwork, around the middle of the day, our bodies begin to tell us we are in need of fuel, a boost of energy, and a little spike in blood sugar. Eating lunch can transition you from feeling hungry and low on energy to refreshed and refocused in no time. But more than just gaining energy, eating a healthy lunch can play an essential role in our mental health. Choosing to skip lunch can have a significant impact on our bodies and our brains. In fact, if our body isn’t getting adequate nutrients then our brain doesn’t get what it needs to function properly. Eating midday stabilizes blood sugar and prevents mood swings, like being “hangry” and we all know what being “hangry” is like whether it’s our own affliction or someone’s close to us.
If you choose to opt out
We live in a weight conscious culture which leads some of us into taking drastic measures to lose the extra pounds. Many believe that if they skip meals, the unwanted weight will fly off. But what effect does this have on the body? Opting out of lunch can lead to some intense feelings of hunger because our stomachs are directly connected to our brain and when our stomachs aren’t happy neither is our brain. The brain and body are wired for survival and when you deprive your body of the calories it needs, it goes into storage mode and tries to conserve all energy it can. The main fuel source of the brain is glucose, which first becomes compromised and then depleted about four to six hours after a meal. Therefore eating a meal every four to six hours is vital for your body to be adequately fueled and reenergized. If weight loss is your goal and you allow your body to hit survival mode, you are more likely to overeat the next time you enjoy a meal. Skipping lunch will eventually catch up to you and regulating your eating and weight will get more and more difficult. So rather than opting out, instead steer towards healthier choices.
A healthy and nutritious lunch
Lunch seems to be notorious for “same ole same ole” because it’s so easy to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your child’s lunch everyday. It could even be a healthy option like a salad, but anything done over and over again can get boring and uninteresting. The key to a nutritious lunch is variety and a balance of the right kinds of food. There are a few staple food groups that are important to have in every meal. Your meal should include a grain, protein, fruit, vegetable, and dairy. Within each category there are plenty of options, for example instead of choosing whole grain bread every time, go for a pita or some rice. Include some meat (or a healthy protein alternative) and instead of cooking chicken for the entire week add tuna or hard-boiled eggs. Half of your plate should consist of fruit and veggies so keep it fresh by changing up your fruits and alternating raw veggies with cooked. As you enjoy your healthy lunch, be sure to wash it down with a glass of water. Water is beneficial throughout the day but especially at meal times as it actually aids digestion helping your body work more efficiently.
Enjoy your lunch
It is vital to choose nutritional options when eating lunch, but it is equally valuable to slow down and actually enjoy your meal. So often people either eat lunch on the go or attempt to eat it fast to get back to work, which ultimately leads to indigestion, bloating and acid reflux. Have you ever eaten your food so fast that people around you ask if it even “touched the sides”? When we eat slowly and thoroughly it allows us to enjoy our food and the sensory pleasure of taste becomes a part of our meal experience. Learn to embrace your lunchtime and give your mind and body an opportunity to revitalize!
Healthy lunches are valuable and in order to fully reap its benefits, take a little time to plan it out and savor the experience. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of life keep you from enjoying the simple pleasures.