7 Experts Share Their Go-To Lunch For Hacking Mood & Productivity
I'm sure I'm not alone in considering lunch our most important meal. What you eat in the afternoon sets the tone for the rest of the day, and it can leave you feeling energized and mentally clear or slow, groggy, and irritable. Here are the lunches team mbg leans on to fuel afternoons full of writing, product testing, meetings, and emails. Each one features ingredients that are known to support a balanced and bright mood in the face of stressors. Consider your lunch rut solved.
1. Salmon over whole-grain grits.
My favorite brain-boosting, mood-hacking lunch (when I have time to make it!) is omega-3 laden and herb-crusted wild-caught salmon over whole-grain, stone-ground grits (hello, fiber), plus colorful veggies that are chock-full of nutrients and phytonutrients, specifically kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and bell peppers (typically the yellow, orange, or red varieties). A side of fresh fruit is my brain-boosting sweet treat. Right now, it's raspberries or sliced peaches.
—Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, Vice President of Scientific Affairs
2. A balanced salad and mood-supporting supplement.
I like to make some variation of a salad with greens, whole grains, veggies, and some plant-based protein to fill me up but not slow me down. The exact contents will depend on what's in my market haul from that week, but one of my favorite combos is kale, brown rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and black beans with a garlicky vinaigrette. On days when I have a lot on my plate (no pun intended) at work, I'll follow up my lunch with mbg's calm+ to help me get through the afternoon strong.* The supplement combines full-spectrum USDA- and EU-certified organic European hemp oil, lavender oil, and ashwagandha root and leaf extract to help me manage stress and stay on task, so it's a productivity secret weapon for me.*
—Emma Loewe, Senior Sustainability Editor
3. Avocado toast and eggs.
My go-to lunch is avocado toast on sourdough bread with eggs sunny-side-up on top or scrambled on the side. The fat from the avocado is great for brain health, and the eggs give it protein, while the sourdough helps support my gut.
—Olivia Giacomo, Social Media Associate
4. A "fat salad."
I'm big on Mark Hyman, M.D.'s "fat salad," which is loaded up with arugula, avocado, olives, canned salmon, EVOO, pumpkin seeds, and artichoke hearts. It has lots of healthy fat, fiber, protein, and antioxidants—and it's so tasty.
—Sarah Regan, Spirituality & Relationships Writer
5. A Sweetgreen riff.
I try to riff off of one of my favorite salads from Sweetgreen. It has chopped kale, roasted sweet potatoes, almonds (but I'll add walnuts or cashews, depending on what I have handy), apples, and goat cheese. The kale, sweet potatoes, and apples all provide a good source of filling fiber, so I'm not distracted throughout the day by a grumbling stomach.
—Abby Moore, Editorial Operations Manager
6. Better-for-you tuna salad on crackers.
I always feel really focused, clear, and calm when I have tuna thanks to those brain-boosting omega-3s! I like mixing it with avocado oil mayo, fermented veggies (usually kimchi or beet sauerkraut), and spices (salt, pepper, paprika, and/or cayenne pepper, depending on my mood) and eating it with Simple Mills crackers.
—Morgan Chamberlain, Supplement Editor
7. A vegan Greek salad loaded with veggies.
I tend to make something that resembles a Greek salad but is a little different! It has chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, vegan feta, kalamata olives, diced onion, cucumber, and one roasted veggie. I switch between sweet potato, cauliflower, beets, and bell peppers. I top it off with antioxidant-rich olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and cayenne pepper for a bit of spice. If I'm extra hungry, I'll add a pita on the side.
—Hannah Frye, Assistant Beauty Editor
While there are a wide array of options on this list, most of our favorite mood-supporting lunches share a few similarities. For starters, they are heavy on veggies, which, as holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D., reminds us, are great for brain health due to their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The more colors you can load on your plate, the better. Most of us pair our plants with brain-boosters like nutrient-rich fish and healthy fats like avocados, avoiding refined sugars and carbs that can disturb blood sugar balance and lead to an afternoon slump. Whip these lunches up in your own office or kitchen and consider those afternoon emails sent.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.