One thing I've learned from splitting my schedule between working six-hour stints at a bookstore and working from home: You can't make it through the day on caffeine and a to-do list forever. Eventually, you have to take time to nourish your body with the right foods.
To get a sense of what those are, we spoke with mindful eating expert Gisela Bouvier, RDN, about what to add to your midday meal so it keeps you full (and not tired) for hours.
How to build a satisfying lunch
Carbohydrates help the body convert and store energy. Fiber is a type of carb that's special in that the body doesn't digest it. Because fiber doesn't break down into glucose like most carbs, it keeps you fuller for longer. There are a variety of foods that contain fiber, and fiber supplements can also be helpful for keeping you fueled and satiated. (Here are a few that nutrition experts highly recommend.)
Finally, fats help the body absorb micronutrients, store energy, and assist in other functions. Their role as a sidekick to the other macronutrients makes them an essential part of your diet.
"In order to make any meal truly balanced, it's recommended to include all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats," Bouvier explains. And depending on your health goals and stage in life, your body will need a particular combination of these macros throughout the day to keep you in tiptop shape.
Including all three macros may not be doable for every meal, but there are plenty of hours (and meals) in a day to get all of the nutrients you need. Remember that when you design your lunches. It may be easier on some days to make or have a well-rounded meal; others not so much. Snacking in the middle of the day can also help keep you satisfied if you include some nutritious heavy hitters.
Ingredients to add
Here are the foods Bouvier recommends adding to your lunch to help round out its nutritional profile and make it more satisfying. Keep in mind that these foods often contain more than one macronutrient as well as a host of vitamins and minerals. For example, nuts are an excellent plant-based protein as well as a good source of fat!
- Whole grain or whole wheat bread
- Bean-based pasta
- Pulses (aka edible seeds of legumes: beans, lentils, peas)
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes and corn)
- Nonstarchy vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms)
- High-fiber fruits
- Lean meat & fish (chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon)
- Greek yogurt
- Tofu & tempeh
- Healthy oils
When designing a lunch meant to satiate and keep you grooving through the day, play around with the foods you include. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started.
It's easy to get swept up in the day and believe you don't have the time for a nutritious lunch, but even a little something can make a huge difference in how you move through your afternoon. Do your best and give yourself grace as you aim to work some fibrous carbs, proteins, and fats into your next lunch. Bonus points if you eat it away from your computer.
Alex Shea is a storyteller and generational healing life coach with words in Byrdie, Verywell Mind, HuffPost, Shape, and more. Outside of publications, Alex writes stories that touch on, and sometimes intertwine, themes of grief and magic.
With a unique view on life, she taps into her own experiences to guide folks to live life for themselves, empowering them to explore their inner wild and find their own way in adulthood. Her weekly newsletter is a tiny way she furthers her mission to hold space for the unfathomable, romantic, and messy parts of life that make it that much more beautiful.