Whatever your schedule or your type of work, we all know how difficult it can be to take the time to stop and enjoy your lunch break.
Spoon Guru’s nutritionist Ludovica De Pieri has compiled some tips on how to treat meal times as a break for the mind and as a nourishing and creative process. And dishes which are easy to prepare the night before so you can take them to work.
Lunch breaks are essential for our health. This important part of the day provides us with the perfect opportunity to reframe our day and give it a new push forward. Therefore, lunches should provide us with the right balance of taste and energy.
So, how can we prepare lunches that are so light and appetizing that we properly focus on them? With some simple and foolproof healthy meals, you will not only be getting the nourishment you need, but your mind will feel refreshed too. Here are some tips on how to achieve this.
1) Mix and match from all the macronutrients categories
There are countless recipes available, so how do we pick the best ones for our health? The most important thing is to identify which of the 5 food categories listed below are present in the recipes. Ideally, a balanced meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, should aim to always include: fruit and veg, protein, carbs, fat, and dairy.
Here are some examples to help you place foods in the right box. Obviously, the more you expand your knowledge around what food should go where, the easier it is. This will then help you follow your preferred lifestyle, whether it is for medical reasons such as gluten-free or lactose-free, or for ethical reasons like vegetarian and vegan.
Protein: meat, fish, pulses, eggs
Carbohydrates: rice, wheat, potatoes
Fruit and vegetables: mix and match from the rainbows’ colors, better if we pick our fruit and veg following their seasonality
Fats: extra virgin olive oil, seed oils, nuts, avocado
Dairy: milk and dairy products eg cheese
Having the right portion is essential to reinvigorate your body and mind. Too much will slow you down, the food coma drama, yet too little can lead to extra snacking.
2) Be simple: simply embrace enjoyment, surprise, taste, and freshness
The amount of food choice out there is incredible. Yet we still end up having quite a repetitive diet. However, the magic of food happens when we mix and match ingredients from all of the categories to satisfy our body’s nutritional requirements.
We should aim for variety and seasonality to help naturally rotate our foods. Think of lunches as opportunities: in fact, eating lunches with others at work allows us to be curious and find some extra inspiration from colleagues. This helps us break out of our habits and experiment more. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, complex and time-consuming, but rather should be fast, fresh and simple.
3) Collect memories from your meals
In all these lunch ideas, most of the food categories will be utilized to help keep you full of energy and health in the office jungle. They will get you closer to reaching your five a day goal, and unplug your mind from worries and duties.
Important tips: By imagining and feeling the experience we want from our meals it helps us to understand better what we like and dislike in food. Therefore connect the necessity: food, with what we need: a nice social, peaceful, creative and tasty lunch break.
Middle Eastern Penne
Feel the sun warming you up during a peaceful sunset, during your lunch break… Here’s how: create your perfect pasta with roasted paprika chickpeas and courgettes, sprinkled with finely chopped sundried tomatoes, and a squeeze of lemon. This recipe is easy to carry, microwave friendly, and can also be eaten cold, maybe garnished with a tzatziki dip.
Although very simple, this recipe provides you with energy from the carbs in the pasta, keeps your muscles healthy thanks to the protein in the pulses, and gives you an extra glow thanks to the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables and lemon juice.
Middle Eastern penne is also planet friendly, low in cholesterol, low in saturated fats, sugars, and salt, high in fiber, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly.
Frank and Fresh Salad
If you have a busy day ahead, you may be looking forward to that feeling of a fresh, summer breeze, which energizes and lifts you up to attack the rest of the day… Here’s how: an ultimate fennel, cucumber and feta salad, sprinkled with a mix of nuts and seeds (add cranberries for extra sweetness). Spice it up with a vinaigrette, mint leaves, and pitta bread.
This will boost your mind due to the vitamins in the vegetables, and nuts which contain good fats, like omega 3. For extra health benefits, choose a wholemeal pita bread to keep you full and ready for a fresh afternoon start. Or why not stuff your salad into a wrap? The Frank and Fresh salad has plenty of fiber which keeps you full and helps your gut health and, as we know, a happy gut means a happy mind. You won’t regret trying it!
In a nutshell
Sometimes we need to put in a bit of extra effort to be able to unplug during our lunch breaks. For these times, try stuffed peppers with riced cauliflower, chorizo, green peas, corn, and tomato sauce, with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and thyme.
By swapping rice with riced cauliflower we reduce the total kilocalories and add the benefits of extra fiber from the vegetables. Furthermore, cooking a spiced sausage like chorizo will provide moisture to the filling, meaning we use less fatty seasonings like oil. In this one meal, we have 2 of the 5 a day vegetables, chorizo and green peas for protein, and corn and sweet potatoes for carbohydrates. With plenty of taste, this fast and comforting lunch comes without the overload of energy that will make you want to sleep rather than work.