Now that you’re starting off your day with a healthy breakfast, we can move on to lunch. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I let myself indulge a little in the morning (ie. Homemade French Toast or Almond Butter Jar Oatmeal), which usually makes it easier for me to eat healthy the rest of the day.
How many of you are squirming in your seat as you count down the minutes until lunchtime? If you’re reaching for your lunch at 11:59am every day, take a second to pause and ask yourself if you are actually hungry yet. If your tummy is really grumbling at this time, you might need to go back and reevaluate what you had for breakfast.
Whenever I start getting antsy for lunch at noon, but I know that I’m not hungry, I distract myself with a project at work to take my mind off eating. (Don’t eat just because the clock says it’s time, as Bethenny Frankel says.) I’ll say, “Ok, I’m not going to get out of my chair until I finish X.” And usually, a whole hour passes, I feel good about being productive and then I’m ready to eat! Students can follow the same rule with homework or reading assignments.
So, what are you eating for lunch? Do you plan it the night before? Eat vending machine popcorn? Grab a slice of pizza? Or do you skip it all together? I hope not!
As you might have guessed, I usually plan my lunches in advance. Often, I’ll make a big batch of brown rice at the beginning of the week and add different things to it like: black beans, walnuts, hummus, cherry tomatoes, spinach, red pepper, chickpeas, chicken, a hard boiled egg, avocado…the options are endless. Whole wheat pasta is my other go-to lunch, and I always add a vegetable like asparagus, broccoli or spinach.
It’s really not hard to plan ahead, you just need make a conscious effort to do it, and eventually it will become a lifestyle habit.
Meal planning might feel like a hassle at the time, but in the long-run it will make your life easier. Really. Who wants to rush around trying to find something—anything—to eat? Do you want to constantly feel unprepared and frazzled? Or guilty about the rash food decision you just made? I didn’t think so.
Ok, but let’s say you aren’t prepared with a lunch. No problem. If you’re eating in a cafeteria, take time to walk around and look at everything first before making a decision.
The unhealthy options might call to you initially, but just pause and allow yourself to consider the healthier foods, and what you could do to make them more exciting. If I’m not particularly in the mood for a salad, but I know I need to get my greens in at lunch, I’ll spruce it up with a small piece of salmon, feta cheese, jalapenos, walnuts or a dab of hummus with a few pita chips.
If I feel like I just can’t possibly eat a salad that day (I eat a lot of them!), then I’ll “pick the lesser of the evils,” which might be a turkey burger and sweet potato fries—and eat just half. Taking a few extra minutes to think about your options and then making a firm decision will keep you from taking bites of everything!
And if I’m really just not feeling cafeteria food, then I’ll grab a 6” Veggie Delight at Subway and an apple or a salad at Chipotle with black beans, green peppers, just a little chicken—or none at all—and a small portion of brown rice and avocado. Having these go-to places as backups takes the guesswork out of what I’m going to eat. Food does not need to be stressful, so it’s important to try to be calm and mindful when making your choices!
These Arugula+Hummus+Red Pepper Tortillas are my new favorite lunch or dinner meal. What do you like to eat for lunch? Do you plan ahead or grab-and-go? Tell me in the comments!
Ellen Collis is a blogger at Wannabe Health Nut and Health Coach in NYC, who graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free health consultation to discuss how she can assist you with your nutrition and lifestyle goals. She would love nothing more than to help you have more energy, feel fabulous in your own skin and live a healthy life that doesn’t require giving up your favorite foods.