For some reason I find lunch the most challenging time to make healthy meal choices. Unlike the evening meal it’s often a bit of an afterthought and it’s often squeezed in between various jobs, chores and demands so speed and convenience often win out. Bread is often the headline act, whilst fruit and vegetables feature very little. With this in mind I’ve put together an infographic with some quick and healthy lunch ideas. You can mix and match across the different elements to create loads of tasty combinations.
Start with some carbohydrates for the base…
Everyone can and should have carbs in their diet. That’s because they can provide some awesome benefits: increased metabolism (better fat loss and health), full glycogen stores (more energy), increased leptin levels (controlled appetite and fewer cravings), improved libido (you know about this one) and increased anabolism (more muscle mass/strength).
Without carbs, we are missing out on some great performance and health potential. Particularly when you are pregnant and postnatal it makes sense to include carbs in your diet as you need the energy! However, few people are aware that fruit and vegetables are actually carbohydrates. By choosing to eat more of our carbs in the form of vegetables it means we are also consuming a greater amount of fiber. This means the carbohydrates get absorbed slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. On top of this increasing your consumption of vegetables will improve your overall health and keep your internal systems in perfect condition.
I have recently started swapping our traditional carbs like pasta and rice for spiralised vegetables. Most spiralised vegetables can be eaten raw or, if you prefer, quickly boiled or microwaved in 2-3 minutes. If you do not have a spiraliser then grated vegetables would also work. Another great substitute for rice is to blitz some cauliflower in the food processor for 30 seconds. Spiralised veg should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days; so one batch can last for a few days.
Add some protein…
Many people are under-eating protein, yet is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It’s high thermic effect (the amount of calories burned in the process of digesting, absorbing, and storing the nutrients from the meal) also helps boost our metabolism, whilst clinical studies consistently showed that high-protein diets increase satiety and decrease hunger.
However, as with all foods, certain types of proteins are better than others. Animal foods that are high in protein are usually also high in saturated fats, which increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer. Therefore we recommend that you stick to lean meats such as poultry, fish, dairy products, beans or nuts as your most frequent sources of protein.
Now for some healthy fats…
Here are some interesting benefits we see from including fat in our diet:
- Fat is an energy source
- Fat can keep you fuller for longer
- Fat is a key player in managing inflammation
- Fat can improve your hormonal profile
- Fat is high in certain vitamins and minerals
When looking at the metabolic processes and their ability to supply energy, it is very clear that fat is an essential component to anyone’s diet. Fats as well as proteins have taken a lot of negative press over the years. As a result the popularity of ‘low fat, high carb’ came around and this is still present today. The truth is, many people are still scared of fats, yet the research shows that adding healthy fats to some of our meals will help with fat loss and also improve health.
Out of all the macronutrients, fats are usually the least understood nutrient. Fat doesn’t make us fat. In fact, a large portion of the population stands to benefit from a balanced healthy fat diet. By adding some nuts or seeds to your lunch you are getting a portion of healthy fats that will give you better energy, increased nutrients, improved fat loss and enhanced flavour to your meals.
Lastly some sauce…
Let’s be honest for a second. Sometimes eating healthy can get a little, um, boring. And if you’re not careful, your meals can end up downright bland. So what do you do to spice things up? Well, the bad news is that most sauces are high in calories and low in nutrition value. So with any sauce you should use it sparingly! Some of the best choices would be the ones we’ve included here, which are either lower in calories, or offer some nutritional benefits.
Good nutrition is so important to boosting your energy levels and improving your health and wellbeing. We've included lots of nutritional advice about eating well in pregnancy and the postnatal period as well as over 50 delicious healthy recipes in our programmes. Happy cooking - please share any of your creations with us on our Facebook page!