For many of us, lunchtime is often spent at our desks, taken up by last minute meetings and phone calls or simply skipped altogether.
Eating a healthy lunch at work, let alone making time for lunch at all, can be a challenge, particularly for those hoping to race out of the office on time to pick up the kids or make it to the gym. But while lunch may seem unimportant as you face urgent deadlines or plan to power through a tonne of work in one sitting, grabbing a quick, unhealthy lunch at your desk or skipping it altogether won’t do your health any favours down the track.
According to SumoSalad’s resident dietician Georgina Moore, the afternoon and evening is the hardest time of day to maintain healthy food and exercise habits and lunch is the single biggest influencer on our choices during the afternoon.
“A poor lunch choice can completely derail the rest of the day,” she says. “If we skip lunch we give ourselves low blood sugar and we have that craving for something really sugary.”
According to a SumoSalad survey, 82% of Australians admitted that a healthy lunch makes them feel more motivated for the rest of the day. However, 76% said they don’t prioritise nutrition when it comes to their choices for lunch, instead focusing on taste or treating themselves (42%), speed and convenience (25%) and price (9%).
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to lunch, says Moore, is poor timing. Getting caught up with meetings and leaving lunch until 4pm will set you up for failure later on.
“What happens then is there’s a huge gap between breakfast and lunch [and] that impacts on blood sugar levels. We get that afternoon slump and need something quick,” she says.
To help maintain blood sugar levels, Moore says to snack on foods with a low glycemic index such as unsalted mixed nuts, hummus or yoghurt.
The other big mistake we make when it comes to our lunch is not leaving our desks.
“Research has found that if you get up from your desk and move for about 10 minutes, productivity increases. It’s about getting the blood flowing and getting fresh air,” Moore says.
For the particularly time-poor, Moore suggests taking just 10 minutes to go outside. And if you’re going to the food court, she says to look for a pre-made salad or wrap, watch out for portion distortion and take notice of any nutritional information provided.
“As we all know, products are getting bigger and bigger. There’s always that upsell,” she says. “I actually tell a lot of my clients to order the size that they want to be.”
Finally, when we’re ordering our lunch Moore says we need to be mindful of the make-up of our plates. At every meal we should be including 25% low-GI carbs, 25% lean protein and 50% veggies or salad. Eating protein such as tofu, salmon, eggs and lean beef or adding low GI foods such as vegetables and legumes will keep you fuller for longer.
This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.