Recipes & Cooking
The 10 Best Lunches to Eat to Boost Productivity
When you choose one of these healthy options for lunch, you’ll be able to work creatively until the clock strikes 5.
“Clean out the Fridge” Salad
Use up your greens and vegetables creatively by combining them in a delightful mix, recommends Erin Burch, MS, RDN. Throw in greens, chopped veggies, four to six ounces of shrimp or tuna, healthy fats such as avocado, seeds, cheese, olives; drizzle with balsamic glaze, or homemade dressing. “This combo of non-starchy carbohydrates from the veggies, protein and healthy fats contribute to stable blood-sugar levels. This will leave you feeling energized and focused without feeling the need to down another cup of coffee.”
For a quick and satisfying lunch that offers variety, Burch suggests packing Greek yogurt topped with fruit, a hard-boiled egg, and raw vegetable sticks. “Greek yogurt is loaded with protein as well as ‘good’ bacteria to aid in digestion and immunity,” she points out. “Roughly 75 percent of your immune system is within your gut, which is one reason you may feel lousy if your gut bacteria is not up to par.” Find out some healthy lunch ideas from around the world.
Try rolling up organic deli meat, with guacamole and julienned veggies in romaine lettuce leaves, suggests Burch. “By ditching the bread you will have a lower, steady rise in blood sugar and better insulin control, so your cells will receive an even, time-released delivery of energy over a longer period of time.”
Simple Grain Bowl
Nutritionist Alissa Rumsey, RD, MS, makes her bowls with cooked whole grains topped with cooked or fresh vegetables, a half-cup or full-cup of pulses, which can be peas, lentils, chickpeas, or beans, plus a handful of nuts. “Whole grains raise your serotonin level, which can make you feel happier and more energized, while also giving you a blood sugar boost. Pulses are a source of plant-based protein and fiber which helps to keep you full. The whole-grain carbs raise blood sugar to give you energy, and the protein and fiber in pulses balance out your blood sugar to keep your energy level sustained for a few hours,” Rumsey says. “Nuts like pistachios make a great addition to any energy-boosting lunch because of their protein, fiber and healthy fat content, which slows down digestion and helps to keep your energy levels high for longer. I love using them as a lunch side dish, instead of something like pretzels, since pistachios provide so many nutrients that help to keep you full and satisfied for longer.”
Egg Scramble Bowl
Burch likes to scramble three eggs and let them cool (or chop up hard-boiled eggs), and then mix in assorted sautéed vegetables like peppers and kale. Top it with cheese and fresh chopped tomato, cheese, and a basil leaf; if you’re so inclined, add avocado and cilantro. “Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12, and B6—B vitamins are essential for energy production. The powerhouse vegetable kale contains the amino acid L-tyrosine, which helps give you a mental lift, as well as a number of antioxidants and fiber to fill you up and help keep your blood sugar stable.” Don’t miss these quick, healthy meals doctors eat every day.
Taco Rice Bowl
Rice, taco meat, topped with your favorite vegetables plus healthy fats of avocado, and cheese—plus olives, if you’re in the mood. “Be sure to not go crazy with your portion size of rice, as too much can spike your blood sugar, which will result in a crash later,” warns Burch. “Lean red meat is also an excellent source of minerals like iron—a component in hemoglobin that is helpful in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Don’t forget the healthy fats to stabilize that blood sugar, giving you lasting energy throughout the afternoon.”
Chopped Greek Salad Bowl
Try chopping up some veggies, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and drizzle with red wine vinegar, olive oil, dill, basil, oregano, and a squeeze of lemon. Add 4-6 ounces of leftover grilled chicken for protein if you’re so inclined.”You won’t need the pita when you have this perfectly balanced chopped salad. Your healthy carbohydrates come from nutrient-packed vegetables and iron-rich olives,” says Burch. Here are 8 more healthy lunch ideas to make this week.
Tuna, Egg, or Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups
“Ditching the bread for lettuce not only gives you a boost of folate, manganese, and antioxidants, but it also prevents a blood sugar crash,” explains Burch. You can mix in avocado, mayo, vegetables, and add a side of fruit. “It’s a great way to satisfy those sweet cravings, keeping those sugar-sweetened drinks in the vending machine,” she says. These are the healthiest foods you can buy at the supermarket.
Top this delicious dish with cheese and avocado, says Burch, and you’re setting yourself up for a productive afternoon. “This one bowl not only offers protein from your meat, but also from beans which are rich in fiber, as well as B vitamin and zinc, and carbohydrates. Be sure to top with avocado, which provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and rich in fiber.”
Salmon Avocado Tacos
This recipe is adapted from Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, author of Slim Down Now. “This recipe is light, but filling and satisfying,” explains Sass, “so it will leave you feeling energized without lingering hunger. The healthy fats from the salmon and avocado are satiating and enhance circulation, another key to feeling energized. This meal is also chock-full of protein, vitamins, key minerals, and antioxidants. It’s a perfect balance—a lunch you can look forward to and enjoy while maintaining productivity all afternoon.”
- ½ cup quartered grape tomatoes (about 16)
- ¼ cup minced white onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- 3 large outer romaine leaves
- 3 ounces cooked or canned wild salmon
- Divided¼ of a ripe avocado, diced
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, cayenne, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice. Toss together and marinate in the fridge for at least 10 minutes. Fill romaine leaves with salmon and top with chilled vegetable mixture, and garnish with avocado. Next, check out these 20 healthy lunch ideas that aren’t salad.