Let’s get idealistic for a moment. In an ideal world you will have had a sumptuous breakfast full of protein and slow-burning, low-GI carbohydrates to start your day and keep you going (see WellBeing issue 121 for recipes). In this scenario, lunch will be a solid meal but not huge and dinner will be something light to not place too much strain on your digestion while you are sleeping. Alas, you may not be inhabiting that idyllic space all the time.
In a busy world of work, kids, partners and other commitments, breakfast is often sparse or missed altogether. So, by the time you get to lunch, you are often ravenous and will eat anything that can’t run away. The problem is that kind of situation often leads to poor food choices that leave you feeling bloated and tired or hungry again by mid-afternoon.
The recipes we set out here are aimed at helping you get the balance right. If you have skipped breakfast, they will be nutritious and solid enough to keep you going. Yet, if you have had a big breakfast, they can be adapted to meet your needs and are also light enough to not make you feel over-full. Before getting into the specifics, though, it helps to think about what you are aiming to achieve with the lunch meal.
Even the biggest of healthy breakfasts will not see you through an entire day. Lunch needs to be adequate to provide you the nutrition your body needs until the evening without weighing it down with nutritional “baddies”. While fats taste good on the tongue, they sit heavily in digestion. So you want light protein meals that come with moderate amounts of good fats such as omega-3 oils. Fish is a great protein source that provides omega-3s. Eggs are also a good source of protein. If you are choosing meat, go for high-quality lean cuts.
What you really want to avoid at lunchtime is sugars. While you get a temporary lift from sugar, it’s burned quickly and you will hit the mid-afternoon trough as your blood sugar levels drop. Complex carbohydrates (such as from wholegrains and vegetables) will deliver slow-burning energy to avoid that afternoon crash. Make sure you combine your lean protein with vegetables so your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best. All this can be done with delicious meals that don’t need too much preparation, as you can see from these recipes.