The Working Lunch
Juggling work with family life, chores, school runs and everything else is not easy, that much we know. It’s easy to see why personal health and care can be you pushed to the bottom of our priorities. Yet is exactly because we’re so busy that we should put some thought into what we eat and how we live. If you’ve ever compared trying to work through lunch with stopping for a break and some good food, or else buying the first prepacked sandwich that jumps out at you or worse, staff room biscuits to keep your sugar levels up, you may have notices that eating well actually fuels your brain so you end up working more productively and getting more work done. Win win surely?
Where Are People Going Wrong?
Most people do actually have the best intentions, but prepacked sandwiches are usually full of salt and sub-par ingredients (think reformed ham, cheap bacon and processed cheese) and low on nutritional value. Fresh produce on the other hand can be packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats to fuel your brain at work.
What About Carbs?
Sandwiches, bread, and carbohydrates themselves are not ‘bad’. But like all foods – protein, fat, sugar and fibre included, the most appropriate choices for you are the ones that will work best for you. When we do intense exercise we use primarily glucose (carbohydrates) as fuel, so if you’re hitting the gym for a circuits class during your lunch hour you’ll do better with a few carbs to fuel your workout. But being sedentary, like at a desk job, uses more fat for fuel instead of carbs, so ‘good’ fats like nuts, oily fish, olives and coconut products are preferential to wheat, oat and potato based foods when you’re not moving around much. Try swapping a cereal bar for almonds and make a note of how well you can concentrate on work, I’d make an educated guess the nuts would yield better results, and this is also why some people feel an afternoon ‘slump’ after a carb heavy lunch. In addition, carbs encourage serotonin and dopamine production which help relax you and make you sleepy, great for later in the evening, not so great for a busy afternoon at work! More and more people are also finding they react negatively to wheat, gluten (a protein in wheat) or both, causing everything from digestive discomfort to brain fog and more, none of which is going to help you concentrate if you’re one of these people.
I Don’t Have Time To Make Lunch!
Here’s my 4 step guide to buying lunch out that works for me if I’m not on my feet much – most days I am, being a stay at home Mum, and can pack away quite a lot of food for my small frame as a result, but this formula works well for most people I know:
- Find a large side salad – most supermarkets do these. Add a little of the dressing (if supplied) if you like, you probably won’t need all of it.
- Add some protein – ready cooked sliced chicken or beef, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, cooked prawns, flaked salmon; these are all great proteins.
- Add some fat – a few olives, a tbsp. seeds, half an avocado, whatever takes your fancy that day.
- If you’re being active add some carbs – some fruit (yes fruit has sugar in it), oat crackers, cold rice, quinoa or pasta (provided gluten isn’t an issue) are usually easy to find in the deli isles.
Finally of course a big bottle of water to sip throughout the afternoon, because nothing refreshed your body and mind like good hydration.
If you’re used to taking a packed lunch to work here’s a fave recipe of mine. You can vary the fillings to stop getting bored.
ORIENTAL INSIDE OUT WRAPS
Makes 4-6 wraps (enough for one hungry person)
Wraps of a lower carb kind, but just as easy to make. Play around with fillings to see which protein, vegetable and dressing flavours you prefer.
4-6 (100-150g) thin slices of beef, chicken or turkey (ready-sliced sandwich slices are great, but avoid ‘reformed’ ones)
4-6 whole large lettuce leaves (iceberg is ideal)
1 small carrot, grated
½ a pepper (any colour will do), sliced into fine sticks
¼ cucumber, sliced into fine sticks
1 handful raw cabbage, shredded
2 tbsp. reduced salt soy sauce
4 tbsp. fat free Greek yoghurt
Mix the soy sauce with the Greek yogurt and combine the sauce with the carrot, cucumber, pepper and cabbage.
To assemble, lay a lettuce leaf on a plate and lay a slice of meat on top of the lettuce. Spoon a layer of the vegetable mixture over the meat. Roll the assembled layers, to form a tube shaped wrap, taking care not to tear the lettuce.
Continue with the remaining wraps and serve with any leftover vegetable mixture.If saving for later wrap up each wrap in Clingfilm so they hold their shape.