What you have for lunch can make all the difference in your productivity for the rest of the day. You want to choose a mix of foods that will fuel your body and mind to get you through a long to-do list, but you also want it to be exciting and taste good, right? After all, one of the best ways to support your health is to cook your own meals and pack a lunch each day.
Follow these steps to pack the ultimate power lunch:
Step No. 1: Look at your schedule.
The first thing to do when planning your lunch for the next day or your lunches for an entire week is to look at how much you have going on. If you have a particularly packed day, you may want to add more elements to your meal or pack a second, smaller meal for later in the day.
Step No. 2: Consider your destination.
Depending on where you're going, keep in mind your options for storing your homemade lunch. Do you have a refrigerator? Or will you be relying on keeping your items room temperature? A portable ice pack is great item to keep on hand to help you keep items fresh.
Step No. 3: Pick your protein.
The ideal meal should contain protein, carbohydrates and fat, but you need to pick the right kinds. Lean protein, like salmon, chicken or tofu should make up about one quarter of your meal (if imagining it on a plate. Grilling and baking are the best ways to lock in flavor without adding fat.
Step No. 4: Consider carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are the best option to give you the energy you need and should take up another quarter of your meal. They also provide fiber, which is your best friend during a busy day. Not only will it keep your digestive system moving to prevent stomach upset, fiber also regulates blood sugar to prevent drastic dips and spikes that can give you a burst of energy followed by a drain. When choosing complex carbohydrates, choose a grain like quinoa or millet to include in your diet.
Step No. 5: Think about fat.
Good fats like omega-3s, unsaturated or monounsaturated fats keep the skin and hair healthy. Omega-3s also support the heart. Include about 2 tbsp of a good fat like avocado or olive oil to dress a salad. Nuts butters also count.
Step No. 6: Plan to eat your vitamins.
One half of your entire meal (at least) should be fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods provide vitamins and minerals, including those with antioxidant properties. Make your lunch as colorful as possible with a mixed salad or stir-fry and add a whole piece of fruit.
Step No. 7: Prioritize prep.
Give yourself plenty of prep time to get your lunch together. If you have a designated cooking day, like Sunday, it can be helpful to get all your lunches for the week packed in advance so you stay on track.
Step No. 8: Pack properly.
Separating items that need to be kept cold from those that should be heated as well as moist ingredients from dry will ensure your lunch tastes just as good as it did when you make it when you finally sit down to eat it. Investing in some quality containers can help you package everything neatly. Look for options free of BPA that can be safely heated.
Step No. 9: Remember to hydrate.
Bring along a naturally flavored water infused with fruit and herbs for a refreshing lunch drink that will help perk you up. It'll also keep you from running to the vending machine.
Step No. 10: Don't forget a treat.
Give yourself a little something sweet to round off the meal and you'll kick your candy craving. A small serving (about 1 ounce) of dark chocolate provides antioxidants, or you can pack some trail mix with dried fruit and nuts.
Follow these tips to pack a better lunch. Stay tuned for more!
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