Have you ever eaten lunch and immediately regretted it? Maybe you felt bloated, lethargic, or just plain bad afterward. Or your pants felt too tight or your skin a little greasy? If so, you are not alone. I call sufferers of this phenomenon victims of Lunch Regret Syndrome (LRS).
Instead of focusing on the negative, let’s focus on how you want tofeel after lunch. In a perfect world, you would feel nourished, invigorated, and refreshed. Ready for action and mentally clear.
And it’s possible. There are filling lunches that also leave you flourishing.
You can have your lunch and eat it too.
To help you, I’m sharing tricks to help you have a better lunch. If this is right up your alley, you have one of my oldest friends to thank. This post was her special request. And because she has two adorable kiddos, a special bonus section on lunches for little ones follows.
A Word to the Wise
Do yourself a favor and just pack lunch the night before. It’s tempting to think you’ll have time in the morning, but if you are like me, it won’t happen. Trust me on this one. And use those extra minutes in the morning to meditate.
Adult Lunch Tricks
1. Pack leftovers from the night before.
Obvi, but this is what I do 90% of the time. I cook something delicious and nutritious for dinner (tonight is mushroom fajitas) and immediately pack leftovers for lunch the next day. Add a side salad and a piece of fruit, and you’re set!
2. Make a smoothie.
If I know I’ll be on the go during lunch hours or seeing patients without a break, smoothies are my go to. Fill them with spinach, fruit, flaxseed, and nuts and you’ll be satisfied for hours.
3. Wrap it.
With collard greens, that is. Instead of a sandwich on white bread, fix a sandwich in a raw collard green. Collards (the new kale) are mild in flavor and high in nutrients. My current fave is hummus, spinach, Greek olives, and red peppers wrapped in collards.
4. Be a salad chef.
I’m not talking about wilted iceberg lettuce and some weird dressing from a bottle. Picture colorful greens, black beans, ripe avocado slices, diced fresh tomatoes and cucumber, homemade tortilla chip crumbles, cilantro garnish, all topped with a creamy and delicious dressing. This salad should be satisfying, filling, and packed with flavor. Add a side of fruit and a sparkling water, and you’re set up for lunchtime success. TRICK: bring your dressing in a separate container (a small mason jar works great) or place on the bottom on your container to prevent the dreaded mushy salad.
5. Add dark chocolate.
Okay, this should not be your entire lunch so hear me out. If you like to finish off with something sweet (and I know many people do), consider a square of natural dark chocolate. The less sugar, the better. My personal pick is Theo dark chocolate, which is made in Seattle, but can be found at retailers across the country. Whole Foods and REI carry Theo chocolate from coast to coast. You can always order online from Theo direct or from third-parties such as Vitacost (on sale right now and save an extra $10 off your purchase using this link).
6. Finish with a tisane or tea.
Mint is a natural stomach soother and has other wonderful health benefits. This is why many restaurants offer after dinner mints. Finish your lunch with a refreshing warm drink. When I can, I infuse hot water with fresh mint leaves from my garden. In a pinch or when I’m on the go, I use herbal mint tea (Tazo Refresh is my usual).
BONUS: IDEAS FOR KIDDOS
Personally, I’m excited to dive into leftovers for lunch. But as a child (and really until I started cooking for myself), I detested leftovers. The good ol’ packing leftovers trick may not work for the kiddos so I’m giving you a few ideas to help make their lunches better.
Water, water, water. If your kids beg for juice, please make sure it is 100% fruit juice. I shudder remembering the Sunny D I used to drink during soccer game half-time (corn syrup is the second ingredient and I’m still not sure why canola oil would need to be added to “juice”).
Fruits and Veggies
Make fruit and vegetables approachable. Would you ever send your kiddo to school with a raw chicken breast in their lunchbox? Probably not. So why would you send them with unprepped fruits and veggies?
Cut and core apples and add a side (nut butter with a little honey is a good option or make it dessert with a chocolate dip). Try kale chips. Serve chopped veggies with hummus or another tasty dip. Use a vegetable peeler and make carrot peels. Dust your spiralizer off and make veggie curls. Have fun and be creative here.
If your little eaters are sandwich lovers, there are still ways to improve the quality of their lunches.
- Try bread alternatives (see collard idea above).
- Use whole grain bread exclusively. This is an area where food marketing really tries to trick you. Look at the ingredient list and make sure the word “whole” precedes the grain in each ingredient. Remember, multi-grain does not necessarily mean whole grain.
- Switch up the type of bread you use. It can be easy to buy the same bread each week, but there are a plethora of options out there. Experiment with brown rice bread, pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, and raisin bread.
- Try a nut butter and fresh fruit sandwich. Think peanut butter and banana, almond butter and strawberry, or cashew butter and blueberry. If your little ones really want sweet, drizzle a little sweetener (like Grade B maple syrup or honey) on top.
- Sneak veggies into other sandwiches. Lettuce, tomato, raw spinach, sprouts, avocado, and red peppers can often complement sandwich ingredients.
If something sweet is desired, think outside the (store bought cookie) box. Most kids love a good smoothie — try packing one full of fruit or try a chocolate smoothie. Be a cookie chef and try an uber healthy recipe. I’m a bonafide cookie lover and have a cadre of wellness supporting recipes in rotation.
Get Ready to Feel Better in the Afternoon
Now that you have a few tricks up your sleeve, pick one or two and give it a try tomorrow. Or the next time you need to pack a lunch. Don’t stress if every trick doesn’t work for you. See what works and stick with it, and discard what doesn’t.
Here’s to a better way to lunch. Do you have a great lunch hack that I missed? I’d love to hear about it.
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