- Most people breeze through lunch without thinking much about what they’re eating, or how it can affect the rest of their day.
- INSIDER spoke with several nutrition experts to find out which foods should be avoided around lunchtime.
- Meal replacement shakes or bars, green juices, and low-carb meals won’t satisfy you enough to get you through the rest of the day.
Most people take a quick break for lunch in the middle of their workday without even really thinking about what they’re eating and how it can affect the rest of their day. There are many foods, however, that won’t fill you up for the rest of the day, or can make you tired.
INSIDER spoke with nutrition experts to find out which foods you should avoid during lunch time.
Don’t eat a meal replacement.
Though it can feel like a great way to lose weight, all low carb, sugar-free, diet, “lite” or low-calorie meal replacement shakes or bars should be avoided as a meal.
“It’s common for our society to restrict calories as a means for short-term quick weight loss,”Rachel Fine, registered dietitian and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition, said. “Furthermore, it’s often easy to restrict calories earlier in the day, while our schedules are busy with work and food isn’t on our mind, [so] it’s easier to push away internal feelings of hunger.”
“However, eating too little during the early hours of the day only drives a deeper hunger, which is likely ready to attack once work is over and our minds begin to unwind from the busy day. This sets us vulnerable to the vicious binge and restricts cycle commonly experienced as a result of low calories and restrictive diets,” she added.
Avoid green juices.
A lot of diets call for green juices as full meals, but they can’t hold you over for the rest of the day. Registered dietitian Whitney Stuart said, “There’s nothing in that liquid to sustain you. If liquid sounds best, create a smoothie. A balanced one should contain more fibre, protein and fat, which actually keeps you full.”
Don’t go for a frozen meal.
While a frozen dinner might be a quick and easy option for the middle of the day, Stuart shared that even “the low calorie, concentrated-in-size options are usually carbohydrate heavy and have excessive sodium or MSG for flavour. This quick hit of energy will have you slumping at your desk by mid-afternoon. If frozen dinners are a necessity, bulk it with a frozen green vegetable, like cauliflower rice.”
You should be careful not to have a lunch that’s too high in simple carbs.
Erin Assenza, an integrative nutrition health coach, said “Foods like bagels, pasta, and pizza, will spike and drop your blood sugar very quickly, which is the number one reason for the 3 p.m. crash and desire to crawl under your desk. This crash also results in a desire to head straight for the caffeine and sugar to bring back your blood sugar levels.
“Instead, I recommend having a salad filled with healthy proteins, fats and lots of vegetables, a vegetable-based soup with protein, or lean meat and side of vegetables,” she added.
You shouldn’t have a meal from just one food group.
Most of the time, we don’t even think about whether what we’re eating has enough combinations of food groups in it.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting, and author of “Read It Before You Eat It,” said, “A lot of people have a tendency to have these all-protein lunches, like chicken and cheese, and more cheese. The way I describe it is, that’s like getting dressed and putting on a shirt and another shirt and another shirt. You need some variety.”
“When it comes to eating, the best way to eat something like lunch is to have the trifecta of protein, carbs, and fat. You don’t want just a giant bowl of pasta with sauce, or you’ll feel like laying on your desk by 3 p.m. Combinations are really important,” she added.
Avoid fast food if you can.
Cravings for a quick, cheap meal can come with a high cost in your energy levels and general satisfaction. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, said, “When you’re eating a meal that’s really fatty, it could make you feel satisfied, but also more tired. There’s lots of quick food that doesn’t have to be the typical fast food we’re thinking of.”
You should never eat foods that purposefully don’t satisfy you.
In the same way, that meal smoothies or bars will only make you want to binge more,Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, shared, “Eating something just because you feel like you should because it follows a food rule or helps you stick to a diet is extremely unsatisfying. Your brain will stay fixated on food when it feels unsatisfied and will stay preoccupied until it gets what it wants.”
“While you might run scared of feeling satisfied because you equate it with overeating, satisfaction is actually your solution. Aiming for satisfaction actually decreases patterns of under eating or overeating because neither of them is satisfying, rather uncomfortable or painful. I’d encourage you to make a list of lunch ideas that will feel nourishing and satisfying to you,” she added.
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