Quick Work Lunches for Lasting Afternoon Energy
NOVEMBER 12, 2018 by OLIVIA NEELY, RDN, LD
Welcome to another In the Kitchen post where I’m taking the anxiety and worry out of the kitchen and showing you how to make real food happen! Because let’s get real, life is already complicated enough without having to worry about what we need to be eating.
This video is showcasing three quick and easy lunches that can be taken to work or effortlessly enjoyed during those busy afternoons. These meals will help you avoid that afternoon energy slump by getting a meal in that is nutrient-dense and balanced appropriately.
#1. MTO Chicken Salad
This made-to-order chicken salad is a fantastic way to make a quick meal in a pinch before running out of the door in the morning and make use of whatever ingredients you have on hand. This is a great recipe to follow to get inspired but you don’t need to follow it exactly. You’ll see me repeating this idea a lot through these In The Kitchen posts. Substitute and improvise with what you have in your fridge and pantry, never expect perfection and put your own flair on it because, well, you’re the one eating it!
It’s also a great way to flex your MACRO-trio pairing muscles! Not sure what MACRO-trio is? Read these blogs here for a review! We need all three macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) in our diet and finding the right breakdown for you is key. This takes troubleshooting overtime but is important in figuring out what your body needs.
For this meal the chicken will serve as the protein, the Paleo mayo as the healthy fat and the veggies and/or seed crackers as our source of energy providing carbohydrates. Here’s all it takes to assemble…
- Use about 4 ounces of cooked chicken for the base. This may be leftover from last night’s dinner or even from a rotisserie chicken that you picked up, already cooked, from the store.
- Use about 2 tablespoons of a high-quality mayonnaise. I like this brand as it uses avocado oil instead of canola which is a more stable and less inflammatory fat.
- Dress it up — this is where you can experiment with your favorite flavorings. Bring in veggies like grapes and walnuts for a classic chicken salad flavor or try something new like adding a curry powder.
- Plate the chicken salad on top of mixed greens, roll it some big Bibb lettuce leaves or use your favorite gluten free crackers or vegetable sticks for scooping!
Did you know it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full? If you are shoving down a meal in a matter of minutes (or seconds?!), it’s not wonder why you still feel hungry and reach for something else to satisfy you (afternoon latte anyone?). Take time to chew, taste and enjoy your meal. Your energy levels will thank you and your work can wait for 10 minutes.#2. Not Your Sad Salad
Let’s get real: salads can be sad… but they don’t have to be! Salads can be a blank canvas to add whatever you want to. In this video I chose to do a Mediterranean-flare with canned artichokes, almonds, celery and more. Another good option, especially as it gets colder outside it to throw some roasted veggies on a salad. Talk about versatility.
For this meal chicken makes another appearance as a protein but feel free to use whatever you have in the fridge – canned salmon, anchovies, hard boiled eggs or tempeh could even work. The almonds, olives, and/or cheese (if you tolerate dairy) are all examples of healthy fat and the greens and other veggies are a source of delicious plant-based carbohydrates. Have fun piling on the veggies here, it’s very hard to go overboard on too many non-starchy carbs. If your salads are making you sad, it’s time to change it up. You can even check out my favorite fall salads and spring salads for some inspiration to get the ideas flowing.
- Start with a base of non-starchy veggies. In this case I chose spinach. If you’re bored with spinach try kale, lettuce, arugula, spiralized zucchini noodles, roasted Brussels, or a mix of everything.
- Start layering on that flair… olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, radish, marinated bell peppers… seriously, the options are endless.
- If you don’t even feel like whipping up a simple dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), top it with some raw sauerkraut for some gut-loving probiotics and you’re done.
#3. Thai Curry Soup
If you are able to find TWO simple soup recipes that you can put together in a pinch you are set. Let this be one of them. Seriously… once you get this base down you will be opened up to a whole new world of easy lunch options! This 10-minute That Curry Soup from Empowered Sustenance is seriously so simple. Notice that my soup looks wildly different than that on the Empowered Sustenance website. That is not by accident. This is just another example of using what you have available and free-handing it a little bit to take some of the anxiety out of making that “perfect” recipe. News flash — it doesn’t exist.
Use this template recipe to put together a lunch that gives you energy all afternoon long. Say goodbye to that afternoon slump! The protein here can come from collagen peptides, bone broth (what I chose), any grass-fed animal meat or even shrimp. The healthy fat makes an appearance from coconut oil that those veggies are cooked or maybe a small packet of almond butter for dessert. Remember, a supporting macronutrient can be added on the side. Those carbs are coming from whatever veggies you choose or even some rice noodles for more of a ramen take.
These easy lunch recipes are are a great way to get in energy balancing foods at a crucial time of the day. A few tips to remember about creating a lunch to help prevent that afternoon slump…
- Lunch should be the meal that re-fuels your engine with vegetable based carbohydrates (think that base of greens in the salad and zucchini noddles in the soup), healthy stabilizing fats and about 15-28 grams of protein.
- If you’re finding yourself hungry a few hours after eating and a few hours before dinner yet, start by tweaking those macronutrients in that meal. Add a little more olive oil to that dressing, add 1/4 avocado to that salad, grab a handful of macadamia nuts and a square of dark chocolate for a little something sweet.
- Take time to chew your food and give your body time to recognize that it’s being fueled up!
- Don’t over complicate it but set out a few more minutes than you currently are to set yourself up for success for this meal. This can be putting extra leftovers from dinner in a to-go container so you’re set for the next day or waking up 10 minutes earlier to throw together that 10-minute red thai curry soup.
- Notice all of these meals are stored in glass containers? No plastic here. Start switching over those plastic to-go containers to glass ones or use Mason jars and if you’re not able to to do just don’t microwave in them!