It’s mid-afternoon your stomach rumbles and there’s an urge to snack like no other. Not only is a unsatisfying lunch likely to leave you hungry, but it could mean you lose focus and have less energy to tackle work.
A British Summer Fruits study has linked a healthy diet to a 17% increase in concentration, so, if you’re feeling sluggish or hungry at 3pm, it’s time to overhaul your lunchbox inspiration.
We’ll help you break the snacking cycle with these healthy and easy lunch ideas – without breaking the bank.
Day 1: Tuna pitta pockets
Why: The combination of a wholegrain pitta, rich in B vitamins, which are vital for energy, combined with a light protein source such as tuna makes this the perfect lunch to see you through until the evening.
How: Halve a toasted wholemeal pitta bread, line with thinly sliced tomato and cucumber and fill with a small tin of tuna blended with a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt or olive oil dressing and chopped spring onion (optional).
Day 2: Greek salad
Why: The combination of immune-boosting, antioxidant-rich veg tomato and cucumber combined with feta cheese makes this a win-win, as the weather gets colder. Feta isn’t just a good source of calcium, the bone boosting mineral essential for maintaining good energy levels, it also contains Vitamin B12, a B vitamin essential for energy required for the formation of red blood cells and nervous system support. Why not add tuna or chicken?
How: Blend 40g cubed feta, dessertspoon chopped pitted black olives, chopped tomato, three inches of chopped cucumber, teaspoon diced red onion, pinch oregano and dessertspoon olive oil, tsp red wine vinegar. Serve with a slice of whole meal or rye bread.
Day 3: Meaty cous cous (P)
Why: Couscous is a great complex carbohydrate, which will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. The chicken – packed with protein – will also help with satiety.
How: Cut a skinless chicken breast, around 150g, into strips and fry with an onion and some garlic using a dessertspoon of olive oil. Add a sliced courgette, one sliced tomato, cumin and coriander. Cook for ten minutes before adding 1½ tbsp chickpeas and 100g sugar snap peas. Serve with 40g cooked couscous.
Day 4: Amazing minestrone (P)
Why: Minestrone soup contains high fibre and protein-rich pulses that will help you to maintain even blood sugar levels throughout the afternoon as well as pasta which will help to boost flagging energy levels.
How: Serve 300g minestrone soup (either fresh carton soup or homemade combining veg stock, tinned tomatoes, small amount of pasta tubes, a handful of butter beans, chopped celery, onion, carrot, cabbage and potato) with three buttered rye crispbread such as Ryvita. Rye is a good source of iron, key to energy levels, which supports a healthy immune system and transports oxygen around the body.
Day 5: Wrap-with-a-kick
Why: This spicy chicken and avocado wrap contains good amounts of protein, carbs and healthy fat, the combination of which will help to prevent mid-afternoon snacking pangs, while the inclusion of healthy fat in the avocado helps to power your brain!
How: Blend a small avocado with lemon juice, a little chilli powder, salt and pepper, spread over the wrap and add a few very thin slices of red pepper. Add 80g thinly sliced chicken breast.
Day 6: Power jacket
Why: The fibre and starch content of a baked potato with beans is second to none. Even during the coldest, darkest winter months this healthy comfort food should see you through the afternoon (and power that post-work workout too). You might even want to swap regular baked potato for its sweet potato counterpart. Alternative fillings include tuna, cottage cheese, red pepper and hummus, or ‘healthy Coronation chicken’ made with yoghurt, lime juice and curry powder.