The after-lunch slump that can take the punch out of a productive workday can be avoided with a keen eye for balanced foods and limited calories at lunchtime, according to registered dietitian Lisa Beckley with the Dairy Council of California.
"A big lunch, especially if it's high in sugary foods, overpowers your system," Beckley said. "It's not a very efficient approach to the afternoon, especially if you need to be at peak performance."
Beckley suggests a 500-calorie lunch limit (700 for men), no alcohol or gooey desserts and a balanced selection of foods with 20% protein, 30% fat and 50% complex carbohydrates.
"The trick is to use a small amount of power foods with this ratio of nutrients to feed your system without making it work too hard," Beckley said.
For balanced lunches, low-fat dairy products such as milk and yogurt most closely meet the 20-30-50 ratio. An added piece of fruit provides fiber to speed digestion and essential vitamins with few calories.
Consistent Energy Provided
Complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fruits also help resist a midday slowdown because they are metabolized more slowly than simple sugars and provide consistent energy, Beckley said.
Going out to lunch can require some creativity to maintain balance and here are some tips.
--Deli takeout: Try a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato, or a cup of soup with mixed greens salad and whole-wheat roll. Fruit, cheese and a bran or corn muffin also work well.
--At the coffee shop: Choose between a small chef's salad (light on the dressing), unsweetened fruit salad with one-half cup cottage cheese or yogurt, or a half tomato with tuna salad (light on mayonnaise). Add toast, tomato or vegetable juice and sparkling water.
--Fast-food restaurant: Depending on where you go, look for a baked potato with cottage or regular cheese, or a single hamburger on a bun with low-fat milk. At the pizza shop, stick with one slice of pizza and a tossed salad.
--Traditional restaurant: Several combinations will work. One is a green salad with small portions of fish or chicken, assorted vegetables, and small baked potato. Also try a tossed salad and half order of pasta primavera with sprinkling of cheese, one slice bread and fruit. For a more formal meal, try a cup of consomme, small portion of veal, assorted vegetables and rice.
--Vending machine: Snack pack of crackers and cheese or peanut butter and cheese crackers, raisins or dried fruits and nuts.