Though most Americans will chomp on whatever is closest — or from whoever delivers — at their desk for lunch, it’s not the best strategy for busy professionals. You know how the saying goes, but allow us to reiterate: You are what you eat.
And though greasy, carb-rich food is comforting when you’re stressed, hungover — or um, both — it isn’t the best solution if you want to ignite your productivity and jumpstart your creativity. Instead, nutritionists say you should choose what you eat based on how you’re feeling.
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This way, your lunch can keep your happy mojo going, or cure any workday woes you’re suffering from.
Here, no matter if you’re creative, exhausted or uninspired, are the right mid-day grub to pick:
You’re on a roll: Protein-packed finger foods.
Perhaps it seems simplistic, but registered dietician and associate clinical professor Keith-Thomas Ayoob says if you are blasting through your to-do list like a boss, you should probably keep doing whatever you’re doing. How come? Well, it’s working! And if you want to continue the energy, he suggests keeping lunch light but packed with protein.
“An ounce or two of cheese, fresh fruit like pears and a handful of almonds will fit the bill,” he continues. “It’s good to have ‘finger food’ so you don’t get sidetracked with lots of containers and dishes and such, and enough high-quality protein and healthy fat to keep you from getting distracted.”
You’re feeling anxious: Chopped salad or noodle soup.
Maybe you just sent your baby to preschool. Or, your partner is going through a stressful season at work. Maybe your parent isn’t feeling so hot, and you have more questions lingering than answered. Whatever is making you feel overwhelmed or anxious, it’s hard to leave those all-consuming feelings at the door when you arrive at the office.
Here, distraction is actually your friend, according to registered dietician and nutritionist Bridget Swinney. Her suggestion is to choose something that’s healthy but takes time and concentration to eat. This might be a chopped salad, a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup, or perhaps sushi – if you struggle with chopsticks. As she puts it, sometimes just slowing down can help you feel calmer.
You’re feeling creative: An omelet.
Ayoob says if your brain feels scrambled with inspiration, have some scrambled eggs! Because they’re loaded with the important brain nutrient of choline, it’ll help you keep those juices flowing toward your work. And if you add in mushrooms? It’s brownie points for your mood.
Ayoob says that because mushrooms have vitamin B6, you’ll continue to feel happier and jazzed. “Follow this lunch with some strawberries — and all their antioxidants set you up for a creative afternoon, without feeling heavy,” he adds.
You’re feeling exhausted: Comfort food.
You’re tired, you don’t have the energy to do, well, anything, but you still have to report to your gig. Swinney says while comfort food can indeed be the answer, it’s not permission to go deep-fried and unhealthy since that’ll make you feel even more sluggish.
“Try to find a home-style meal like meatloaf or pot roast, with potatoes, carrots and green beans. Perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich or breakfast? Or have a hearty, creamy soup like clam chowder,” she suggests.
These will soothe your soul and hopefully give you enough energy to make it through closing time.
You’re so not inspired: Fish.
Especially if you’re in a field that demands your superstar ideas, feeling like you lack any type of inspiration or brilliance can threaten your confidence. To the rescue is fish, which Ayoob explains is packed with omega-3 fats that prevent you from getting too down-in-the-dumps as it stabilizes your mood.
“You can keep it simple just by trading that individual can of tuna for a can of salmon, or go all the way and spring for 1/4 pound of smoked salmon. Herring and sardines also work, and you can stuff them into a whole-grain pita or eat with whole grain crackers,” he continues.
Once you’ve had your lunch, snack on walnuts and grapes in the afternoon to keep the vibes moving.
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