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The importance of lunch

Posted by Aisling Murray on

Having a nutritious lunch is important to refuel as it can be a busy morning since breakfast and lunch is needed to increase your blood sugars when concentration is decreasing. It’s recommended you have a small healthy snack in-between breakfast and lunch and in between lunch and dinner. The most ideal time to have lunch is usually 4-5 hours after breakfast and this can renew your energy keeping you more alert for the next few hours. Your metabolism is kept going by eating regularly; going too long without eating in-between large meals actually makes your metabolism sluggish.


Not eating lunch?


If you are trying to lose weight, skipping lunch or any other meal is not advisable and it rarely results in weight loss. You are not cutting calories in the long run as your appetite will increase later in the day; this causes you to binge on foods which are not nutritionally balanced. Some foods are more beneficial to eat during lunch such as complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, vegetables) along with lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey). These food types will ensure you sustain the energy from that meal over a longer period of time. To get the healthiest lunch, make sure to include foods such as vegetables, grains, dairy, fruits and protein.


Eating the right foods


Fish – This is your well known brain food as its rich in omega – 3 fatty acids; these essential fats are vital for development and functioning of the brain. Eating oily fish will help with concentration throughout the day and make you feel more alert.


Nuts and seeds –brilliant foods to include in a healthy diet as they contain fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin E, providing added protection against cardiovascular disease. Although they contain healthy monounsaturated fats, by eating the right portion of nuts and seeds (one handful a day) you can lose weight and satisfy your appetite. Nuts and seeds are also great at stabilising your blood sugar levels and if eaten regularly can help lower your cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.


Whole grains –provide dietary fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants like vitamin E and trace minerals such as Iron, copper, magnesium and zinc.  Eating whole grains is known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers and they are ideal for keeping your weight under control.  Whole-grains also help to keep your bowel regular and improve overall bowel health.


Fast food – Chips are very difficult to digest due to the amount of fat present in them, draining energy levels and reducing productivity for the rest of your day. Having a burger on its own is not the worst thing you could eat, but it’s the bread, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup that we add which makes it unhealthy. Eating fatty fast food at lunch can mean you are ingesting anywhere between 800 – 1300 calories on average and 43 – 60g of fat. We should not be eating more than 70g of fat daily. Fast food offers little or no energy and can increase cholesterol and weight if eaten regularly.


Premade sandwiches – The majority of convenience shops sell pre-packaged sandwiches. They may seem harmless enough and what can be wrong with a sandwich you may think? The issue is that these types of sandwich usually contain preservatives to prolong their shelf life and keep them intact until they reach the shop. Some varieties of pre-packaged sandwiches contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat. There are some sandwiches on the market that contain as much fat as a McDonalds big mac burger and as much as 25g of sugar (if containing chutneys etc.) and more than 4.7g of salt. Always check the label. It’s recommended to buy a sandwich that needs to be prepared at a deli or make your own at home. Avoid too much extra sauces as they pile on the calories and are high in sugar and salt.


White bread – There are a number of us who are not aware of how unhealthy white bread actually is. It is a processed bread after all and contains high levels of sugar and empty calories (offers you little or no energy or nutrition).On the glycaemic index (I have an article on this topic so ask in store for more info), glucose is 100 and this is what we compare all other foods to. The closer the food is to 100 on the glycaemic index (GI) scale the more likely it is to cause a quick energy crash and weight gain. White bread has a reading of 79 and white rolls have a reading of 95 on the glycaemic index (GI) scale. Opt for multi grain or whole grain bread which is lower GI (at a reading of 48) and or corn tortillas (with a reading of 52). Lower GI foods like these will keep fuller for longer and you will avoid spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels.


Other foods to avoid - Avoid overeating the following at lunch: muffins, white bagels, pizza slices, big dinners (go for the half portion option), fried food and packet soup (high in salt)


Don’t forget to incorporate a small snack 2 – 3 hours after your lunch to keep you going before dinner. This can be anything from a yoghurt and fruit, to a handful of nuts, or a Rivita cracker and spreadable cheese.


Healthy Lunchbox workshop for kids and parents


Our “Healthy Lunchbox Workshop” is this Thursday August 20th at 10am in Miller and Cook and aims to help mums and/or dads and their kids to learn to prepare a healthy lunchbox in a fun and relaxed environment. This event is FREE OF CHARGE, however with numbers limited; book early to avoid disappointment


Healthy Lunchbox Workshop at Miller and Cook, 50 Pearse St, Mullingar on Thursday August 20th from 10am to 11:30am. Call 04493 34591 for your free places


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