Keep your energy, concentration, and focus topped up with these nutrient-packed lunches
It can be tempting to graze on snacks and skip lunch when working from home. An overflowing schedule, lunchtime meetings, or fitting work around school pick-up times can make it hard to enjoy a decent lunch break. But our brains rely on a steady supply of nutrients and powering through without the right fuel has a negative effect on memory, concentration, and energy levels - and can even sabotage your afternoon work plans.
Blood sugar balance and brain function
Glucose is the primary source of fuel for our brains. Sugary foods give an instant hit of glucose into the bloodstream, but this is rapidly absorbed into cells, giving a quick boost followed by a sharp slump. These slumps cause tiredness, irritability, and poor concentration.
Complex carbohydrates breakdown more slowly in the digestive system, providing a steadier release of glucose into the blood. This gives the brain a longer-lasting source of fuel, keeping us alert and energized for longer.
Protein and healthy fats can prolong the release of glucose from carbohydrates even further, which is why a balanced meal combines all three macronutrients – complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Preparing your lunch in the morning before you start work helps build your routine for the day and reduces the risk of grabbing a quick (and unhealthy!) snack at lunchtime.
Try these nutrient-packed lunches to keep your energy and concentration going all afternoon
Mackerel and watercress salad with oatcakes
Tinned mackerel is a low-cost super-healthy way of getting good quality protein and omega-3 fats to support cognitive function.
Chop the fish and mix with two good handfuls of watercress, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, diced ½ pepper, and chunks of cucumber. Scatter over a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, drizzle with olive oil and serve with wholegrain oatcakes.
Carrot & Butternut squash soup with rye bread and houmous
Carrots and butternut squash are rich in carotenoids, natural antioxidants that support brain health. Read more about the best nutrients to support cognitive health here. Make a batch of soup at the weekend and store in the freezer for easy lunches. Wholegrain rye bread provides slow-releasing carbohydrates, and houmous is packed with protein and fibre.
Poached eggs and sweet potato toast with mashed avocado
This one isn’t suitable for pre-prepping, but only takes minutes to assemble. To make the sweet potato toast, thinly slice a sweet potato lengthways and pop in the toaster or under the grill. In this combination protein comes from the eggs, the sweet potato provides complex carbohydrates and carotenoids, and healthy monounsaturated fats are found in the avocado.
Pasta & pesto with shredded chicken
This can be prepped in the morning and eaten cold at lunch, or quickly cooked when needed. Use wholegrain pasta and mix with pesto, shredded chicken – or pre-cooked tofu for a meat free alternative – and mixed salad.
Feta and mixed bean pittas
Wholegrain pitta breads are quick to warm up and fill. Mix diced feta and a selection of cooked mixed beans (e.g., kidney, haricot, aduki) in the morning ready to pop in the pittas at lunchtime. Add rocket or watercress for a bitter crunch.
Healthy sweet treat
Round off your lunch with a healthy sweet treat like this low-sugar chocolate and oat bar.