A 2016 systematic review published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity found that lunch skipping is most common among women.
Why does that matter? Isn't that great if you're looking to lose weight?
Skipping lunch = an overall lower dietary fibre and essential fat intake which can have far-reaching effects including compromised gut, skin and brain health.
On the other hand, there are enormous benefits associated with regularly eating a wholesome lunch including higher cognitive function, stable mood and hormones (so no hanger!), increased performance and healthy weight maintenance.
Not a bad payoff for a little time investment and one that can be made as painless as possible with awareness and utilising a few helpful tricks along the way.
WEEKDAY LUNCHES MADE EASY + HEALTHY
Cook once, eat twice! When cooking dinner or preparing meals, double or triple the quantity and enjoy fast, easy lunches.
Be practical! Whatever environment you’re in at lunchtime, select meals that complement it.
Invest in environment and health-friendly glass containers to transport your lunch.
Include complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato or wholegrains such as brown rice to keep you away from the chocolate box.
Add a healthy fat to your meal such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Avoid processed and high added-sugar foods which spike blood sugar, are low in nutrients and set up a negative eating cycle.
Many of us need tricks because perception of time, or rather not having enough of it, is generally regarded as the reason why lunch is skipped and certainly why a homemade option is not made.
And we’ve all been there. Big weekend, lots on and come Monday lunchtime you’re starving with nothing prepared. Perhaps you step out and grab a quick takeaway meal? Or maybe you survive on coffee and chocolate for the afternoon? Maybe you just skip on through to dinnertime?
In the context of lunch often being the largest meal of the day for many people, should we skip the meal completely, we’ve therefore missed a window of opportunity to refuel, include required nutrients and set ourselves up to feel good for the remainder of the day.
And should we make on-the-go and often less-than-ideal lunch choices, we’re all but ensuring that our performance, mood and quite possibly weight, will suffer substantially as a consequence.
That's where hanger comes in.
Whilst a popular term and one that’s often thrown around, a state of hanger is absolutely a thing and common between midday and dinnertime, where food consumed could be lower in quality or skipped altogether.
For a heap of healthy + easy lunch ideas - head here.
Hangry = angry due to hunger.
And physiologically what’s going on here is a drop in blood glucose levels which our brains do not like as they survive solely on glucose. That kicks off a hormonal cascade initiated in the brain, alerting us to find food fast and in essence, survive.
Avoiding hanger and feeling our best can be as simple as eating regular meals and that regularity will look different for each of us. Though providing your body with a steady stream of quality nutrients ensures a stable blood glucose and happy brain!
Wherever you may find yourself on a weekday (or any day at lunchtime!), ensuring that your lunch choice complements the environment is important for consistency in the long-term. For instance, if there’s no heating facility, bringing in soup that needs heating isn’t ideal. Getting real about your own circumstances is a part of making healthy midweek lunches easy. As is being organised. And as discussed, the benefits; including a likely financial saving; far outweigh the time commitment involved.
It’s helpful to get into the habit of planning your meals for the week before you grocery shop, and where you can, integrating meals or ingredients to save time and money.
That might look like making four serves of rice instead of one, planning for leftovers, baking a week’s worth of vegetables or packing your lunch when you make dinner.
Take the time to plan and create your own tasty lunch and experience the wide-ranging benefits (and envious co-worker stares) that come along with it.