We all know how important it is to start your day right—especially by following these breakfast habits. But if you’re not careful, you can easily derail the rest of your day by not making healthy lunch habits as well. A belly-filling, healthy lunch can not only make your body feel good, but will also give you energy for the rest of the day. Plus, it can even prevent you from endlessly snacking later because you’re feeling hungry after eating a not-so-filling lunch.
The trick is to choose items to make you feel full, not items that just leave you feeling hungry. This is why we spoke with registered dietitians to set a few healthy lunch habits we can all follow that will help keep our days—and our health goals—on track. Here’s what to do, and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
“Plan ahead and be realistic with yourself,” says Katherine Kimber, RD. “Do you really have time to cook and/or prepare that delicious meal from scratch in the middle of your day? Or do you need to be more realistic and have leftovers ready that you can whizz in the microwave for two minutes? If you’re not someone who likes leftovers, having some go-to easy like a sandwich, eggs with toast and tomatoes, omelet, or soup can be handy. The most important thing is to think ahead and make a plan so when hunger strikes, you can honor it.”
Adding color in your meals ensures that you’ll get a variety of vitamins and minerals from your meals, especially dietary fiber which can help you to feel full. Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, says an easy way to do this is to enjoy a healthy salad or even a fruit salad. You could even whip up one of these 35+ Healthy Salad Recipes.
“Carbs are our body’s first source of energy and a lunch without or very low in them will definitely have you looking for snacks for the 3 p.m. slump,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN and founder of OnceUponAPumpkinRD.com, who recently published The Great Big Pumpkin Cookbook. “Salads can be a great lunch option. However, most are pretty low carb and end up leaving you hungry shortly after eating them. I say make it a grain bowl instead. An ancient grain like quinoa is a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, and B vitamins.”
Not sure which carbs to have? Here are The Most Underrated Carbs for Weight Loss.
“Sources of healthy fat like avocado, almonds, and olive oil all give meals more satiety,” says Michalczyk. “Plus healthy fats like these help our bodies absorb more fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). So if you’re having a salad with veggies that contain vitamin A, and E, and K it’s great to add a source of fat. This is also why picking a nonfat or low-fat salad dressing—you want those goods fats to help you stay fuller and get more from your foods!”
Young suggests that you count out your portions when prepping your meals. For example, having a serving of healthy fat is good, but making sure to measure is important so you don’t go overboard on calories! Having a tablespoon of olive oil or 1/3 of an avocado will do it.
There are enough studies and evidence to show that eating a diet rich with good, lean proteins is great for feeling full throughout the day—and Young agrees. She says that adding items like chicken, fish, beans, eggs, or nuts can help boost the protein of your lunch without completely going overboard on calories.
“One of the most important healthy lunch habits is to actually schedule a time to eat,” says Kimber. “It can be easy to let the day run away and before you know it you’re scoffing a sandwich two minutes before a call or whilst responding to an email. There is no shame in this, we all do it at times. However, it tends to not be a satisfying way to eat. Our brain has also not had time to register we’ve eaten, and we can find ourselves on the hunt for more food to get that ‘satisfaction factor,’ even when we’re actually full.”
Stil stumped on what to make for lunch? Here are 17 Healthiest WFH Lunches, According to a Nutritionist.