Foodtime. High quality image.Is your lunch stressing you out? 

In September, the topic of kid’s lunches was on everyone’s mind. But what about your lunch?

As a busy mom, professional, creative, or entrepreneurial woman, I’m sure lunch is just about the last thing on your mind (second, maybe, to breakfast).

These are the mistakes I made and common themes I see with my clients.

  1. Skipping the protein and the fat. You actually make it out to lunch and you are trying to be ‘healthy’ so you decide on the veggie salad and ask for the dressing on the side (and you barely touch it). Or you make some homemade veggie soup at home and bring 8-12 oz. to work (I did this a lot.).
  1. Skipping it all together. Things get crazy during the day and next thing you know, it’s 2 or 3pm. You feel it’s too late to eat a real lunch (& most places are closed) so you end up skipping it or doing #3.
  1. Eating a granola bar, balance bar or a coffee. Usually by the time you reach this point, it’s closer to 3 or 4pm and you are starving!  You really think it’s ridiculous to eat ‘lunch’ now so instead you decide to run down the nearest sundry/corner store, coffee shop, vending machine or pantry to see if you can find a granola bar or equivalent.

Unfortunately, none of these provide a healthy balanced meal.

You’ll end up having a mini-meltdown in front of your boss, losing your patience with your children, losing it on the phone with a customer service rep or just being crabby. And then you may end up snacking on more cookies, ice cream, and chocolate than you care to admit.

Let’s pick these apart and see why you want to avoid these mistakes.

Mistake #1

While it’s great that you are so focused on getting your vegetables in and even skipping the prepared salad dressing which can be loaded with sugar and low quality oils like canola, you are leaving out 2 very important macronutrients – proteins and fats.

Proteins contain amino acids that are critical for everything from beautiful skin, hair & nails to a well-functioning liver.

Yes, vegetables do have protein in them but generally in small amounts. Your body will use up the fuel relatively quickly and you will be left wanting more…chocolate!

Keep the focus on your vegetables but boost your protein intake with either

  • 1-3 tsp of a superfood like spirulina (this makes a delicious salad dressing mixed with olive oil & lemon juice);
  • ½ cup of a grain or legume (or even a dip like hummus);
  • 2 eggs (hardboiled is an easy option at a salad bar); or
  • 3 oz. of animal protein like chicken, fish, or beef (preferably organic, wild or grass-fed)

Fats are also needed to complete a meal. Fats are needed for brain, immune and hormone functions.  And a lot of vegetables contain vitamin A and E – which are fat-soluble vitamins that require fats to transport them so you  absorb them properly.  While adding olive oil to your meal is good – olive oil is not the kind of fat that we are lacking in our diet. Putting your focus on adding naturally saturated fats and/or omega-3 fats would do a lot more to balance your plate. Choose from…

  • Omega-3 fats from foods like fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, or hemp seeds; and
  • Saturated fats from avocado, coconut oil, cheese, butter, or organic animal sources

Mistake #2

Skipping lunch is going to put unnecessary stress on your body. See Mistake #3.

Mistake #3

In terms of total calories and the staying power to get you through your day, power bars and coffee don’t cut it.

There are a lot of issues I could go into about granola/protein bars and coffee but for now, I’m going to just focus on the staying power or energy they provide.  Coffee has barely any calories (unless you go for a latte – then we are talking 200-300 kcal) and power bars are about 200 calories.  They’ll give you a quick boost and then you will fizzle out.

While I do not promote calorie counting with my clients, I am going to use calories to explain a point in simple terms.

Generally, if you are an average sized woman, you need about 2000 calories a day.

You need a certain amount of calories  to do the things that keep you alive – like breathing, keeping your heart beating, and digesting your food.  These are called your base calories.  Anything below this and your body starts to slow everything down (i.e. metabolism) in order to conserve energy.

In simplistic terms, to arrive at your base calories you take your weight and times it by 10. 130lbs needs 1300 calories.

Then you need to add some calories to take care of any physical activity you do – walk, write/type, exercise, etc… To arrive at this number, you take the base calories and multiply it by 20-75%, where 20% is a sedentary lifestyle and 75% is active. So if you are 130lbs and work out 3-4x a week for 30 minutes then you add an additional 50% or 650kcal. You’ll need 1950 calories per day.

If you are shooting for 2000 calorie-day, you can see that a 200kcal lunch hardly puts a dent in it.

“So what?”, you think, “I’ll just lose weight!”

Well, not exactly. Usually what happens is that your blood sugar will dip too low and you start craving carbs.   You’ll end up overeating at your next meal.  The feast or famine routine leaves your body stressed and confused. Your adrenals get in on the action and pump out some cortisol to regulate your blood sugar and your body prepares for the worst — another famine — and stores what you eat as fat.

To avoid this, I always recommend planning ahead. If you know it’s going to be a crazy day, bring snacks and a lunch that you can easily grab on your way out the door and when you are at work. The time to do this is at night while or after you are preparing dinner.  Stay tuned Friday for a simple recipe you can make for these crazy days.

If you’d like to know more about how stress can lead to fatigue, join me for my Resilience, Radiance & Grace Webinar –  5 Keys to End your Stress & Fatigue on Friday, November 14th.  You can register and find more information here.