As the main daily meal in dozens of countries around the world, lunch holds a place of primary cultural importance. In 9-to-5 environments, the midday meal isn’t always such a big deal, but making time for a healthy lunch can pay off both mentally and physically.
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Eating in the middle of the day, several hours after breakfast, re-energizes your body and can raise blood sugar levels when focus and concentration are flagging. If you’re feeling sluggish, eating even a small lunch can renew your energy and help you feel refreshed and ready to take on the next several hours. In addition, eating lunch keeps your metabolism active, especially if you have a moderately sized meal and a snack before and afterward. “Extended periods of starvation between large meals creates gaps which keep metabolism from staying active,” says Dr. Kurt Hong, the Center for Human Nutrition director of Huntington Medical Foundation.
Lunch may have even more importance for school-aged children than it does for adults. Since most kids don’t get breakfast or dinner at school and may not have any snacks until they get home, lunch is the only meal they have to power them through the day. According to ChoiceUSA.net, school lunch makes up one third to one half of a child’s nutritional intake for an entire day and is essential for helping children succeed in school as well as grow and develop successfully and healthfully.
It’s common to want to skip lunch if you’re trying to lose weight or cut calories, but that strategy rarely works. According to the Weight Control Information Network, people who regularly skip meals tend to weigh more than people who eat often throughout the day. Skipping lunch can rev up your appetite later, causing you to overeat or choose foods that have poor nutritional values.
Eating any type of meal for lunch can help keep your metabolism active and your body healthy, but some foods pack more of a nutritional punch than others. Dr. Kurt Hong recommends combining complex carbohydrates with lean protein to form a concentrated, long-lasting source of energy. Examples include nonfat yogurt and granola, a lean turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, or low-fat cottage cheese with fruits and vegetables. Ideally, a healthy lunch should offer a balance among the five main food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and dairy.