Lunch Foods That Will Give You Energy for the Afternoon

Chicken salad with arugula and strawberries
A salad with chicken, arugula, and strawberries. (Image: Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images)

It's 1 p.m. when the mental fog descends. You stare aimlessly at your computer and daydream of countries that value the afternoon siesta. Unfortunately, fantasizing about a catnap won't make it a reality. It's time to snap out of it and plan for an energized tomorrow. The foods you eat -- particularly at lunchtime -- are your first line of defense against the afternoon slump. Eat smart and you'll crush the office speed-typing contest with energy left for a brisk power walk in the evening.

Light and Fit

The doughnuts in the break room may seem like a perfectly reasonable pick-me-up lunch, but fatty foods will literally weigh you down, according to University of Rochester Medical Center. High-fat foods are absorbed and digested very slowly, so you won't get the immediate energy you need to make it through the afternoon. Put down the jelly-filled doughnut and satiate your sweet tooth with a carton of plain low-fat yogurt topped with fresh berries instead.

Avoiding a Crash

Carbohydrates are digested quickly and will give you an energy boost, but refined carbohydrates -- such as white bread or a cookie -- digest too quickly, causing your blood sugar to spike and drop in rapid succession. A better option is complex carbohydrates, which stabilize your blood sugar. The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends complex carbohydrates including fruits and vegetables, whole-grain pasta and bread, hummus and brown rice.

Balanced Eating

Pairing complex carbohydrates with protein and a little bit of healthy fat is the best way to keep your energy levels stable the entire afternoon. A sandwich is perhaps the easiest way to get all three macronutrients in a single meal. Top whole-grain bread with a few slices of healthy fat in the form of avocado. Pile on tomatoes, bean sprouts and spinach -- all packed with vitamins and minerals -- and use canned tuna or shredded chicken breast for protein. Another easy lunch option is a salad with lots of vegetables, beans for protein and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Drink Up

Go ahead and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with lunch. A little caffeine will help you get past the afternoon slump, but steer clear of sugary, high-calorie cafe beverages. Harvard Health Publications also recommends staying hydrated. Your body relies on water to transport nutrients and get rid of waste, and dehydration will leave you feeling tired. Perk up by drinking a tall glass of water with your lunch.

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