8 Energy Boosting Lunch Ideas

It’s 1 p.m. when the mental fog descends and you start to head straight into the midafternoon sleepies. Unfortunately, reaching for coffee or chocolate – anything to help bolster sinking energy levels – won’t sustain that energy over the long haul. But smart nutrients can.

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. The types and the amount of food you eat play an important role in your daily energy levels. In fact, did you know that foods high in fat and calories can leave you feeling fatigued since they require more energy to digest? As a general rule, stick to protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein (such as salmon, chicken, eggs, and nuts) will fill you up and give you all-day energy. Complex carbs (such as beans, sweet potatoes, or chickpeas) give your mind and body the fuel you need to make it through the day.

Recharge your body’s batteries with these powerhouse options for boosting your energy and getting your body into high gear:

1. Melons. Melons such as cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon aren’t just bursting with energizing vitamins and minerals. With 90 percent of their weight coming from water, they fight off fatigue by keeping you hydrated. Keep your body nourished with this Honeydew and Tomato Salad with Feta recipe.

2. Brown Rice. Brown rice isn’t just packed with complex carbs. It’s also rich in magnesium, the mineral that helps produce energy from protein and carbs, which will help you maintain high energy all day. And because it’s such a versatile ingredient, it can be served as a side dish with your favorite lean proteins for a powerhouse lunch. Pack a double whammy of energy when you eat this Rice and Lentil Salad.

3. Lentils. With the perfect combo of protein, complex carbs, and fiber, these little legumes could be the ideal energy food. Just one-half cup of cooked lentils provides more protein than an egg and more than a quarter of your daily dose of fiber. Use them to beef up protein in salads, soups and veggie burgers. These Lentil Burgers will get you through the afternoon, and also make a perfect lunch for #MeatlessMondays.

4. Sweet Potatoes. High in carbohydrates and loaded with beta-carotene (Vitamin A) and Vitamin C, sweet potatoes will help fight off midday fatigue. Power through the afternoon after dining on this Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque.

5. Bananas. Because they are composed mostly of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and fiber, bananas are a foolproof energy food. The combination of bananas and nuts in this Healthy Breakfast Banana Split – the perfect recipe for breakfast OR lunch – will add some pep to your step.

6. Spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of iron, which is a key component of energy production in the body. Eat a spinach salad, such as this Chickpea Spinach Salad, for lunch and you probably won’t experience that afternoon energy slump.

7. Beans. Both a protein AND a complex carb, beans are a must for both meat eaters and vegetarians. Toss a cup into a spinach salad, enjoy a bean burrito, or dip into this Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad.

8. Salmon. Salmon contains protein, Vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin – all of which help convert the food you eat into energy. Serve with a side of brown rice and veggies, or top a spinach salad – such as this Grilled Salmon Cobb Salad – for a power-packed lunch.

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