Eating a diverse, healthful diet can make all the difference in being more productive at work.

Four Healthy Lunch Ideas to Energize You and Enhance Productivity

Productivity Priorization & Balance

Healthy lunch ideas that will fuel you throughout the day can be incorporated any day of the week. For increased productivity, turn to healthier options.

In addition to starting the day right by eating a healthy breakfast, eating a healthy lunch will help you maintain your energy levels throughout your workday. Bringing a nutritious lunch or having healthy lunch ideas in mind prior to going out to eat will help you to readily select food choices that will add to your energy instead of subtract from it. People often speak of eating healthy in order to lose weight, but a significant benefit of eating healthy foods is a sustained boost in your energy and activity levels.

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, Population Health Management reports that employees who had an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to have experienced a loss in productivity, and 77 percent of all productivity losses cost employers two to three times more than health care costs.

Based on this study, the focus should be on incorporating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables into your diet. Whole grains, packed with potassium, fiber and other nutrients, include commonly known grains such as rye, oats, wheat and brown rice but also includes lesser-known grains such as barley, quinoa, millet, oat and wheat berries, rye and couscous. Fresh fruits — not fruit cocktail, which is highly processed and is high in simple sugars — can be eaten whole, cut up as part of a fruit bowl or included in a salad.

Remember that beans are also fruit: In addition to a high vitamin and mineral content, beans such as black beans, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans and lentils have high protein content and high fiber, enabling you to feel fuller longer and providing much-needed energy. When you’re at a loss for more mindful food options, here are some healthy lunch ideas to turn to any day of the week.

Soups

Although canned soups can be high in sodium, fresh soups made from scratch are often less worrisome. Soups are a great way to incorporate vegetables and grains in one dish, such as with black bean tortilla soup, tomato soup accompanied by whole grain crackers, vegetable soup with barley or lentil soup with brown rice. You can find soups for lunch at delis, grocery store chains and many restaurants offering lighter fare, and you can easily prepare soups for lunch overnight in an inexpensive crock pot. If you’re eating out, ask your server if the soup is homemade.

Salads

The standard side salad can be considered boring, but there are many ways to make a salad more interesting and enticing. Beyond the typical lettuce, you can add a wide variety of vegetables to give your salad extra texture and taste. By adding eggs, beans and legumes, cheese, grilled salmon, chicken or tuna, you add protein, which stabilize blood sugar levels and provide you with energy for a longer time period. Standard vegetable combinations you can add to your salad include olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, banana peppers, broccoli, spinach and cauliflower, as well as cut fruits, nuts and seeds, or even leafy greens like kale and spinach. More restaurants are enhancing their salad bars or salad selections to broaden the appeal to customers seeking healthier options, so if you’re running out for a quick bite during the workday, hit the salad bar rather than a protein bar.

Noodle Dishes and Pastas

Pasta made from white flour used to be the standard. Now, many restaurants offer a broad range of healthy noodle selections, ranging from rice noodles, durum wheat linguine and spinach fettuccine, to buckwheat noodles, also known as soba. To keep your energy levels up, stay away from highly processed white pasta and noodles, which are less filling and contain fewer nutrients than whole grain pasta. And stay away from heavy, cream-based sauces high in fat, which can zap energy levels. Instead, focus on tomato or other vegetable-based sauces and dishes that incorporate many vegetables.

Whole Grain Sandwiches

With some relatively healthy food chains deciding to become more health-conscious by removing dough conditioners and artificial ingredients from their breads, the choice of whole grain sandwich providers is growing. Some delis, grocery stores and sandwich shops now offer whole wheat, rye, whole grain, multigrain or sprouted grain options. Choose one of these options and load your sandwich with fresh vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Choose leaner meat selections such as roast beef, tuna, or chicken as healthy protein options.

These options provide you with a variety of alternatives to prevent you from ever growing bored with eating healthy. Choosing among these readily available healthy lunch ideas will help you boost and maintain a high energy level so you’re always ready for the workday.

Tiffany C. Wright
Tiffany C. Wright

Tiffany C. Wright is the author of The Funding Is Out There!, Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business and Solving the Capital Equation: Financing Solutions for Small Businesses. She is the founder of The Resourceful CEO, which helps owners of small/medium-sized businesses prepare their businesses for sale. Tiffany has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, sits on non-profit boards and serves as a business mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation.