Energizing Lunches: What Are Your Tips for Making a Feel-Good Lunch?

I find in my day-to-day life that lunch can really go one of two ways: it can be quick, convenient and filling. Or it can be a bit more inspired and energizing, and really satisfy me well into the afternoon. While it's always easier to focus on the former (grabbing a bagel on the run or packing a ho-hum sandwich), it's the hearty salads or warm grain dishes that really leave me energized and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Energizing meals certainly look different for everyone as our bodies all crave and respond to foods in different ways. But for me, a truly energizing lunch abides by the following:

1. Plant-Based Protein: If I don't have protein at lunch, I'm generally a zombie by 3 p.m. And in the middle of the day, I prefer eggs or plant-based proteins like tofu or beans because they leave me feeling lighter and more energized. What this tends to look like: egg salad on rye crisps, green salads with chickpeas and a bit of feta, or pan-fried tofu and leftover roasted vegetables.

2. Lighter Meals: I also find that I have more energy if I eat a smaller meal in the middle of the day rather than a full dinner-sized meal. When I don't, I often feel like I just need a nap a few hours later.

3. Caffeine?: Lunch breaks and a second (or third) cup of coffee just seem like a natural marriage, don't they? But personally, coffee seems to have the opposite effect of energizing: it makes me jittery and left feeling drained. I avoid it after getting my morning jolt.

4. Go with Color: Pick fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and juices that are colorful and vibrant. I find that eating a variety of colorful foods like these actually makes me feel vibrant as well!

5. Variety is Key: Our senses are a big part of the eating experience, and I think that having a few small bites of several things on my plate feels more satisfying and exciting than eating bite after bite of the same thing. This also encourages me to get creative with leftovers that I wouldn't have thought of previously using (leftover roasted parsnips + chimichurri toasts? Yes, please!)

I'd love to hear about what energizes you at lunchtime: what foods leave you feeling great throughout the afternoon?

Related: On the Side: 10 Healthy Snacks to Eat with Lunch

(Image: Faith Durand)