The Healthy Fix for Lunch’s Middle Child Syndrome

If meals were children, lunch would have a full-on case of middle child syndrome. If you look at breakfast as the eldest child showered with praise and endorsements as the most important meal of the day, and then dinner handled with care and doted on like the youngest, lunch is left with little to hold up its head about. Instead, you see it brooding at fast food lines or in the empty wrappers of candy bars tossed aside on desks. Poor lunch. Can’t it get any love?

The truth is it should. Lunch deserves as much respect as breakfast, if not a little more.

“Even though a morning meal is very important to let your body know it’s not starving and to energize you as you start your day, lunch may be even more important — especially if we’re doing errands and are on the go, chasing after our children, or working hard at our desks,” said Elisa Zied, RD, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. She continued to praise lunch saying, “We need to keep energy levels high throughout the day, and having a healthful lunch packed with protein and fiber can help you stay energized and alert to perform optimally both physically and mentally. It also provides a great opportunity to supply our brain and muscles with key nutrients to keep us healthy.”

Talk about a self-esteem boost for this mid-day meal! Breakfast might get you going but lunch will keep you going. That 3:00 lull that has you inhaling Doritos? Kiss it good-bye. If you eat lunch, especially a healthful lunch, you’ll forget 3:00 even happened.

Zied explained that “a healthful lunch can definitely help us prevent a big drop in blood sugar or energy level,” which is often the culprit for that afternoon slump. While a healthful snack can still be necessary, she says a “healthful lunch is definitely going to help us maximize our energy until we wind down at day’s end.”

What does this healthful lunch look like? No, it’s not a grilled chicken salad from the nearest fast-food joint. It’s a combination of quality protein and fiber/whole grains so that you stay fuller, longer. No wonder the turkey sandwich is so popular at noon! Not only are sandwiches quick and easy, but nutritionally they are spot on.

To really get the most out of that turkey or tuna fish sandwich, Rebecca Subbiah, RD suggests loading them up with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados to make the meal even more satiating.

“I love making egg and avocado sandwiches on whole grain bread,” shared Subbiah. Another favorite of hers is a bulgur wheat salad with chick peas, olive oil, roasted vegetables and freshly chopped basil.

Sandwiches are a go-to for Zied as well. “My favorite healthful lunch is turkey on whole wheat toast with a slice of cheddar or Swiss cheese and a little bit of mayonnaise, and a 1/2 banana or a few cherries.”

With inspired ideas like those, lunch does not have to be stuck in some kind of hand-me-down-jeans rut. Help get this middle child meal out of its room and let it know it is a priority in your day. If you could spend even five minutes in the morning before work, you could pack a variety of healthful, delicious lunches. A few sandwich ideas include:

Healthy Tuna Salad

Muffaletta Wrap

Creamy Caprese Sandwich

Bold Black Bean Sandwich

If you’re willing to plan ahead, you can cook once on the weekend and have lunch all week with meals like these:

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes


Pasta Salad with Chickpeas and Arugula

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers

Turkey and Black Bean Chili

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