By Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
What’s for lunch? A question often prompted by a growling belly and sluggish mind. By noon do you find that the get-up-and-go you acquired from breakfast got-up-and-went? What you eat for lunch sets the stage for the second half of your day. Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your body does. Stop settling for the most convenient (but nutrient-poor) frozen or packaged lunch, takeout or fast food. Pack a brain-boosting lunch with foods to keep your gray matter happy, healthy and functioning at maximum capacity.
Brain Powered Protein Foods high in protein help maintain healthy brain function and good mental performance on the job or in the classroom. Choose protein sources rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) and zinc, both vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Good protein brain foods include oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, or sardines, along with eggs, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, low-fat milk, cheese, and Greek yogurt.
Smart Grains Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body and brain. They keep you fueled up for what’s ahead whether it be an overbooked afternoon, time at the gym, or after school practice. Fill a ¼ of your plate with fiber rich carbohydrates. Fiber found in whole grains helps release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for “whole” grain breads and wraps, or switch out pasta and rice for bulgur, barley, or quinoa.
Brilliant Berries Eating berry fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries has been reported to help prevent age-related memory loss and offer other health benefits. Berries are bursting with antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from environmental damage, and may reduce inflammation, which in turn is thought to improve cognition. They also just happen to be low in calories, high in fiber, and are delicious! Snack on fresh berries, or mix, stir, or blend frozen berries into oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies.
Brain-Boosting Lunches Having a nourishing, well-rounded lunch can help prepare your body and brain for an afternoon top performance. Here are a few examples of brain-boosting lunches for the whole family.
Child’s Lunch PB&J on whole grain bread, using almond butter, and no sugar added jelly paired with berries and vegetable sticks and low-fat milk to drink.
Mom’s Lunch Salmon fillet on a mixed-greens salad with low-fat blueberry or strawberry yogurt for dessert.
Dad’s Lunch A hearty salmon melt with whole grain rice chips and hummus for munching and fresh strawberries for dessert.
HEARTFELT SALMON MELT
6 ounces canned salmon packed in water, drained
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup low fat Russian or Thousand Island salad dressing
2 whole-wheat English muffins, split
3 ounces light cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper to taste
At Home Directions: Preheat broiler. Combine salmon, celery, onion, salad dressing and seasonings. Toast English muffin halves. Place split-side-up on baking sheet and top each with 1/4 of salmon mixture. Broil 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Top with cheese and return to broiler until cheese is melted, about 1 minute.
On the Go Directions: Make salad as directed and store in refrigerator container. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Place toasted muffins and cheese in separate bags or containers. To prepare, place salad on toasted muffins and top with cheese. Microwave briefly to melt cheese and heat other ingredients.
Original Recipe Source: Cabot Creamery. The recipe provided in this article was edited by Well-Being substituting salmon for tuna and providing directions for “on the go” preparation.
Rebecca Turner, MS RD CSSD, LD is a nutrition expert and runner, leading individuals to eat and run in perfect harmony. Find her on Facebook.com/RebeccaTurnerNutrition or tweet her @RebeccaTurnerRD