The Benefits of a Big Lunch

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A while back my ayurvedic doc, John Douillard, DC, PhD, told me that I—and everyone else for that matter—needed to eat my biggest meal between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when your digestive fires are burning strongest. Now, I’ve never been a big breakfast person, and I’m ashamed to admit that there was a period of a few years when my laziness got the better of my health and I preferred to tough out the day on little to no food and then splurge (calorically speaking) on a big meal at the end of the day. But over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed, much to my chagrin, that my mom (and Dr. D) was right; that mid-morning and mid-afternoon crankiness does indeed seem to be mysteriously connected to my eating habits. Go figure. And as a working stiff, not only can I not afford to be cranky, I can’t afford the energy lag that comes from not keeping myself adequately fueled throughout the day. So for the past two years, I’ve been trying to master the art of eating at work—breakfast and lunch—and based on the reactions of my coworkers when they see my plate, I think I’m getting pretty good at it. It’s not as hard as it looks. With some planning (not much, I’m still lazy) and a willingness to combine unlikely plate-fellows (think leftover pasta with carrots and hummus), you can stick to healthier eating patterns, improve your nutrition, and feel better every day.

Here’s the system that has worked for me:
•    Once a week, I make a work-food grocery run. I stay stocked up on organic instant oatmeal, nuts (tamari almonds are my fave), cheese, crackers, organic canned soup, and whatever else I have a hankering for that can easily store at my desk or in the office fridge.
•    One or two nights a week, I plan and cook a big meal with lots of leftovers that I can easily eat for a couple of lunches—supplemented with the aforementioned snacks to keep me from getting too bored. Usually a hearty soup, pasta, rice pilaf, or what my friends refer to as bean slop (a loosely Mexican mixture of beans, lots of veggies, and some fried sweet potatoes that I top with cheese and salsa).
•    Once a week I treat myself to a lunch or breakfast out. My two favorites: the Whole Foods salad bar or a chorizo breakfast burrito from the bakery down the street—seriously, it makes my day, and they do all kinds of fantastic cakes too.
•    Whenever I eat out for dinner—usually about once a week—I make a point to order something big that I know will save well or that I can use as the base for another meal (add more veggies and rice to leftover curry, take leftover steak and make sandwiches or use in a soup).

These simple changes have made it easy for me to do my best eating between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. without blowing my budget or my waistband. Do you struggle to eat well at work? What would make it easier for you?