How to power up your lunch

Posted on March 5, 2024


Familiar with the mid-afternoon energy drop that has you reaching for coffee, snacks and candy? The solution to keeping your energy levels kicking could be as simple as switching your lunch order. Flex instructor Megan Farrugia, a holistic nutritionist and self-confessed nutrition junkie, believes food plays a starring role in helping people follow a healthy lifestyle and find the best in themselves. Here she shares her top 6 tips for making sure your lunch doesn’t sabotage your vitality, and your afternoon is as productive, if not more so, than your morning.

Buck the bad habits
Working is tough. Then you go outside and you’re bombarded with millions of cars, people and bad food choices. But give yourself a break from the chaos and comfort food. Instead choose something that tastes and is good. The health scene in Hong Kong is young compared with other parts of the world, but there are still many healthy outlets or sensible choices within regular restaurants that will feed your nutrition and activity levels. Persist – the more you do it the more virtuous and energized you’ll feel.

Avoid processed foods
We all know this, and we all know how hard it is to do. However, think of it this way; your body doesn’t like processed food. It isn’t geared to process chemicals. Sodas and sugar-filled foods may give you an initial boost but you’ll crash by two or three o’clock. White carbs like white bread, rice and pasta will be turned instantaneously into sugar for another lift then crash rollercoaster. Of course everyone knows fast foods aren’t good. And dishes that are full of cheese or cream can sneak up and grab you too.

Target low burning carbs and quality proteins
There are plenty of energy-giving foods out there. Chia seeds or whole-grain granola for breakfast deliver quality nutrition and long-burning energy. Vegetables in salads without the creamy dressings, or cooked veggies with tasty seasoning, can be upgraded to main parts of the meal rather than accompaniments. Choose foods like quinoa and legumes instead of white rice or pasta, to deliver energy and nutrition, and small amounts of high quality proteins like fresh fish, organic meat and free-range eggs.

Moderation, moderation, moderation
Moderation and movement is my big mantra. Eat sensibly and exercise. Don’t put yourself in a position where you feel the need to diet – crash diets and pounding workouts lead to roller coaster weight at best, injury, weight gain and depression at worst. Try tweaking your existing diet rather than imposing radical changes. Learn to find things you enjoy in place of fast/fried/processed foods. Experiment with spices that can replace salt and sugar. Take baby steps and you’ll find yourself gradually feel more energized and satisfied. Moderation in portion sizes is also key – stop eating before you feel full and let your stomach catch up. And also moderation in treating. I believe you can treat every once in a while. Go out with friends and eat what everyone else is eating and feel good about it, knowing you’ll return to your good habits for the next meal.

Snack strategically
I’m a big lunch girl because of the nature of my day. I grab something sensible and slow burning for breakfast to sustain me throughout the morning, so lunch is when I need to refuel. Then by the time dinner comes I’m exhausted and tempted to turn to comfort food. The trick is to pack some healthy snacks or go for a strategic bite of something healthy mid-afternoon. Fruit, like bananas and apples, is a great fast-food snack replacement and easy to pack. Veggies, nuts and seeds and power smoothies will also hit the spot.

Hydrate through liquids and foods
Staying hydrated is not only essential for your overall health, but it helps sustain the body between meals. While water is of course ground zero for hydration, there are several other liquids that will boost energy at the same time. Coconut water is low in calories while full of potassium and good carbs, while fresh squeezed lemon juice makes water more nutritious and interesting to drink. And of course there are so many juice stores around town, just focus on veggie juices rather than fruit. Chia seeds absorb liquids when soaked and are therefore a great way to ingest hydration – just sprinkle some on your lunchtime salad or choose chia seed and yoghurts as a dessert.

Flex Studio’s holistic nutritionist Megan Farrugia
Holistic nutritionist and Flex Studio Pilates instructor Megan Farrugia started studying nutrition as a result of clients’ demands for more information about health foods. She enrolled in a holistic nutrition degree course, and over a two-year span learned the differences between “diet” and “lifestyle”. I then took a sports nutrition course, where I learned that when you eat is just as important as what you eat in terms of performance and injury prevention. Finally, I began to study fitness and nutrition for women in the 40-65 year range, a group that has woefully been ignored by most scientific studies. I am now a nutrition junkie, so I continue to pursue certifications that focus on “Food as Medicine” and “Superfoods”.

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