What Should the Average Lunch Consist Of?

by Michael Brent
A healthy, well-balanced lunch will keep you alert and energetic throughout the afternoon.

A healthy, well-balanced lunch will keep you alert and energetic throughout the afternoon.

Although breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, lunch presents a crucial opportunity to provide your body with much-needed nutrients and energy to bridge the gap between breakfast and dinner. In recent years, traditional notions of what constitutes lunch have fallen by the wayside as circumstances and time constraints allow busy moms to get creative when it comes to the mid-day meal.

What's For Lunch?

Eat the humble sandwich, which remains one of the most popular lunch choices. Two slices of bread could hold tuna salad, deli meat, cheese or the kid-pleasing PB&J. Sandwiches or wraps containing raw vegetables, soy-based meat substitutes or hummus are great meatless alternatives for vegetarians and vegans. Keep your child's sandwich moist with a thin layer of mayo, mustard or creamy ranch dressing. A hearty soup or stew will also fit the bill, especially on a cold day, while items such as tacos, pizza and a vegetable-and-pasta salad are also excellent lunch choices that can be made quickly.

Smart Lunch Choices

Encourage a lighter lunch, assuming breakfast was nutritionally balanced and ample. A healthy lunch for school-age children should contain between 600 and 980 calories, balancing complex carbohydrates with proteins. Fats should be kept to a minimum, as a high-fat lunch will cause blood to be diverted from the brain to the stomach to assist the digestive process, which may cause a child's alertness to suffer in the afternoon. An example of a balanced lunch would be a tuna or deli-meat sandwich on whole-wheat bread, accompanied by a side salad topped with light creamy dressing, a glass of milk and a piece of fruit instead of a sugary dessert.

Lunch Order

Encourage your child to eat protein first. It's not just what you eat for lunch that can affect your child's afternoon performance, but also the order in which they eat the food. By eating the protein first, the amino acid called tyrosine will stimulate the brain. Eating the carbohydrates next will cause another amino acid, tryptophan, to enter the brain. Tryptophan, which is found in foods such as turkey, has a sedative effect, but its effects are lessened by the tyrosine that entered the brain ahead of it. Eating protein first and carbohydrates second will effectively wake up your brain, and enhance a child's after-lunch performance.

Packing Lunch

Pack a lunch for your child. The hot lunches provided by many schools aren't as nutritious as they could be, with fat- and carbohydrate-laden foods dominating the menu. If your child will be eating a packed lunch, some excellent choices are a deli-meat sandwich, a seafood wrap or salad, a hard-boiled egg, a leafy green salad with the child's favorite creamy dressing, or even a fruit smoothie kept cold in an insulated container.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images