Power Lunches

Stave off the afternoon blahs with these energy-packed make-and-take recipes

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Everyone from 4-year-olds to fitness pros experiences the mid-afternoon fizzle: your eyes glaze over, your energy levels tank, and your brain feels drained of all creative thought. While the sensation is perfectly normal as your body’s clock starts to slow down, there’s one sure way to keep the feeling from grinding you to a halt—a lunch that recharges your system with a balance of brain food and energy boosters so you keep on ticking till the end of the day.

4 Energy Boosters
When you’re planning your midday meal, make sure it includes these nutrients for sustained energy throughout the afternoon.

Complex Carbs
Why you need it: Think of them as superpremium fuel for your body. Complex carbs deliver more energy per bite than processed carbs or sugary sweets because they are digested more slowly and prevent spikes and subsequent dips in blood sugar.
Good lunch-time sources: Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, bulgur, wheat berries, millet, hulled barley, beans, whole-grain breads, artichokes, pea pods, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini

Why you need it: This essential mineral helps the body produce hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to the muscles and brain. Combine iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C for increased absorption.
Good lunch-time sources: Watercress, arugula, spinach, collard greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, kidney beans, wheat bran, raisins, blackstrap molasses

Why you need it: Feel fuller longer! Protein fulfills this promise by slowing the digestion of other foods and regulating the energy release they provide.
Good lunch-time sources: Nuts, legumes, tofu, eggs, low-fat dairy

Good Fats
Why you need it: A little goes a long way when using these concentrated sources of energy that add flavor and make foods more satisfying.
Good lunch-time sources: Olive, canola, and other plant-based oils; walnuts; sunflower seeds; avocado; nut butters

Cool Carriers

Bag it! The ACME Recycled PET Thermal Lunch Bag, made from recycled plastic bottles, is insulated to keep food fresh.

$9.95; reusablebags.com

Bunny love Kids will adore the Bunny Munchler from Built NY, a functional lunch carrier that zips down flat for easy eating.

$9.95; reusablebags.com

Sandwich saver (shown folded and flat) The easy-to-clean Wrap-N-Mat keeps sandwiches in shape and acts as a place mat while you eat.

$6.95; nubiusorganics.com