Lunch is one of my favorite parts of the day. I love taking a little break from whatever I'm working on to sit down and refuel my body. But sometimes I find myself drooping soon after I've devoured my plate of flavorful pasta or my bowl of steaming miso soup instead of perking up as I expected. According to nutrition experts, choosing certain combinations of foods for your midday meal can help you avoid that pesky afternoon slump. These lunch foods that don't make you sleepy aren't full of quick energy fixes like caffeine or sugar, but they are rich in nutrients that will help your body stay awake and moving throughout the work day.
First of all, your body naturally drops in energy a little after lunchtime, so a bit of afternoon brain fog might not be totally due to what you're eating. "It’s normal to be a little sleepy after lunch, whether you have a bacon cheeseburger or a kale salad," says Kim Yawitz, LD, a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice in St. Louis, Missouri. "This is because of our bodies’ circadian rhythms. Twice a day, our bodies release more of a chemical called melatonin that makes us more sleepy," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "One of these circadian dips occurs in most people right after lunch — between 1 and 3 p.m."
A good general rule for keeping your energy up is to stick to balanced meals that incorporate more minimally processed complex carb choices, suggests Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, a registered dietitian and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. But that certainly doesn't mean you have to abandon the yummy lunch dishes you love most. For example, if baked mac and cheese is one of your favorite comfort foods, then enjoy it. Just realize that the extra sources of fat and carbs in the cheesy dish might leave you feeling a little sleepy after you're done with the meal.
Some notoriously sleep-inducing foods include chicken and turkey, as they're high in a specific amino acid called tryptophan, Fine tells Elite Daily in a email. "Tryptophan is an amino acid that you can only get from what you eat or drink," she explains. "It helps your body make serotonin (a relaxing mood hormone), which then helps your body make melatonin (a hormone that controls sleep cycles)."
But chicken and turkey aren't the only culprits here. If you're trying to choose lunches that prevent a midday slump, you might also want to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, such as white rice. According to Fine, "[these] will result in a natural increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn leads to a quick onset energy crash." This doesn't mean skipping out on white rice forever, though. Fine says that if you incorporate the tasty ingredient into a balanced meal, you'll be less likely to find yourself drooping as a result.
If you need more pointers on which foods won't make you pass out after lunch, here are a few to consider.