An Expert Reveals How To Pick Lunch Foods That Won't Totally Drain Your Energy

Sometimes you have those days when the only food you want to eat is anything slathered in grease or melted cheese. Even when lunchtime rolls around, and you know you should be eating something to sustain your energy for the rest of the day, the only thing you're craving is a bacon grilled cheese and French fries. And hey, sometimes, that might be just what you need. But most days, it's in your best interest to stick with lunch foods that give you energy, because you have to admit, those heavier, cheesier meals, though delicious, can make you feel super drained and lazy after you're done nomming, to the point where you're totally unproductive for the rest of the day. So, how does one avoid that post-lunch slump

Believe it or not, according to Dr. Jamie Koufman, founder and director of The Voice Institute of New York, author of the book Acid Reflux in Children, and a leading authority on the diagnosis and treatment of acid reflux, sticking with certain foods during lunchtime won't just save you from getting sleepy after the fact; they might even give you more energy for the rest of the afternoon — can you imagine? The health expert tells Elite Daily that seeking out organic plants as the base of your meal is always going to be a reliable way to keep your energy levels up post-lunch.

In fact, Dr. Koufman says, focusing on a plant-based diet in general is what will really improve your overall health and energy. Not to mention, she explains, the benefits of a plant-based diet extend well beyond those few hours following lunch: "It's also the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and long-term health," she tells Elite Daily.

Dr. Koufman's main suggestion for keeping your lunchtime energy levels up is to start eating vegan foods as often as you can.

"When I went vegan," the health expert tells Elite Daily, "within days, I had less body aches, and I experienced more energy, as well as more productivity."

However, you might not be down and ready to totally overhaul your diet, which is totally understandable. In that case, Dr. Koufman says, there are still some super simple guidelines you can follow when preparing your lunch that will help you steer clear of nodding off onto your laptop keyboard. It's all about finding some alternatives to the things you might normally reach for.

For example, "cut down on all meat, including red meat, and go for some fish instead," she suggests. The healthiest fish to choose from, Dr. Koufman tells Elite Daily, are wild cod, salmon, and most white fish (excluding swordfish and tilapia). And, instead of dairy, she says, try an alternative for cow’s milk, like almond milk, as well as a nut-based cheese, which you can make pretty easily with some cashews. If you're hankering for a bowl of pasta for lunch, Dr.Koufman recommends giving chickpea pasta a try, as these legumes are a great source of fiber and protein, and she swears it's just as delicious as regular pasta, sans the low-energy feels that follow after you scarf down a bowl of the stuff.

And, when all else fails, a smoothie and a salad — one that's really packed with nutrients — will always be a safe, delicious, and nutritious choice. "Smoothies are a great alternative," Dr. Koufman tells Elite Daily, "and they can include high-protein items for an energy boost, like chickpeas and kale."

As for those salads, she says, remember, "they don't just have to be lettuce!"

Salads can contain all kinds of yummy protein sources, such as broccoli, cauliflower, hummus, eggplant and chickpeas, which will help keep you full, and give you a great nutritional boost, Dr. Koufman says. Raisins, chia seeds, and fruits with modest amounts of sugar are also good for maintaining energy, she explains.

And yes, as easy as it is to go grab fast food around the corner from your office when your stomach starts rumbling at 1 p.m., Dr. Koufman says you're better off staying away from these types of processed foods during lunchtime, as well as anything loaded with high fats and sugars. That's the stuff that's going to cause you to feel all sluggish, she tells Elite Daily.

As you might have gathered from these suggestions, preparing a lunch that doesn't totally drain your energy is going to take a bit of effort on your part. "It’s best to meal-prep," Dr. Koufman explains, "and take advantage of your Tupperware, and cook healthy foods at home, such as stir-fry, to make sure you're getting the proper nutrients, instead of falling into unhealthy food patterns."

On the bright side, the warm weather is finally here, which means there are a ton of new fruits and veggies that are officially in season. Time to update that grocery list, girl.