Experiencing lunch bag letdown? According to research, one in five Canadians say they’re too busy to eat lunch. And with so many of us working from home, it’s even easier to work right through the noon hour and suddenly hit the 3 p.m. wall. 

Canadian dietitian Liz Pearson, co-author of Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health, offers this advice. Eat lunch – but steer clear of an uninspiring same old ham and cheese sandwich or the temptation of high-fat junk food. A healthy noonday meal will boost your energy levels and your brainpower to make for a more productive day.

■ Add whole grains rather than refined grains. “Whole grains are important for the carbohydrates they provide, which is the main source of fuel for the body and brain,” Pearson says. “They also digest slowly and help sustain a person’s energy over a longer period of time, and whole grains are also linked to a lower risk of many diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.” Rather than always going for a sandwich on whole wheat, try whole grain pasta salad (you can use last night’s leftovers) mixed with protein, leafy greens and colourful veggies or fibre-rich bean or hummus dip with whole grain bread or crackers – great for those who don’t eat meat – along with fresh fruit. 

■ Always include a source of protein. “Protein gives you more staying power by helping you feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time,” Pearson says. Try leftover steak or chicken, seeds or nuts, hard-boiled eggs and canned fish like tuna (light tuna, i.e., non-albacore tuna, may also contain less mercury) or omega-3 fatty acid-rich salmon.

■ Finally, pack light or lower fat but not fat-free when it comes to dressings and dips. “Our bodies need some fat to absorb valuable nutrients found in vegetables and fruits,” says Pearson. Try mashed avocado, loaded with good fats, in place of mayonnaise. 

Need more inspiration? We asked one of our Canadian culinary superstars, chef Mark McEwan, for his suggestion. Here, working with his chef de cuisine Darby Piquette at Hazelton Hotel’s One Restaurant, McEwan gives us a secret and healthy sandwich recipe. 

Green goddess sandwich (pictured above) with sprouted grain toast, balsamic chicken breast, sliced avocado, cucumber, pea shoots and pumpkin seed hummus. (Bonus: pumpkin seeds are touted as a new superfood.)

Serves 4

Balsamic Chicken Breast

2 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 6 oz each)

1 cup water

6 cloves garlic

¼ cup fresh thyme

1 lemon, sliced

1 tbsp salt

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp honey

1 cup basil

 

In a shallow baking dish, combine chicken, water, garlic, thyme, lemon and salt. Cover with foil and bake at 300 F for 20 minutes. Let chicken cool completely in liquid overnight.

In a small saucepan, combine balsamic, honey and basil. Bring to a simmer and slowly reduce the liquid until it becomes a thick glaze. Refrigerate overnight.

To serve, thinly slice chilled chicken, and brush with balsamic glaze.

 

Pumpkin Seed Hummus

2 cups canned chickpeas

½ cup pumpkin seeds

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp parsley

1 tbsp tahini

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

 

Combine all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth.

 

TO PREPARE:

2 ripe avocados

Salt

1 English cucumber

1 tbsp chopped dill

2 tbsp white vinegar

8 slices sprouted grain toast (preferably Ezekiel bread)

Pumpkin Seed Hummus

Sliced Balsamic Chicken Breast

Fresh pea shoots or alfalfa sprouts

Pepper

Peel avocados; slice in 1/8-inch thick slices and season with a pinch of salt. Thinly slice cucumber and mix with dill, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Toast Ezekial bread until golden brown. Place avocado on 4 pieces of toast. On the other four pieces of toast, spread a generous amount of Pumpkin Seed Hummus. Divide sliced chicken among each toast with avocado. Lightly drain the cucumbers and place on top of the chicken. Put a small handful of pea shoots or alfalfa sprouts on top of the cucumber. Dress pea shoots with a drizzle of the dill-cucumber vinegar. Top with toast with hummus.. Cut in half and enjoy.