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What should I eat at a business lunch in order to stay alert?

Your nutritional strategy for maintaining your mental edge after lunch is to eat foods that will give you a gradual, steady release of food energy throughout the afternoon while placing only a light burden on your digestive system. Foods that can interfere with your alertness and concentration are common lunch fare—greasy hamburgers with fries, non-whole-grain pasta dishes with oily or creamy sauces, non-whole-grain pizzas piled high with cheeses and fatty meats, and deep-fried fish and chips, downed with soft drinks and followed by a heavy dessert. These lunch choices are likely to send your blood sugar levels first soaring and then plunging, and to redirect precious blood flow away from your brain to your liver and intestines!

To avoid that “ready-for-a siesta” effect as well as indigestion, be sure to:

  1. Emphasize healthy protein choices, like cold-water fish, beans and legumes, or a non-cream-based main dish soup or stew
  2. Choose low-glycemic-index carbohydrates, like green salad, root vegetables in their skins, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, or artichoke
  3. Eat a small portion of foods containing healthy fats, such as cold-water fish, flaxseed oil, olive oil vinaigrette (the vinegar helps slow the release of food energy), nuts, seeds, or avocado
  4. Absolutely avoid sugary, starchy, or fatty foods like soft drinks, non-whole-grain pasta, fried foods, and rich or creamy sauces and dressings
  5. Skip dessert or have a piece of fresh fruit
  6. Have mineral water or herbal tea with a fresh twist of lemon (which, like vinegar, helps slow the release of food energy) instead of sweetened, caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages

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