• Sally Miller, B. S., N. E.

Lunch of Champions

Secret to Meals that don't cause afternoon crash

If you often find yourself needing a nap after lunch, what you are eating may be zapping your energy.

If you have eaten a fat- and protein-filled lunch along with a complex carbohydrate, you will find it hard to win back your energy and save the day. Your body will be digesting your food for the next 33 to 72 hours. Your body will begin to crave sugar and caffeine in the middle of the afternoon to keep you off the break room couch. Your brain needs some stimulation to keep you thinking.

If this hits home with you, it's time for a change in your lunch routine. Combining a complex carbohydrate lunch - such as a sweet potato, baked potato, rice or bread - with a high protein source like meat is difficult for the body to process at the same time. It is better to choose all carbohydrates that will digest together and provide you with the natural sugar that you need for energy. The meat and complex carbohydrate combination requires the body to borrow energy to dismantle this mixture.

I recommend lunches that are 100 percent plant based. When you look at your plate, 50 percent should be filled with non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, salads, steamed vegetables, soups with many vegetables), 25 percent protein (beans, lentils, organic tofu) and 25 percent starchy carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato).

The digestion time for these choices is from 30 minutes to three hours. Eating your lunch between noon and 1:30 p.m. provides the best results for maintaining your energy and balancing your blood sugar.

Food combining helps improve your digestion, assimilation of nutrients and balancing your blood sugar. There are a number of books written on the subject. My favorite book is "The Complete Book of Food Combining," by Kathryn Marsden.

Your blood sugar stability plays a big part in your energy level throughout the day. Blood sugar levels affect every system in the body. If you have elevated blood sugar levels, you can have normal readings again, if you are willing to change your diet.

"Controlling blood sugar and maintaining a healthy sugar balance is as easy as stepping away from dietary fat and processed foods and embracing whole, raw fruits and vegetables," according to an article at raw-food-health.net.

Eating a high fat and high protein diet can result in elevated blood sugar levels.

In her book "Sweet Fire," author Mary Tuscano writes, "In a healthy individual on a good diet, sugar enters our system in the digestive tract, where it is absorbed from our food. It then passes through the intestinal walls and into the blood stream. Here sugar molecules hook up with insulin, which essentially escorts it through the blood vessel membrane, into the interstitial fluid, through the cell membrane, and into the cell itself. The cells can then use the sugar for fuel.

"But when we eat a high fat diet, a layer of fat lines the blood vessel walls, our insulin receptor sites, as well as our insulin and sugar molecules, slowing our rapid sugar processing abilities down and leading to increased blood sugar. The more fat you eat, the harder it is for sugar to enter the cell, meaning it's stuck in your blood causing all kinds of problems."

The simple solution to keep our complex bodies working well is to eat fresh, plant-based foods with minimal fats and proteins and high fiber. Choose your proteins, fats and carbohydrates from plants and you will be well on your way to maintaining your weight, sugar and energy levels.

Balancing Blood Sugar

I have prepared a lunch plate for you today with a variety of the aforementioned plant based foods, a window into the choices that I make for my lunch and dinner.

Quinoa is my go-to substitute for a grain and a choice for added protein. It is a seed that resembles a grain. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Your body doesn't make those amino acids - they must come from food.

Quinoa also has a 4 to 8 percent fat content, most of which is unsaturated - the "good" fat. In addition to the carbohydrates, which are mainly complex carbohydrates, quinoa contains 5 percent dietary fiber. Consequently, this pseudo-grain has a low-glycemic index, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar.


Quinoa Pumpkin Seed Salad

Serves 6

Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes. You can choose, red, black, white or multicolored quinoa. Cabbage is low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is also a good source of thiamine, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium and manganese.

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well (you may also sprout this first)

2 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 scallions, sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a saucepan and add quinoa. Lower heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender (about 15 minutes)

Allow to cool slightly

In a bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, cumin, chili powder, cilantro and scallions.

Pour over quinoa and stir in peppers, mixing thoroughly.

Add salt and pepper and refrigerate until serving.

Stir in pumpkin seeds right before serving.

Kale and Tahini Salad

Serves 4

Experiment with adding different types of veggies to this salad. Try fresh green beans or grated carrots. You can also throw in some micro greens, or use spinach instead of kale.

1 bunch dinosaur kale, thinly sliced (roll and chiffonade after removing center stem)

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 plum tomato, diced

1 scallion, diced

pinch of sea salt


1 cup brown or wild rice, cooked

1 tablespoon miso

Place sliced kale in a bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and massage for 3 minutes, until the kale starts to break down.

In a bowl with a whisk (or food processor), mix together garlic, tahini, miso, water and lemon juice. Stir sauce into the kale and add tomato, scallion and cooked rice.

Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Quick and Easy Cabbage Saute

Serves 2 to 4

Raw foods increase our vitality and help battle the afternoon slump. Kale and Cabbage are nutrition powerhouses. Tahini is a good source of calcium - plus it makes salads creamy and delicious. Nutritional yeast is a good source of Vitamin B 12.

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cups green cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup nutritional yeast or soy "Parmesan"

Salt and pepper to taste


1 cup black eye peas, cooked

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

Handful of arugula leaves

Heat the pan on a stove top burner set to medium-high. Add the olive oil, then the cabbage.

Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously to avoid browning or burning.

When the cabbage begins to look translucent, add the nutritional yeast or soy "Parmesan" and cook for 30 to 60 seconds longer.

Add salt, pepper and optional ingredients to taste.

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