A healthy lunch can give you energy and improve your ability to focus during the workday.

The right foods at lunchtime can make you more productive and improve your ability to concentrate, says Natasha McLaughlin, a registered dietitian with Optimal Health Institute in Moncton. That’s in addition to the health benefits of reduced risk of obesity and heart disease.

Follow these tips to make a healthy lunch for the office:

> Start with the basics
Check Canada’s Food Guide to make sure your lunch has enough variety.

A lunch should include three to four food groups, says Claudia Gorenko, a registered dietitian based in Timmins, Ont.

Canada’s Food Guide lists four food groups: milk products and alternatives, such as cheese and soy products; vegetables and fruit, such as green beans and apples; grain products, such as bread; and meat and alternatives, including chicken and cashews.

> Give yourself some variety
Lunch can be more than a sandwich.

“Adding variety is always key to keep things interesting,” says Gorenko. “It doesn’t always have to be the standard sandwich with two slices of bread.”

Instead try a bagel, a tortilla wrap or dinner leftovers.

Make sure the lunch is packed appropriately, Gorenko says, in a thermos or ice pack.

> Drink up
Drink water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated, McLaughlin says.

Bring a water bottle to work or fill up your travel or coffee mug with water, she says.

> Don’t forget the snacks
Stay productive by eating throughout the day.

For that 3 p.m. slump, refuel with protein, Gorenko suggests. Meat and alternatives, or a milk and alternatives product, such as cheese, can help give you an extra boost.

“It’s important to have snacks,” says McLaughlin. “A lot of people think that children should be the only ones to have snacks but adults need fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk products [between meals].”

Eating every three hours will help keep your blood sugar levels even, she says which helps keep you feeling energetic.

For example, have a banana at 10 in the morning, a lunch with three to four food groups at 12 followed by yogurt and almonds at three p.m.

> Pack something extra
Throw an extra snack in your lunch bag in case you stay a little late.

“You always want to make sure to have little extra in case you have to go longer in your day,” says McLaughlin. Without an extra snack to keep you going you may become less productive.

> Use moderation
Fruit juices and granola bars should be only an occasional part of lunches or snacks.

Adults shouldn’t drink more than half a cup (125 ml) of juice per day, says McLaughlin. The calorie count in half-cup glass of orange juice, for example, is equivalent to that of three oranges.

As well, low-fat, high-fibre granola bars are good as occasional snacks, she says. Eating them too often, however, can result in excessive daily calorie intake.