Put down the potato chips. If food is fuel, then what you eat is critical to how you feel and perform throughout the day.

“If you put a lot of high-sugar foods into your body, you might experience instant energy, but you’ll also experience an instant crash,” said Sean Gartland, Culinary Director at the Flint Farmers’ Market. “And eating that large, fatty hamburger might give you a lot of energy down the road, but you're going to feel lethargic in the short-term."

Considering that fatigue can have an adverse impact on productivity (see here), Gartland recommends lunches that are high in protein and fiber for a steady stream of energy.

“We like to take a traditional recipe and turn it on its side by doing a lot of substitutions with healthier ingredients,” said Gartland.

He points, for instance, to a broccoli and cheddar soup his team prepared during a recent demonstration event, which the market hosts each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at noon.

While most broccoli and cheddar soups have a nearly equal broth-to-cheese ratio, this particular recipe cut the amount of cheddar to just a single cup, replacing the rest with cannellini beans to maintain a creamy consistency.

“It still has the same richness as a traditional soup, but without that heavy feeling,” said Gartland, who also recommends opting for complex carbohydrates in lieu of processed, white carbs, which have little to no nutritional value.

Fortunately, several food items contain complex carbs, including quinoa, brown rice and farro – all grains that work well in cold or hot preparations.

For an easy-to-prepare meal, a person can cook up some quinoa; mix in chopped, grilled vegetables and chicken; and add just a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, Gartland said. “It’s healthy and still has a lot of flavor.”

And because the aforementioned meal is high in both protein and fiber – two things that help a person feel full – you’re less likely to crave chips or candy by 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Heading out for lunch? Sean Gartland’s three recommendations for keeping things light:

  1. Seek out menu items with vegetables (the more the better!).
  2. Ask for sauces on the side, if possible.
  3. Eat only half of what you’re served. You’re less likely to feel overstuffed, and bonus: you now have lunch ready to go for tomorrow.