Mastering the Big Lunch.

What Local Vietnamese Eat For Lunch | Vietcetera

We had Thanksgiving dinner with just us this year (COVID). This was feeling ok as we spend the majority of the time “just us” anyway. I cooked for two days (with much chopping help), my big guy made pies, my little guy scattered flour, dumped milk, and painted both all over the floor. My husband made a fire and was whistling a lot.

Suddenly, my husband is serving up turkey to plates while I’m still getting stuffing out of the oven. Before I know it, everyone is eating. I think we went around and said what we are grateful for. Six minutes later, my husband stands up, takes off his pants, grunts that his stomach hurts and is in bed like Flash Gordon. My big guy takes this as permission to bolt from the table and feed his ants.I look over at the little one, restrained in his high chair or surely he would have been gone too: “Guess it’s just you and me,” and we resume eating. The pie was delicious.

My parents sat down to three meals a day. My grandparents prayed before every meal. Food was an event. Many customs associated with meals are becoming a relic of the past. We are on the move and eating on the go. I’m often realizing I haven’t eaten yet today and rooting in my purse for nuts while driving. Not cool.

Getting at least one big, slow meal in for the day seems like an ok goal.

Breakfast is often touted as the most important meal of the day, but Ayurveda says that our digestive fire (agni) is strongest at midday. It’s the pitta time of day, and pitta stokes that agni to it’s highest at this time. Lunchtime is when our bodies are ready for a bigger, heavier meal (think what you would normally eat for dinner), and when we can best assimilate nutrients. This is the time to eat protein and raw vegetables, because they take the most digestive effort.

Ayurveda also says that drinking cold beverages, especially at a meal, will put out our agni, or digestive fire. Pittas especially love a good iced drink, but ice is avoided like the plague in Ayurveda.

Dinner is to be a smaller meal eaten at least three hours before bedtime. Eating right before bed makes the body have to work at digesting food while we sleep instead of repairing itself.

It seems that every child-rearing book I read emphasizes the importance of a family dinner for kids to grow up secure and happy. It serves as a time to touch base with the family and provides that feeling of belonging. We can sit down for a light dinner with our loved ones without overdoing it.

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If our schedule is such that we can’t or don’t want to eat a big meal at noon (though midday can be thought of as anywhere between 11 AM and 2 PM), what we can do is eat at the same times every day – to have that all-important routine for ourselves. It’s also important to only eat when we are actually hungry (we know this).

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My own schedule is a little wonky. I work from 3 PM – 11:30 PM. I get up late and am not hungry until noon, when I eat a small meal. I have my “big lunch” at around 6 PM and then I have a light snack at 9 or 10PM.

Getting the big lunch in: A menagerie of ideas

  • big lunch later in the day because of schedule/night owl-ness
  • big lunch cooked the night before
  • big lunch planning, shopping, cooking factored into day
  • big lunch eaten, then served for dinner as leftovers
  • leftovers (but not too old) eaten as big lunch
  • big lunch, then nap
  • big lunch in slow cooker (there are small ones that can ride to work easily)
  • big lunch made by kids or as some sort of trade agreement with friends/family
  • big lunch as pot of something (chili, soup) + greens, bread
  • big lunch eaten during commute
  • big breakfast at lunch time
  • big lunch grabbed with latte at coffee shop (say, an egg sandwich)
  • big lunch with friends (post COVID)
  • big lunch from a cafeteria-style grocery store situation (post COVID)
  • big lunch at 2
  • PB & J gets made on the way out the door (better than nothing!)
  • big lunch cooked on stove as home working/schooling/pandemic-ing
  • big lunch at 11
  • Big lunch as healthy take-out (think warm vegetables, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Laotian, Nepalese…yum)
  • big lunch gets picked up
  • big lunch gets delivered
  • big lunch gets made for you (lucky you)
  • big lunch gets eaten in the spirit of fun, no matter what big lunch is

Eating to Digest & Assimilate Nutrients Well

  • keep it simple – have staples & no need for elaborate meals; over-doing variety is over-rated
  • Practice gratitude for the food – a prayer, a word of thanks, silent appreciation
  • eat when calm and happy, never when pissed, sad or stressed
  • cook in a positive state of mind; the feelings of the cook enter the food
  • cook in an unhurried manner
  • keep the kitchen environment clean, pretty, uncluttered
  • use fresh. organic, unprocessed, seasonal food – if cost-prohibitive, fresh, unprocessed, non-organic fruits and veggies are still much better than a box of mac and cheese
  • leftovers lose their nutrients and positive energy, although if eaten within 24 hours of cooking are still better than that mac and cheese
  • Enjoy what you eat – if you hate it, it doesn’t matter how healthy it is, it will effect you negatively. That being said, things like broccoli are acquired tastes, so give them a chance
  • Savor the food; chew slowly/thoroughly as digestion starts in the mouth
  • Don’t eat anything too hot or too cold. Be Goldilocks and eat it “just right”
  • Eat moderately. Overeating puts out the digestive fire and causes a build-up of toxins
  • Eat and only eat – no distractions; keep conversation rather trivial and upbeat
  • Sit and chill for a few minutes after eating
  • Take a short walk after eating or lie down for a few minutes

Listen, I know that a slow-food meal at noon – in the middle of our busy day – seems antiquated at best and impossible at worst. Just today, I ate cheese and crackers for lunch while standing up, loading the dishwasher and feeding the baby. That’s why some of those lunch ideas are totally -ish. We do what we can; I was grateful for the cheese.


Chopra, Deepak (2000). Perfect Health. Three Rivers Press, New York. Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center (2018). Practical Ayurveda. Penguin Random House, New York. Raichur, Pratima (1997). Absolute Beauty. Harper Perennial, New York.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pastora says:

    This is great advice. In some European countries, the large meal of the day is lunch. It’s a healthy way to eat, hormonally speaking as well, as your body is biologically prepared to digest food efficiently in the day time, and not so much at night. Thanks!!

    1. jenny says:

      Why thank you! A big, leisurely lunch being very European is tres chic!!! Thanks for reading.

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