Plenty of factors contribute to how you perform from the moment you log in until you bid buh-bye to the receptionist. You know if you agree to another beer past your prime, you’ll probably have a headache in the A.M. Or, if you allow procrastination to win over dedication, you could be racing against the clock — and not quite deliver your best work. One of the most undervalued impacts on your ethics, however, is food. Office settings are generally conducive to peer pressure, especially with ample snacks and desserts around, making it easier to fall off your healthy-eating bandwagon. But as a study discovered, if you don’t eat smartly, you won’t be quite as productive and you claim more ‘sick days’ away from your desk.
Why are our nomming choices so vital? According to registered dietician and author Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD it is quite simple: food is our body’s fuel. “Specifically, glucose — the resulting product of carbohydrate metabolism — acts as the fuel for both our voluntary and involuntary activities. Involuntary activities are our eyes blinking, our hearts beating, breathing in and out, and using our brain. Voluntary activities are the movements we choose to do, like walking, standing up, getting from point A to point B,” she continues.
To set yourself up for success, avoid these energy-draining habits:
Just having coffee for breakfast
We’ve all been there: the car won’t start, the toddler is cutting a tooth, you have no clean laundry … and you have a board meeting in a half-hour. While sure, there be some of those no-good days where coffee is the only A.M. sustenance you have time for, registered dietitian and nutritionist Keith Ayoob suggests getting serious about your breakfast schedule. You should avoid having only coffee, or a coffee with a doughnut, Danish or roll. Since these refined carbs will spike your blood glucose and the caffeine will stimulate insulin secretion, you’ll be setting yourself up for an 11 a.m. crash.
Instead, set your palette toward food that’ll give you momentum: “Greek yogurt or two eggs are packed with protein. A bowl of whole-grain or high-fiber cereal with milk also works,” he notes. “Even grabbing some string cheese and an apple or banana to have with your coffee works, especially when you’re rushed. These extras take no time to prepare and are easy to throw into a briefcase, purse, or backpack.”
Overdoing it with protein
While protein has its benefits, if you deprive your body of other essentials, you won’t be on the top of your game. As Zuckerbrot explains, if you’re not eating carbs, your brain power will suffer and you could find yourself hitting a wall frequently.
“Eating protein alone will not ward off hunger pains until your next meal. Without enough carbohydrates, your blood sugar will drop leaving you feeling moody, hungry and lacking in energy. Basically, no fun to work with,” she continues.
To combat this, consider adding something to your protein snack, like a high-fiber carb or a non-starchy veggie that’ll leave you feeling fuller longer, but with a better attitude. She suggests salmon with roasted broccoli or cauliflower as a go-to.
A mid-day energy drink
Repeat after us (and Ayoob): No energy drinks. Ever.
“The ‘energy’ is mostly just caffeine and maybe some added sugar. I’m not a fan and don’t recommend them, and ‘energy shots’ are the worst. Some are packed with the caffeine of three cups of strong coffee,” he explains. If you need a 3 p.m. pick-me-up and you’re not exactly hungry, he suggests a latte over an energy drink for your health. This gives you some added protein and of course, some calcium along with the jolt of java.
Downing fruit like it’s no big deal
It is easy to eat, feels like no calories at all and satisfies your sweet tooth almost as effectively as the brownie you really want. But Zuckerbrot warns to tread lightly on the fruit section of the pyramid because while rich in fiber, they are carbs and can cause you to feel a decrease in focus, fast. To combat this, snack wisely, and perhaps, skip over your banana-a-day- habits since they aren’t quite as fulfilling as you think with only one gram of fiber.
“A banana is digested quickly. This is great for a marathon runner who needs a sudden burst of energy, not so great for the work day when you need sustained energy,” she continues. “Opt for higher fiber fruits like raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears, and kiwis and stick to one serving per day so that you are not overdoing it on carbohydrates.”
Choosing granola as a snack
Zuckerbrot says to not let the labels fool you: Granola isn’t healthy or all-natural … but rather, it’s full of carbs, added sugar, and very little fiber. In fact, a serving of granola is equivalent to two slices of white bread!
“Instead, choose a high fiber cereal such as Nature’s Path Smart Bran and combine it with plain Greek yogurt. This perfect combo of fiber and protein will keep blood sugar stable, promote lasting satiety and help you concentrate on your work rather than on your rumbling stomach,” she explains.