When you’re really busy at work it can become hard to prioritise yourself and you may find yourself eating your lunch at your desk (again!) and working for hours on end with no break. It’s no secret that regular breaks, hydration and good food can fuel your brain and it doesn’t have to cost you $20 for a boring salad consisting of 3 pieces of kale, some tomato and a limp carrot
So for all of you 9 to 5’ers or corporate lovers, here are some simple and practical tips to help you stay healthy, maintain your goals and work more productively.
*Disclaimer: These are general tips. They may not suit everyone and please consult your local health care practitioner prior to significantly modifying your diet
1. Healthy Snacks in your drawer
This is such an easy, but essential tip if you find yourself getting tired and sluggish (especially in the afternoon). To keep your blood sugar levels stable you could try to have a snack in the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be a large meal, but getting some healthy fats into you throughout the day will help regulate your blood sugars and keep your brain energised.
Snacks could include: small handful of nuts and seeds, some veggie sticks with nut butter or hummus, a piece of fruit, avocado and tomato or a piece of good quality dark chocolate.
2. Don’t skip breakfast before you leave
I don’t know how people don’t get hungry until lunch time, I wake up hungry!!! Again, this does seem like such an obvious tip, but many people avoid or forget regular meals. Eating a balanced breakfast rich in protein and fats can help you feel satiated and set you up for the rest of the day by:
– Helping to regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day and stop you from craving sweet foods
– Helping with weight management, cognitive function, your mood and general energy function throughout the day
– Helping regulate cortisol levels (your stress hormone). Cortisol hormones also control your digestion, hunger, cravings and blood pressure. If cortisol is constantly being produced by the adrenal glands, over time this can cause issues with sleep and digestion (among many others) and cause fatigue, reduce absorption of nutrients, depression and weight gain
– Helping restore your glycogen levels and stabilise insulin levels. When Glycogen (your muscles’ primary fuel for energy production) levels deplete, your muscles and overall energy levels decrease
– Helping to maintain your metabolism. For some people, when you fast for longer period of time, regularly, your body can store more calories thinking it isn’t going to get more – like hibernation
I know that many people don’t have enough time in the mornings, are always running late and don’t get hungry upon waking, which brings me to my next tip…
3.Prepare the night before
If you know you will snooze your alarm several times in the morning and only give yourself just enough time to get ready for work, chances are you won’t stick to a ‘healthy eating plan’ – so don’t. Be realistic about what you can and can’t achieve. One thing to help you is to prepare your breakfast and lunch the night before so you can just grab them and run. I will often make extra for dinner so I can have the leftovers for lunch the next day – saving money, time and making good choices about the food I’m consuming throughout the day. Some good pre-prepared breakfasts include: overnight oats with chia seeds and fresh berries, natural yoghurt with fresh berries and chia seeds/granola or savoury muffins (using unrefined flours).
If you can take 5 minutes in the morning to make breakfast, keep it simple. Make some sourdough toast with avocado and tomato (pre-cut in the fridge) or put some eggs, pre-cut tomato and spinach in a pan together, scramble it and add fresh avocado.
4. Eat a balanced meal in the middle of the day
For all of the same reasons as eating breakfast. Your brain’s main source of fuel is glucose (from starches and sugars of carbohydrates), so ensuring that you continually fuel your brain throughout the day will help you maintain focus and concentration. Eating a meal with lots of veg, some protein, fats and carbohydrates will help regulate blood sugars levels and your overall mood and cognitive function.
5. Take a lunch break and eat mindfully
This might sound unnecessary but being conscious when you’re eating is important. Not only do you become more aware of what you’re eating (so as to avoid overeating) and how your body is responding to certain foods, but it helps you digest your food and maintain productivity. Taking some time out of the middle of your day to actually have a lunch break, even if it’s only 20mins, and switching off from work tasks provides your brain with a much needed break, ultimately improving cognitive function, making you more productive throughout the day.
6. Stay Hydrated
This is something that is often overlooked, but is pretty essential for your whole body! Every cell, organ and tissue in the body requires water to function. Dehydration can lead to overeating, impaired cognitive function and reduced productivity, irritability..and many other symptoms. As the body loses water through breathing, sweating and digestion, it is important that we replenish fluid through eating and drinking. If you struggle to remember to drink water, try having a large 1 litre bottle on your desk and aim to finish one before lunch and then one after lunch, before you go home. If you don’t enjoy drinking water or just want to make it more interesting, try infusing your favourite fruits and herbs, such as; lemon, lime, mint, berries, rosemary, orange, rose petals or cucumber.
7. Regularly get up from your desk
Have you been meaning to see the IT guys 3 floor down for weeks now, but keep putting it off? Walk there. Take a breather.
Try and walk to see your colleagues, rather than always emailing or phoning them. Similarly to taking a lunch break, regular movement throughout the day can improve cognitive function. After going through rehabilitation for a back injury for more than 12 months, the number one thing to take away was that we should all be trying to get up from our desks every 30 mins. Whilst this may seem excessive at the start, once you get into the routine of doing this, it can really help you stayed focused. These breaks do not have to be long (in fact, regular short breaks can be more beneficial!). You could go and fill up your water bottle, get up and stretch, go to the bathroom, do a lap of the office, go and see a colleague, make a coffee/tea or collect smaller amounts of printing throughout the day, rather than scheduling all of your printing to occur at one time.
I hope these simple tips help you create a much healthier work life. Whilst they may seem challenging in the beginning, any new habit can be. Try to do all 7 of these tips for 30 days and you may notice how easy they become!