Eating healthy at work takes effort. With your full schedule and fast food tempting you at every turn, staying disciplined becomes a daily struggle. You don’t have to meal prep every week or maintain a psychotically strict diet in order to eat healthy. There are several simple tips you can start with that will have you feeling better and more energetic. You’ll also be more focused, productive, and motivated.
Have you eaten a big fast food lunch and then struggled to stay awake for the rest of the work day? The delicious flavor masks empty carbohydrates wrapped in trans fats and coated in sodium. Gorging yourself on food like that is normal when we’re stressed, but it also spikes your insulin and actually makes you more tired instead of giving you the energy you need to perform at your best.
Once you feel the difference, I can guarantee you’ll be inspired to make even more healthy changes in your diet. The hardest part is taking the first step. Here are some hacks to help you get started today.
Staying hydrated is more important than you think. Being dehydrated can give you headaches, make you feel tired, and literally make you dumber. Aim to drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses every single day. Try to keep a water bottle or a hydroflask within arms reach, it acts as a constant reminder. If you hate drinking water, try adding fresh fruit or flavor packets to make it less bland.
Drinking more water is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. The more water you drink, the better you will feel.
Go Easy on The Caffeine
If you want to perform at your best, moderating your caffeine intake is key.
You don’t have to give up your daily starbucks run but if you’re going 3-4 times a day, you might want to dial it back. Caffeine is good for you in small doses, it increases your heart rate, focus, and suppresses your appetite. However, it’s easy to go overboard and too much caffeine is really, really bad for you. It can lead to side effects including anxiety, restlessness, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fatigue, and insomnia. That last one is important because if you’re not sleeping well you’re likely to be irritable, irrational, and unable to focus.
Don’t drink coffee after 5 PM if you can help it and try to cut your consumption in half. If you NEED a caffeine boost later in the day try tea instead. It still has some caffeine but a much lower dose.
Try to Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol numbs your neurotransmitters and blocks oxygen from getting into your cells. According to a 2017 study that compared MRIs from people who drank alcohol vs. people who didn’t, they found that alcohol consumption actually shrinks your hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and reasoning). This hippocampal shrinkage can lead to decreased productivity and performance at work.
If you want to perform at a high level and feel healthy, avoid going to happy hour. Alcohol has health benefits in small doses but prevents you from reaching your full potential.
Eat Real Food
What separates “real food” from “fake food”? If you’re at the grocery store, real food it everything on the periphery (meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs). Most of the stuff in the middle is usually the processed, packaged food filled with chemicals and preservatives.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. Use pairings like fresh carrots and hummus, whole grain crackers and guacamole, cheese and apple slices, or high protein Greek yogurt with berries. There are countless options for healthy snacks that taste great and will have you feeling great.
It’s beyond tempting to eat candy bars or bags of chips because they taste so damn good and provide immediate satisfaction. Just remember, the worse your diet, the worse your performance.
Don’t Forget Breakfast
You may already be doing this but you’d be surprised at how many people aren’t. Many of my friends will drink coffee and skip breakfast altogether. If you’re doing it as part of an intermittent fasting program, that’s one thing, but being “too busy” to eat breakfast will hurt your energy and performance throughout the day. Breakfast jump starts your metabolism and gives you the energy you need to hit the ground running once you get to work.
Skipping meals deprives your body and mind of the energy it needs to perform at a high level. You don’t need a 3 course meal for breakfast, something as simple as an energy bar or cup of yogurt will do the trick. Just don’t go to work hungry. And don’t start your day with high sugar, high fat foods like McDonalds or Cinnabon, that’s like shooting yourself in the foot before work.
Need more nutrition tips?
Contact our resident nutrition expert and professional chef Nicolle Walker for more tips on how to eat and be healthier.