WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Strategic Eating: Two Meals Entrepreneurs Should Never Skip

If you want to be more productive and make smart decisions, here's what you should eat--and when you should eat it.
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For entrepreneurs, eating healthy is often a challenge. Sometimes, you're lucky if you find time to eat at all. (Three meals and two snacks a day? Forget about it.) But when you are swamped and pressed for time, it's important to eat strategically.

Your brain requires an enormous amount of fuel. It's the biggest consumer of the glucose in your body, using 85 percent of your glucose and glycogen stores. And every time you make a decision or multi-task you are using up more and more glucose. When you don't replenish that glucose, your productivity plummets.

Even if you don't always have time for regular meals, there are two key points in an entrepreneur's day when it's critical to fuel up in order to stay focused and energized. And what you eat during those times is equally important.

1. Breakfast. It’s been at least seven hours since your last meal, and your body needs fuel. Studies show that skipping breakfast can reduce productivity by 50 to 75 percent. Ideally, you should eat within an hour of waking up. But skip the muffins, bagels, and corn flakes. These sugary foods will cause your blood sugar to spike (and then crash), leaving you feeling tired and unfocused an hour or two later.

The perfect power breakfast for entrepreneurs is a vegetable omelet with a side of sliced tomatoes. The eggs provide protein, which can keep you energized and focused for up to five hours. Plus, they contain choline, which boosts a key neurotransmitter responsible for concentration and recall. If eggs are not your thing, check out this list of healthier alternatives to your current breakfast (flax and salmon are great for boosting brain power):
 
Instead of: Cold cereal
Try: Oatmeal with cinnamon, chopped almonds, fruit, and ground flax

Instead of: A plain bagel with cream cheese
Try: A multi-grain bagel with goat cheese or tofu spread and smoked salmon

Instead of: A fruit smoothie
Try: A protein smoothie with low-sugar fruit like berries as well as protein powder, flax oil, and almond milk

Instead of: Yogurt with fruit on the bottom
Try: Plain yogurt with your own fruit, chopped nuts, and ground flax

2. Afternoon snack. The second key point in the day is the afternoon snack. Between lunch and dinner as many as seven or eight hours can pass, and it's a time of day when you're making lots of decisions and working hard to finish strong. If you want to stay focused on work, your body needs fuel. But avoid snacks like cookies or candy that will give you a sugar crash. Here are four healthy snacks that will keep you productive:

*An apple with almond butter

*Carrots and hummus

*A small protein smoothie (add flax oil for extra stamina)

*Some fruit and handful of walnuts

Lunch and dinner are important too, but eating a solid breakfast and a balanced afternoon snack can help keep you productive--and put the brakes on bad food choices.

Last updated: Jun 3, 2013

BARBARA MENDEZ | Columnist

Barbara Mendez is a nutritionist in New York City. For more information about her private practice, visit BarbaraMendezNutrition.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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