Ever heard the phrase "you are what you eat"? It's true. When you eat something fatty, you feel heavy and sluggish. A slice of watermelon for example is an instant refresher and gets you energized.
People eat different foods for different reasons. Sometimes all they care about is taste. Other times, it's about keeping a balanced healthy diet, or losing weight. But did you know that you can tailor your meals to be optimized for productivity?
Certain foods will help you stay focused and alert. Among these are specific brain foods and superfoods that affect your body in miraculous ways. Here's a list of six habits to incorporate, so that you can put together a great office lunch or snack that will help you boost your job performance. The proof is in the pudding--er, the vegetables.
1. Plan ahead.
Prepare a weekly menu, so that you can do grocery shopping efficiently. Pack your lunch at night and stick it in the fridge so it's all ready to grab on the way out in the morning.
Chaya Rappoport, baker, writer, and food blogger shares some advice:
"Preparing big batches of food ahead of time is a huge time-saver and makes me so much more productive during the week. Hard-boiled eggs and string cheese are both quick, high-energy options. I keep some proteins raw on hand to cook as needed. I like to roast the hardier vegetables such as broccoli, squash, asparagus, and peppers. I chop and store my salad veggies in big containers along with a few garnishes and dressings such as sprouts, nuts, and vinaigrettes."
2. Substitute your go-to snack with a healthful alternative.
Sometimes, all it takes is implementing a few simple switches. Keep whole-baked pita chips on hand instead of the oil-saturated potato alternative. Eat a banana instead of a cookie. Resist the urge to buy that Coke, and grab a bottle of water instead. These might seem obvious, but it's easy to overlook such details when you're in a rush.
If you do buy prepackaged food, make it a habit to do a quick label-scan so that you aren't consuming sneaky harmful additives, partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup among other unwholesome ingredients.
3. Include these brain foods in your menu.
Avocados are great for cognitive function, and broccoli helps keep your memory sharp. Eggplant enhances communication between the brain cells and messenger molecules. And dress your salads with extra virgin olive oil; it has loads of brain-strengthening properties.
As for protein: Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for your brain. Enjoy your eggs as well--their yolks are rich in choline. Boston University researchers tracked the eating habits of nearly 1,400 healthy adults for ten years and found that choline intake correlated positively with better performance on certain types of memory tests.
For snacks, there are plenty of brainpower-boosting options. Walnuts improve mental alertness, and almonds are a great energy booster. Dark chocolate improves blood flow to the brain. (If you want to reap these benefits, make sure to get milk-free chocolate with a high cocoa percentage, like 70 percent.)
4. Counter that midday energy slump.
Rappoport offers some more tips to help fight those sugar cravings:
"I find that around lunchtime, I hit a huge energy slump and start craving sweets. So I'll usually prepare a homemade trail mix: salted almonds, dark chocolate chips, golden raisins. I'll add sesame brittle, dried figs, or coconut chips to spice things up. The healthy carbs and sugars in that will give you energy and creativity to attack your work with renewed vigor."
5. Eat small, frequent meals.
Rather than eating heavy meals three times a day, it helps to have smaller meals and snack on healthy foods throughout the day. The idea is to keep the blood sugar level steady, so if you wait too long between meals, these levels will drop--causing you to be prone to agitation and irritability.
So if you always end up feeling hungry an hour later no matter how filling a meal was, make sure to have a constant supply of food-fuel. Barry Zelcer, founder and CEO of Spray Gourmet, "In 2017, preparing meals that are healthy doesn't have to be an arduous task. Most labels have gone 'clean' and most products are made for your convenience."
So keep a bag of trail mix or fruit at hand, and munch away to keep those gears cranking!
6. Take it seriously.
Although our brain accounts for just two percent of our body weight, it consumes about 20 percent of our calories. And according to a study from Population Health Management, eating unhealthily is linked with a 66 percent increased risk of low productivity.
Why risk the statistic? All it takes is the commitment to form new habits. With time, your body and mind will feel the difference--and of course, your boss will thank you as well.
**Liba Rimler contributed to this article