For the executive, maintaining the much-needed balance between career, family, and health can often be a challenge and yet without this balance in our lives it is impossible to become focused and efficient during the work day. The one area that seems to be the quickest to fall out of balance is our health. Before you know it you're working late, no longer having time to make a decent meal and exercise becomes a thing of the past. As I talk on the phone to my executive friend Paula, I hear the same old line, "I don't have time to have lunch today, and I need to meet with a client. I'm just going to grab something on my way out". This "something" she is grabbing for lunch usually consists of a handful of chips or perhaps a bagel as she runs out the door.
Paula's plight is typical of today's executives. There are not enough hours in the day and so we depend on quick grab and go foods, caffeine, restaurants, and fast food. These food choices may be easier with our timelines but they are ultimately dragging our energy down and adding more and more to our waistlines. Therefore, we must learn how to avoid the traps of poor eating habits and learn how to incorporate good nutrition practices on our tight timelines. How do we do this? The answer may be easier than you think. Here are 4 nutrition tips to help you improve your energy and focus so you can become more efficient during your workday.
Eat your breakfast!:
"Breaking the fast" from the prior evening is crucial for sustained mental work. The brain's sole source of energy is glucose and it has no storage reserves. Eating breakfast has been shown to improve overall attitude, increase concentration and problem-solving ability. In addition, studies show those who eat breakfast typically consume fewer calories and fat compared to those who do not start their day off with a healthy meal. If you aren't used to eating something in the morning grab something light like a yogurt and a piece of fruit or a bowl of oatmeal with some fresh berries.
Relinquish the caffeine: Starting your day off with a pot of coffee is not exactly a balanced breakfast but is likely the most common. People are more dependent than ever on caffeine to provide them a "perk" of energy. The downside is that's all it is providing; a quick perk. The reality is caffeine gives you small bursts of energy and then you crash to an energy low leaving you to need even more. Caffeine also pulls fluid from your cells, which can cause mild dehydration and contributes to the three o'clock slump. Symptoms of mild dehydration are: fatigue, lack of concentration, irritable, anxious, and mild headache?hmm, sound familiar? Lastly, caffeine can also stimulate your appetite, which is important to know for those watching their weight. You will be surprised to know that you will have a much higher energy level and better concentration by forgoing the caffeine. Stick to one caffeinated beverage a day and work on drinking more water. Please note if you are past the threshold of addiction to caffeine you will have headaches when you stop drinking it. If you drink more than 3 caffeinated beverages a day it is best to decrease slowly!
Take time for a balanced lunch:
Yes, I know for the busy executive many of your lunches are often something you grabbed out of the pantry and snacked on while working at the computer. Not only is it important to take a break during the day it is crucial to take time to eat. When you eat at the computer, it becomes unconscious eating. You aren't paying attention to how much of that food item you are eating and this, in turn, is a quick way to gain weight. It becomes impossible to be conscious of feeling "full" when your mind if focused on work and not your body. Every time you eat passed "full" you are taking in calories that your body does not need and will then put into storage. Yes that storage department is also known as stored fat. In addition, this food you are snacking on is usually not very balanced and can end up making you tired and decrease your concentration as well. Take some time for your self to eat a balanced meal during the day. Include some protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. For example, a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with a cup of vegetable soup is a quick lunch that provides nutrient-rich foods. This will help you to improve your energy and focus during the day as well as keep your weight where you want it.
Many executives are out on the run and are frequently eating in restaurants because of time restraints or for business luncheons. Eating in restaurants on an every day basis can start to affect your health and waistline. Most restaurants add a significant amount of hidden fat and calories so the food will taste better and look more appealing. For example, did you know that many restaurants will use spray butter on your steamed vegetables to give it a glow. This is why that broccoli you get on the side looks so shiny and appetizing! Not to mention restaurant portion sizes are enough to feed three adults and typically contain 1000-1800 calories per plate! If you are eating out, stick to the basics. Try to order simple entrees such as a sandwich, soup, or salad combination and avoid large entrees. You can have those wonderful larger entrees for special outings just not everyday.
The bottom line is our body is the only place we have to live so we should take care of it! Take a few moments of time for your health each day. Feed yourself nutrient rich foods. Enjoy a little movement. Drink fresh water. You will ultimately become more efficient at what you do. We feel most alive and energized when we take care of our health.
About the Author
Owner of Real Living Nutrition Services, Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She offers individual nutrition counseling and has developed The Mini Diet Makeover and The Ultimate Diet Makeover, two of the only non-diet online weight management programs available on the internet. For more information or to sign up for Real Living's free nutrition newsletter, visit http://www.reallivingnutrition.com.