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Nutrition and Work

Author: Greg Summerhays
Published: May 28, 2020

Whether you work remotely or, in a workplace, getting proper nutrition while working can seem hard. With so much information about nutrition coming at us from all types of sources, it’s hard to know whom you can trust. We’re here to help provide accurate information and show you that it is actually quite simple, and the benefits (of improving how you feel, your productivity level, and overall health,) are immeasurable.

 

The three most important things to focus on regarding your nutrition are eating every 3-4 hours, pairing carbohydrates with proteins, and eating for your upcoming activities.  Making these changes not only will help with the way you feel and look, they will improve your productivity at work.

 

How does nutrition affect your productivity at work? Food is fuel; this is true, but the quality and amount of fuel, matters too. Do you eat breakfast before work each day? Do you eat snacks in between meals? Deciding to eat or not eat, and what you do eat, cognitively affects how you will perform during your workday.

 

In order to fully explain this, let’s talk about what is going on in the body when we eat or don’t eat. When we eat, a lot of our food is converted into glucose. Glucose is what our body and brain use for energy. When we have enough glucose in our body and it is regularly coming into our body, by eating every 3-4 hours, we feel energized, focused, and able to perform better. When we are low on glucose, we become low on energy and our ability to concentrate is impaired. When we are hungry, it is hard to concentrate on anything other than that. This happens when we don’t eat or, go long periods of time in between snacks and meals.

 

The type of foods we eat matter as well because of how different foods are broken down in the body. Refined carbohydrates, like foods made with white flour or sugary drinks, release their glucose quickly. This causes a spike in our blood sugar, giving us a quick burst of energy and then leaving us in a ‘slump’. Foods high in saturated fat, like cheeseburgers or fast food, provide a lot of energy but make our bodies work harder to break them down, which makes us feel groggy. When we combine poor food choices with the stress of a busy workday, it leads to cravings, poor concentration, and poor brain function. This is why choosing healthy, balanced meals keeps our energy levels and blood sugars stable.

 

What can you do to improve your nutrition and productivity? Learning how our body works is always helpful, but the most important thing you can do is prepare for your day. People are busier than ever, and fueling our bodies efficiently isn’t going to happen on its own. When we can have healthy snacks and meals on hand, then we are prepared to keep our brains and bodies functioning at their best level. The easiest way to choose balanced snacks/meals is to pick a whole grain, protein, and a fruit or a vegetable. That way we are giving our body everything it needs every time it needs to be fueled (about every 3 hours).

 

Healthy Snack/Meal Ideas:

Cottage cheese, Triscuits, and baby carrots

Apple, peanut butter, and granola bar

Bean and cheese burrito in whole wheat tortilla

Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread

Yogurt, granola, and berries

 

Lastly, while preparing for the day with healthy meals and snacks, make sure you are preparing for your day’s activities as well. Ever heard the saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”? Our body processes food most efficiently during the day and before exercise when we are most active. This means we need to be providing our body with more fuel at those times than we do at more sedentary times. As the day starts winding down, we get home from work, and we are mostly relaxing at home, we don’t need to provide our body with a lot of fuel. A light dinner around 7 and avoiding night time snacking will help to prevent our bodies from storing unnecessary fuel, and ensure we are hungry for breakfast.

 

There are lots of ways to start incorporating healthy nutrition into your workplace and each workplace will be different, but there are some tips that can help any workplace get started. Educating your employees through onsite lunch and learns, providing an environment for them to practice and maintain these healthy habits, and leading by example. If the executives and managers are on board with a healthy worksite, it will trickle down to their employees.

 

A very easy way to start healthy nutrition at work is making fruits and vegetables more readily available. Research indicates that eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day isn’t simply good for the body, but beneficial for the mind. A study was done where participants reported all the food they consumed for 13 days along with their mood and behaviors. The conclusion- the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions), the happier, more engaged, and creative they tended to be. Why? Fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients that foster the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation, and engagement. They also provide antioxidants that minimize bodily inflammation, improve memory, and enhance mood.

Incentivizing employees to bring healthy lunches from home or, doing weekly potlucks during lunch is another great way. Making assignments and making sure there are plenty of fruits and vegetables included is easy.

When catering meetings, find healthy options from your restaurant of choice so employees have the choice to eat healthier while still eating out and enjoying popular food.

 

In conclusion, be creative about what will work for your workplace in incorporating a healthy environment for your employees. Overtime, incorporating these low cost strategies will improve the health, productivity, and happiness of your employees.

 

Author

Kaithlin | Total Health and Fitness