We all know that the food you eat is fuel for your body and brain, and that eating well will help your performance in all areas of life. The difficult part is making healthy choices on a day-to-day basis. This often means we end up with an afternoon slump after downing [a whole bag of doritos/our third KFC of the week] for lunch, just because it’s easy. Instead, we should look for foods packed with nutrients and that release energy slowly. Foods which release it too fast (like a cheap sandwich or worse still, an energy drink) will leave us seriously considering a nap at 3pm; and foods that are high in fat and difficult to digest (like that guilty Big Mac) will leave us groggy for the whole afternoon. Better foods may take more time and effort, but we often make up for the extra few minutes our productivity later.
Careers UK’s top superfoods are recommended by the World Health Organisation and Business Insider, and they don’t have to be difficult to include in your routine either! Try out the following and see if you notice a difference in your memory and performance:
Salmon: rich in omega-3 – try adding a little to your sandwiches. You can also take a fish oil supplement.
Berries: rich in antioxidants, and the darker the berry the better – try keeping a punnet on your desk to graze on, or making a smoothie out of frozen berries.
Green tea: rich in antioxidants and a natural energy enhancer – try replacing one of your daily coffees with green tea for a week and see how the slower-release caffeine affects you.
Dark chocolate: a low-sugar treat – indulging your sweet tooth with a few squares of dark chocolate can help keep sugar cravings at bay and be a great motivational tool.
Nuts: full of healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, antioxidants and amino acids – try keeping a pot of almonds or walnuts within reach for easy grazing
Avocados: contain natural fats that are great for circulation – more than just a delicious millennial trend, the improved circulation will increase your alertness
Bananas: contain sugar and potassium – they’re a filling snack with the sugar packaged in a healthy form
Eggs: full of protein and B-vitamin choline – these are useful building blocks which can stimulate your brain and muscles
Brown rice: full of vitamins and high in magnesium – this is also a slow-burn fuel hitting that middle zone between easy digestion but slow release
The other key ‘side dish’ to all of this is drinking lots of water. I know we’ve heard it over and over again, but it really is important when our body is 70% water! It keeps all our cells working well and helps flush through any waste and toxins. Keep a glass of water or a water bottle within your line of sight and it’ll be easier to remember.
The most difficult part of reforming our lunch habits is making changes practical. Psychology Today says that our self-control is at its lowest when we are hungry, so it’s key to decide what we’re having for lunch beforehand. This can mean planning where you are ordering from or bringing a packed lunch with you. Grazing on fruit and nuts can also stop us getting to that point where if we don’t get a deep fried Mars Bar right now someone is going to get hurt. Keep a pot next to your water bottle and natural laziness is likely to keep you munching on them instead of going all the way to the vending machine – the key is making it easier to eat healthily than unhealthily. Getting a productivity boost from eating well is all about making realistic changes that work for you.