Time is money in a small business, which is why it can seem like a good idea to put ourselves last when it comes to getting through a work day.
While not always conscious, this looks a bit like standing in front of the fridge eating mindlessly while taking a break from our desk. Or ordering in an expensive and not-so-healthy lunch to “save time.”
In reality, poor food choices diminish our productivity because without the right fuel we will be quick to lose energy and concentration, according to dietician and nutritionist Susie Burell.
In a recent video with Flying Solo, Susie shared her best tips for eating for energy when you’re working from home.
“What we know about food and behaviour is that if we plan what we are going to eat in a day, it gives us a psychological road map in our head, which keeps us on the straight and narrow,” says Susie.
“If you create your food plan in advance and even put it in a lunchbox you are more likely to stay on track. But if you don’t plan anything you will get to 2pm absolutely starving and open the fridge and eat whatever you find in there.”
And while meal planning is great, Susie says you don’t need to feel pressure to spend half a day doing it.
“Nobody wants to eat the same thing everyday and nobody wants to spend half a day of a busy weekend meal prepping! I tell my clients to focus on making 2 meals on the weekend that can be eaten through the week… And make sure you’ve done your grocery shopping so you don’t have to duck out and waste time midweek.”
Eat something warm for lunch
“If you eat a hot meal in the middle of the day you will end up more satisfied by the end of the day and less likely to eat something sweet at 2pm. A pie, some soup or toast and even a decent sandwich with soup and salad on the side are good choices,” says Susie.
In addition to this, if you are a person who likes to snack Susie suggests no more than 2 snacks per day.
“About 3-4pm it’s a good idea to snack on something like cheese and crackers, a small handful of nuts and fruit, berries, carrot sticks, baby tomatoes, cucumbers and popcorn. They are easy snacks to eat in between meals that won’t derail your diet overall.”
Susie recommends aiming for a total of 2 litres of water throughout your day and that can include herbal tea, mineral water.
“Herbal tea or green tea during the day is great. There is research to show that green tea actually improves concentration,” says Susie.
“The good thing about herbal tea is also that if you want to get up from your desk to do something different, you can make a cup of tea instead of opening the fridge mindlessly! It will also aid your hydration and performance without derailing your diet.”
Timing between meals
Susie says for best results you don’t want to leave too much time between breakfast and lunch.
“If you wait much more than four hours after breakfast to eat then you will get a rush of hunger in the afternoon and eat something not so great to compensate,” she says.
“Pre-empt your morning hunger by eating something at 11 or 11:30am and that will keep you much more in control of your appetite throughout the day. Lunch at 2-3pm is just too late and you will eat way too many calories later in the day.”
Always hungry? Try two small lunches
If you spend most of the day feeling hungry but are worried about watching how much you eat, Susie recommends splitting your lunch into two.
“You could have a wrap or sandwich at 10 or 11am and then a second lunch of soup or salad at 2-3pm,” says Susie.
“This keeps your energy up and also your concentration. And you ended up playing mind games all day with food all day. So if you split them you feel like you are eating more food but it’s split between the day.”
What about coffee? We have to have that!
“I have nothing against coffee – it’s the highlight of my day,” laughs Susie.
“A milk-based coffee has a similar number of calories than a slice of bread so we do need to count it. So if you drink coffee with breakfast, you don’t need 2 pieces of toast and coffee in the morning, you need one toast and coffee.”
Susie also suggests swapping to a piccolo or long black between meals as they “don’t count like the milk coffees count.”
“Having coffee outside of a meal it puts us out of touch with our natural hunger levels. If you love a latte mid morning have it earlier with breakfast or have it with lunch. Or do it as a piccolo so you don’t get an influx of sugars mid-morning,” she says
And for the habitual sweet tooth (like myself) Susie advises being mindful of what you’ve got around the house.
“Sweet yoghurts are a great option, as are 100% nut spread with green apple or crackers or a small serving of chocolate. If you know you can’t control yourself don’t keep it at home, just buy a bar and eat that,” says Susie.
“You can buy a healthier chocolate and healthier biscuit in the supermarket now and on the balance of things, one of those a day is not going to do too much damage.”