Changing your eating habits may seem like an unusual way to increase your business output, but altering your diet can have a marked improvement on your concentration, memory and energy level throughout the day. Therefore, choosing healthier meals not only improves the way you feel – your business performance is likely to increase as well.
Many business owners struggle to eat healthily when they’re constantly on the go and working well beyond regular office hours. With impending deadlines, stress and client meetings, setting aside time to eat well often falls by the wayside.
In fact, according to a survey by the job matching website Monster, 60 per cent of working people do not take their full lunch entitlement, and seven per cent admit they do not take a lunch break at all.
Eating poorly can result in a lack of energy, poorer concentration and less productivity, which in turn can result in a further increase of stress levels, compounding the problem.
So, if you’re one of the 67 per cent who either miss lunch completely or take less than you should, regain control of your eating habits with these top tips. Not only will you feel better, you’ll perform better too.
1. If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail
The absolute key to healthy eating is preparation. If you have a busy week full of back-to-back meetings then make it your utmost priority on a Sunday evening to prepare food to eat midweek.
Cook 1kg of chicken breast and slice it into small strips, prepare a salad in a large bowl and purchase a few avocados. Each day pack the chicken, salad and half an avocado into a good quality Tupperware box. The salad should last for up to four days depending on the ingredients you use.
If you get easily bored when having the same lunch each day, then cook another meat and add cottage cheese or broccoli into the mix. It’s amazing how much time can be saved midweek by making the effort to prepare food on a Sunday.
2. Don't skip breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is essential for giving you the energy to get through a busy morning. Even if you have to set your alarm 20 minutes earlier in order to have breakfast, your energy levels will be much higher than if you spent that time in bed. Breakfast increases your metabolism and improves concentration and productivity.
Scrambled eggs followed by a small serving of porridge half an hour later covers all dietary bases. If you can’t bear to wake up any earlier than you already do, opt for a fruit smoothie or a yoghurt-based shake on your way to work.
3. Snack smarter
If you’re in the habit of snacking on calorie-packed chocolate or muesli bars and find it hard to get through the day without a small treat, don’t force yourself to give up what you love – simply swap them for healthier options.
Purchase a mix of fruit and nuts and pour a small serving into a dish each morning. Snack on these and whatever you do, don’t pour more. Portion control is essential.
4. Dairy isn't the enemy
A common misconception when trying to be healthy is avoiding dairy. The truth is that low-fat dairy products are great in small portions.
Yoghurt is ideal for adding taste to meals, and light cheeses are great to complement wholegrain cracker biscuits instead of eating a bag of potato chips. What’s more, low-fat dairy is available everywhere – even in service stations and cafes.
5. Leaner coffee
How many coffees do you consume each day? When working long hours, most people can't stop at one. If you can't cut down, make your coffee healthier. Opt for skim or soy milk to reduce your calorie intake, or even switch to long blacks if you can handle the stronger taste.
Try and replace your coffee with tea – green tea is ideal, as it is full of healthy antioxidants.
6. Monitor eating-out options
If you're grabbing a sandwich, burger or wrap at the local deli, swap white bread for wholegrain.
When ordering meals, ask for any fried food to be boiled or steamed instead. Also, be mindful of portion sizes and go easy on additional sauces.
7. Carry a water bottle
Not only will a water bottle ensure that you stay hydrated while you're rushing around, but it prevents you from making poor diet choices, such as picking up cans of soft drink when you are thirsty. Water keeps you feeling fuller as well, so you won't be as inclined to snack.
8. Introduce a fruit bowl into the office
If you’ve ever found yourself snacking on an employee’s chocolates because there’s nothing else to grab before you rush out of the door, then it’s time to introduce a fruit bowl into the office.
Not only will this benefit you but your staff will start feeling the advantages of having better food choices also. If you’re the type who blames lack of choice for your bad diet, then this is a must. This way, there really are no excuses.
9. What you eat the night before counts too
Of course, you can’t just blame your busy daily routine for your bad eating habits. What you eat in the evenings will have a massive impact on your cravings the next day. Your morning blood sugar levels are dramatically affected by the previous day’s evening meal. High glycemic-index (high GI) carbohydrates are the main culprits as they quickly turn into sugar – the more ‘carb heavy’ your evening meal is (pasta, rice, bread, potato), the higher the sugar levels in your blood will be.
It is a vicious circle – high blood sugar levels result in sugary cravings, and the more sugar you intake, the less you burn and the more you store.
Most people need a break of between 10–14 hours after a meal full of carbohydrates. Always try and calculate this – if you eat breakfast at 8am it’s not really sensible to have dinner any later than 8pm.
10. Don’t beat yourself up
Finally, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself, or eating healthy will become a chore rather than a pleasure. Allow yourself to have the things you love, just in moderation. If you’re occasionally lenient but always mindful, then the above healthy eating tips should be easy.