4 workplace diet tips
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Work stress ruining your diet? With a bit of planning you can eat well despite a crazy schedule.
Dr Libby Weaver, author of Accidently Overweight, says many poor workplace food choices stem from stress or boredom – cue desktop M&Ms. Skipping meals also promotes reactive or ‘emergency’ eating when your brain lets you know it needs glucose. Now. Even if it’s a two-day-old Danish.
“Much overeating comes from emotional pain, boredom, not being mindful, seeking energy,” says Dr Weaver. If you are a stress snacker, she suggests finding another way to deal with what’s going on: a five-minute walk or stretching in the park at the end of the street can resolve the need that would have been met by a giant cookie.
Choosing the fight food
Eating optimal foods at certain times can not only fire up your grey matter, but has flow-on effects for other dietary choices; what you choose to eat for afternoon tea can directly impact what you’re inclined to choose at dinner – and how much discipline you are able to exercise. (If you’ve ever felt like someone’s forced you to stop for takeaway fettuccine, you may have made the classic mid-arvo mistake of snacking on refined carbs.)
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The day you ask for
a pay rise
Could there be anything more stressful? No-one would blame you for knocking back a stiff drink or supersize coffee in a bid to shake the nerves. But major stress already toys with blood sugar, and alcohol or coffee will only amplify the effect, leading to sub-optimal focus on concentration as your brain screams for glucose. Er, I deserve it because last year I did… is that a new pot plant?
Instead, try chamomile or lavender tea. Nutritionist Dr Rebecca Harwin also suggests increasing your intake of foods rich in Vitamin B, omega-3s and magnesium in the days leading up to your review – think sunflower seeds, and nuts and fish, which will help to reduce stress, improve brain function, and get you to chill the frig out. Of course, even if food is the last thing you feel like, it’s important to load up on quality fuel for optimum focus.
What the pros recommend
Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin recommends starting with a small portion of complex carbohydrates to help give your body a steady stream of sugar for the day.
“For breakfast, try some yoghurt with low fat muesli with some blueberries or strawberries.” For lunch, go a sandwich on brown or wholegrain bread with plenty of leafy greens and lean protein. For the rest of the day, eat regularly. And, Dr Harwin says, lay off refined foods and stimulants like coffee and cola, which are dehydrating. Drink water instead.
The most important thing is to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, says Bingley Pullin. “This is really important to maintain your focus through a long day of complex understanding.
Your secondary goal is making sure you get enough nutrients when you do eat, so you’ll need to snack every three hours and include nuts, seeds, dried or even fresh fruit. This will provide protein as well as a small amount of carbohydrates to sustain blood sugar levels throughout the day.” Harwin advises an early start on the morning you know you will be flat chat.
“Get up earlier and have a hearty breakfast with healthy protein, low GI fruit/vegies and good fats.” This will provide a sustained feeling of fullness and help to keep your blood sugar on the level all day.
Although foods brimming with fast-acting sugar may give you an instant energy hit, over a long day they can drop your blood sugar, meaning poor concentration, hunger pangs and sweet cravings. Also remain hydrated throughout the sessions. Dry air from air conditioning as well as just talking for long periods can dehydrate you so make sure you have a jug of water handy to sip.
You may not be burning much energy physically, but mentally you need to stay focused. Your brain uses a lot of glucose so it’s important to maintain adequate blood sugar levels.
Naturopath and IsoWhey educator Danielle Newham recommends that your breakfast contains berries, fruit, and yoghurt, with a quarter-cup of low fat muesli to sustain your energy.
“Making sure you eat regularly is key; you should snack on dried fruit, apples or bananas to make sure you maintain your focus.” Try to take 10 to 15-minute breaks to help re-oxygenate your body.
“You will be surprised how much more work you get completed,” Newham says. Dr Harwin also warns that the changes in your blood sugars from not moving regularly will affect your work and increase cravings and the risk of eating something unhealthy. “This can further result in an energy crash in the near future, followed by the food cravings and the cycle continues,” Harwin says.
The day when you can’t fill up, no matter how much you eat
If you feel as though you have worms, here’s an off-the-wall thought: you probably haven’t eaten enough. How much we need to eat can fluctuate from day to day and what was enough yesterday may not cut it today (behind the scenes your body might be using up more energy to crunch the sales numbers or repairing the muscles you pulled playing beach volleyball).
This is the time to listen to your body, not your math brain, otherwise, physiology almost guarantees you’ll overeat later – and not necessarily helpful foods.
What the pros recommend
Newham advises ensuring you have snacks with ample protein – look to nuts and seeds, or even dried fruit. You could also get in on the protein shake buzz to curb your hunger. If you feel like a bottomless pit for more than a couple of days, you may need to up your fibre intake.
“Try munching on raw vegies such as broccoli, carrot or cucumber throughout the day,” Newham says. Of course, nobody ever died from eating a cookie (that we know of), so if you actually feel like a cookie – for reasons other than nagging hunger – go ahead. To promote satisfaction from one, not 20, “eat it slowly, enjoy the flavour, the feel, the smell, the experience,” says Dr Harwin. “Eating it slowly gives you time for your brain to realise you’re not hungry. You can also try eating a salad first to fill your stomach.”
Words: Jessica Colacino and Kara Landau