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Eat Your Way to a Productive Workday

What you eat—and when—can boost your mood and work flow


by Kara Baskin

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The coffee shop croissant! Vending machine chips! The cafeteria buffet, the soda machine, that leftover birthday cake in the conference room—yes, the workday diet is stuffed with temptation. Registered dietician and wellness coach Tricia Silverman shares a healthy eating schedule for optimal focus and nutrition.

Overall, she says, “Keep your meals small and frequent for the most energy. Eat every three to four hours. And get rid of the junk: artificial additives, colors and flavors. Get back to basics.” Here’s how.

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Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter is filling and provides a hearty dose of healthy fat and protein to keep hunger at bay. Silverman also likes whole grain cereal with almond milk, topped with strawberries, blueberries and bananas. And go on, sip that coffee, but stop at two so you don’t disrupt your sleep schedule. After that, switch to herbal tea or water. “Water is nature’s beverage,” she says.

Mid-morning snack: Almonds often get top billing as a healthy snack, but Silverman approves of all nuts, especially pecans. “They have a very high anti-oxidant value,” she says. She also slices up carrots, peppers, celery sticks or zucchini for a quick nibble dipped in hummus or yogurt.

Lunch with colleagues: Don’t let a business lunch derail your diet. “Almost every restaurant serves salad with fish or grilled chicken,” she says. Infuse your meal with protein, because it enhances alertness. If you can’t get chicken or fish, order another protein like beans, cheese, turkey or a hardboiled egg. Oh, and skip the pasta: “Pasta increases serotonin, which can make you feel tired,” she says. “It’s a snooze meal.”

Afternoon slump: Perk yourself up mid-afternoon with something quick, like raw trail mix or veggies dipped in pre-packaged guacamole. “Workers often don’t eat right because they don’t plan ahead,” she says. These tote-able snacks make it simple.

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Dinner: When Silverman’s dragging after a long workday, she reaches for a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and a bag of arugula mix, eaten alone or as a sandwich with avocado dressed with olive oil and balsamic, and folded into a whole-wheat wrap. If you want to add rice, go for a brown rice medley. You can sprinkle with an herb blend—keep a jar at your desk—to give it a flavor boost. Finish off your meal with a cup of chamomile tea. “You’ll signal to your body that dinner over and that it’s time to relax.” 

Photo Credit: Jekaterina Nikitina/Gallerystock