It can often be a challenge to balance everything we have going on in our lives, from work to school, family and friends, our health, and more. Yet the one area that seems to be the quickest to fall out of balance is our health.
Simply put, there are not enough hours in the day to do everything we need to do, so from a nutrition standpoint we tend to depend on quick, highly processed grab-and-go fast foods and caffeinated beverages to carry us through. These food choices may be easier with our timelines, but they ultimately reduce focus and efficiency, and actually drag our energy levels down.
Fortunately, with a little planning, we can pack food to nourish our bodies for a steady stream of energy that not only fuels us for our day-to-day activities, but for life. This can help us to focus on the tasks at hand, optimize productivity and quality of work, plus keep us healthy and allow for more enjoyment at – and outside of – work.
4 Nutrition Hacks to Fuel for Life
Focus on brain-boosting foods
A healthy body starts with a healthy brain – here are some tips on what to include!
- Omega 3s: These help with memory and cognition. Whether it be salmon to top a salad, walnuts in trail mix, roasted soy nuts, ground flax or chia in a smoothie, or sardines on whole grain toast, these examples will all help you meet your needs.
- Colours: Bring on the colour! Incorporate rich-coloured produce which contain antioxidants to protect the brain from cell-damaging free radicals. Pack coloured veggies with an herb-rich Greek yogurt dip, sip on lower sodium vegetable based soups, or hydrate with low sodium vegetable juice. Sweeten up snacks and lunch with fruit such as raspberries, blood oranges, papaya, kiwi, grapes, and pomegranate for a great boost.
- Protein: Help keep your brain awake and senses alert with a good dose of protein at lunch. Mix up the type, as the diversity helps to optimize health. Get cracking with some hard boiled eggs, fish, lean poultry or red meat on a tossed salad; vary it up with some vegetarian items like chili, lentil soup, bean salad, tempeh or tofu. For a quick protein, reach for Greek yogurt, high protein milk, lower fat cheese, a quality protein powder, nuts/seeds or nut/seed butters.
- High-quality carbs: Complex carbohydrates release a steadier stream of energy into your system, helping to keep your brain fueled all day long. Examples include yams/sweet potatoes, steel cut oats, quinoa, barley, beans and lentils. Incorporate these into your lunch or snacks, and adjust amounts based on activity levels.
Eat at least once every 4 to 5 hours.
Keep the fuel coming with a snack or meal at least once every 4 to 5 hours. Living on coffee all day will sabotage performance and drive. The brain’s sole source of energy is glucose, and it has no storage reserves. Because the brain is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ. This means that it actually uses one-half of all the sugar energy in the body. As a result, fueling regularly throughout the day is crucial for sustained mental work.
Keep some non-perishables handy so you have something even on the busiest of days: examples include trail mix or plain nuts/seeds, crispy roasted chickpeas, canned fish, dried fruit, nut butters, high fiber crackers, lean jerky, fruit and nut bars/bites/balls, air popped popcorn, seaweed snacks, and squeezable fruit and vegetables in a pouch.
Reach for a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
The brain needs a lot of glucose, but also a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and lipids. These are essential for energy, repairing damaged cells, producing neurotransmitters and more.
For full mental capacity, focus on nutrient-dense fruit, vegetables, whole grains, quality proteins, and lower fat dairy. You’ll also want to steer away from the sweets like candy and pop, fried foods and highly refined grains like white bread, baked goods.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
We say it again and again, but hydration is incredibly important! Sip rather than guzzle to optimize absorption. Make at least half of it non-caloric, natural, sugar, alcohol and caffeine-free. Remember if you are thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated.
If you’re struggling to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life, a registered dietitian can help. Reach out to your Copeman dietitian today and book an appointment to get started!