Does What You Eat Affect Your Productivity At Work?


Brianne Meek Brianne Meek, RD, LDN
HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital

Have you ever noticed that some days at work feel more productive than others?  Do you often get into a “workday slump” around the same time every day?

Productivity at work can be enhanced when several factors are taken into account.  However, a main contributor is often over-looked:  diet.  A healthy diet will not only help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight, but it can also improve alertness, concentration and productivity in the work place.

So how does our diet impact our thought processes and efficiency? Well, lets start by thinking about how food is processed the body. The brain’s main source of energy is glucose, which comes from the majority of foods that we consume. When there is not enough glucose to “fuel” the brain, then concentration becomes more difficult. Therefore, a sustained fuel source is important for our brain. However, not all foods are processed the same by the body. For example, low-fiber and high carbohydrate foods such as white bread, soda, candy and pasta, release and diminish their glucose supply quickly, leading to only a quick burst of energy. Higher fat foods, such as fried foods and pizza, provide a more sustained energy, however, requires the body to work harder to digest it and in turn decrease oxygen levels in the brain. So it makes sense that eating these types of foods can have an impact on our productivity. And, this does not take into account how general health problems and obesity can play a role in decreased productivity as well.

Here are some tips on how to provide sustained fuel and healthy nutrients for our brain, which in turn will not only increase productivity, but might also help with weight maintenance and avoidance of chronic diseases:

  • Start your day with a healthy breakfast. A balanced breakfast can supply you with sustainable energy as well as plenty of nutrients and fiber.
    • Choose fruits and vegetables:  mix fruit in yogurt, make a smoothie with berries and spinach, or top your cereal with berries and bananas.
    • Use whole grains: Look for whole grain cereals, bagels, English muffins or even bread.
    • Add a lean protein: Use hard boiled eggs, peanut butter, low-fat turkey sausage or nuts.
    • Grab a low-fat dairy product: Skim or soy milk, low-fat yogurt, or low-fat cheese.
  • Plan your lunch ahead of time in order to avoid temptations. It is important to include carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats at your meal in order to keep you feeling fuller longer and maintain blood glucose levels.
    • Pack a sandwich on whole grain bread or wraps loaded with vegetables and lean protein such as tuna, eggs or lean meat.
    • Toss up a salad with your favorite dressing on the side.
    • Bring containers full of fruit, chopped vegetables with hummus, nuts, or granola bars.
  • Don’t skip meals. And if you start to feel groggy before or after lunch, keep healthy snacks such as almonds, protein bars, low-fat popcorn, whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, trail mix, pretzels with hummus, etc. on hand.
  • Include foods in your diet that improve overall brain health.
    • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Fish, walnuts and flaxseed; Add 1-2 Tbsp. of ground flaxseed into your yogurt at breakfast or sprinkle flaxseeds on your salad at lunch.
    • Folate: Beans, greens and meats.
    • Antioxidants: Berries and citrus fruits.
Temptations at work can often get in the way of eating healthfully.  Ordering in, sugary snacks, vending machines and skipping meals are all enticing, especially on a busy schedule.  Poor eating habits can lead to decreased energy levels, irritability, and decreased ability to think clearly all leading to reduced productivity.

Think about the old saying, “you are what you eat.”  Choosing the right food can help your body process nutrients more efficiently, maximizing energy and giving the body what it needs to function at its best.

Brianne Meek, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap.  She provides nutritional counseling and meal planning, and makes recommendations to the healthcare team, in order to ensure that patients are receiving optimal nutrition to assist in their recovery process.

For more information, contact Brianne at (814) 359-3421, extension 5684.

Source: Brianne Meeks, RD, LDN

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