The food we eat on a regular basis can have a huge impact on how we feel. The brain needs fuel like the rest of the body and eating the right foods throughout the day can help to optimise concentration and so play a role in how productive we are. Whether you’re still working from home or back in the office, there are a few basic rules you can follow.
Always eat breakfast. It may be a cliché but breakfast sets you up for the day and the right breakfast can keep your blood sugar on an even keel. This means you won’t experience a morning slump with a corresponding dip in concentration. The best breakfasts contain some protein and slow-release carbohydrates.
Suggestions – eggs on wholegrain toast, porridge or low-sugar muesli, chopped fruit with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds.
Eat a light lunch that includes some protein, vegetables or salad and a small amount of slow-release carbs. Don’t be tempted to skip the carbs as this will often lead to a 4pm sugar craving – it’s your body’s way of telling you it needs more fuel, which we generally get from carbohydrate.
Suggestions – chicken or tuna salad with a slice of grainy bread, eggs with baked beans on toast
Ask yourself whether you really need a snack? Are you genuinely hungry? Constant grazing throughout the work day is a surefire way to put on weight and is also quite distracting! You need to take regular breaks but that doesn’t mean you need to eat during every break. Have a drink or go for a walk to break the habit of searching the cupboards. Try to avoid sweet snacks, as you will almost certainly experience a sugar crash which will affect your concentration shortly afterwards.
Suggestions – fruit, or a handful of nuts, crackers with cheese or vegetable sticks with hummus
Studies have shown that coffee can improve concentration, so drinking a coffee 30 minutes before a presentation or tackling a difficult piece of work could help your focus.
Don’t eat dinner too late or go to bed hungry. Both can have a detrimental effect on time taken to fall asleep and quality of sleep, resulting in you feeling tired at work the next day.
There are many factors that contribute to productivity at work, but on an individual level, how we feel during the work day affects our ability to plan and organise our work, which in turn affects our output. The way we feel also influences our attitude and ability to deal with challenges and setbacks. Eating well can give us the energy and focus to tackle the day, whatever it might bring.