Good Mood Food: Healthy Eating in the Workplace
It’s not uncommon to hit that 3pm slump during the working day, when your energy levels start to dip and the biscuits your colleague brought in look very tempting. Making some small changes to the meals and snacks you eat at the office, however, can have a huge impact on your energy and motivation, leaving you raring to go and tick off every item on that to-do list!
Evidence suggests that choosing certain foods and avoiding others can also have a huge effect on your mental wellbeing, reducing stress and easing anxiety so it’s a great idea to mix up the foods you’re taking to work, reducing processed items such as refined fats and sugars and replacing with ‘good mood food’ such as fresh, whole foods and fruits and vegetables.
The most important meal of the day, according to some, and definitely the time to fill your tank for the day full of sustained energy! This should leave you feeling full and and ready to take on the day without being distracted by hunger pangs.
Enjoying a supercharged combination of protein and fibre, rather than typical carb-rich breakfast foods such as a bagel, should do the trick and leave you feeling full all morning long.
Why not try healthy breakfasts such as scrambled eggs on wholewheat toast, or oats topped with milk or Greek yoghurt, fruit and nuts. Adding in a green smoothie packed full of nutritious ingredients such as almonds, spinach and banana could also help set you up for the day – banana includes the amino acid Tryptophan, which is required by the body to create serotonin, otherwise known as the ‘happy chemical’ due to its positive impact on mental wellbeing.
If you’re planning a later lunch, you might want to sneak in a snack during the morning to keep any hunger pangs at bay. Your parents may have been on to something when they told you not to ‘spoil your lunch’ with snacks though – we recommend keeping any snacks before lunch light, and to around 200 calories, to avoid venturing into meal territory and keep you feeling alert.
Now would be a good time to get another protein and fibre hit with a small portion of your favourite nuts, which are packed full of healthy fats which are shown to have a positive impact on mental health. The same can be said for a few slices of avocado on a wholewheat cracker bread, another delicious snack which is full of healthy fats.
Lunch is the time to fill up on vegetables which are super high in fibre and will leave you with the energy you need to get through a busy afternoon, keeping you feeling full without any sluggishness.
Why not try a rainbow salad full of our favourite colourful veggies, served with some feta or goat’s cheese, plus a helping of a protein such as tuna or chicken. Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. You may also wish to add in some healthy carbs, such as brown rice or quinoa.
As well as refuelling with a healthy lunch, it’s important you also use this time to step away from your desk. Work can, of course, sometimes be stressful but if you don’t take the time to recharge and move away from the computer or phone, you never take the time to recover, which can lead to increased levels of burnout and fatigue. Stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air, or sit with colleagues away from your desks and get to know the people you spend most of your week with!
Typically the time most of us find ourselves hitting a wall, it’s easy to start thinking about sugary snacks and caffeine-packed drinks during the mid-afternoon slump.
It’s actually a great idea to have a snack mid-afternoon during the working day to avoid becoming ravenous waiting for your evening meal and making unhealthy choices such as mid-week takeaways on the way home, or snacking while cooking in your kitchen. We’d just recommend that you steer clear of those tempting chocolates and sweets though, as while you may feel that much-needed boost at first, the post sugar-high crash can leave you feeling worse than before!
Listen to your body when it needs to refuel and try out some tasty and healthy snacks to enjoy during the afternoon. Why not try apple slices with health and tasty no-added-sugar nut butters, or plain popcorn, which makes a much healthier alternative to crisps!
During the afternoon it’s also easy to reach for the coffees and caffeinated fizzy drinks, but it’s important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant which, despite giving you that energy quick-fix, can actually lead to anxious or depressed feelings and disturbed sleep – something to avoid when you need to recharge after a busy day at work!